Two years ago I wrote an article for The Avalanche Review publication that appeared in the September 2016 issue. See here for the original article I wrote about a new way of doing an effective beacon check. It works really well and does not let you skip potentially life saving steps before you leave the trail head, which I see happen way too often. 

This year - thanks to Eeva Latosuo (Alaska Pacific University and Alaska Avalanche School) The D'BEST beacon check has evolved to D'BEAST. The 'A' is for "Airbag or Avalung". Is your Avalung out? If you or anyone in your group uses an airbag backpack you want to make sure you check that the handle is out, and turned on if using the JetForce technology. If you are going to spend a bunch of money and carry the extra weight of an airbag pack but do not have the handle out, it's basically worthless.

D - Display (any errors on your display screen?)

B - Battery (what is your battery strength? replace at 50%)

E - Electronics (all electronics stored at least 20cm away? phone to airplane mode, turned off?)

A - Airbag/Avalung (is your airbag handle out? activated? Avalung out?)

S - Search (check your groups search function)

T - Transmit (have them stow properly and check that each person is transmitting) 

Lastly, make sure the leader switches back to transmit and stowed away properly. 

Using this acronym is an easy way to ensure you do not skip important steps to start your day skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling (aka snowmachine in Alaska) or other mountain travel. I use it every single day I go out whether teaching avalanche courses, backcountry ski tour guiding, heli-ski guiding or just out with friends on a personal day. Let D'BEAST be your way of doing a beacon check too.

Thanks for reading - Nick D'Alessio


Guide Training 2017

This May and June I taught two guide training courses here in Alaska. The first was for Anchorage-based Salmon Berry Tours on the Matanuska Glacier and more recently Adventure Sixty North out of Seward on Exit Glacier. If your organization needs guide training, get in touch and I would love to work with your program too. 

Myself on the right and the Salmon Berry Tours glacier hiking guides on the Matanuska Glacier. Good weather and good company made for a great two days. 

Building V-threads to make an anchor on the ice. V-threads are crucial to use in your anchor on glaciers in the summer, it's amazing how fast ice screws will melt out. 

Doing a 1:1 team haul. I'm a big fan of using the simplest and most basic rescue strategies whenever possible. Why use something more complex if you don't need to?


Some of the "A60" guides on Exit Glacier.

Practicing hauling systems with an incredible view out the office window. 

Here a complex 5:1 is a great step towards greater mechanical advantage if a 3:1 isn't enough, just one piece of cord and two carabiners is all you need. 

On the last day I had the guides run through scenarios including making real satellite phone calls to test their emergency response plan. 

Here the rescuer is ascending the line back up out of the crevasse after rappelling to set the patient into the system. Once on top the ropes are converted into a haul system. This practice round was completed in under half an hour which is pretty good considering all the steps that go into it. 

Hauling a patient up on a 3:1 pulley system. The patient is also tied into a separate line on to a separate anchor just in case something happens to the main orange line, always a good idea during practice. 

In this scenario the patient was "unconscious" so a rescuer had to stay with the patient to assist her up as others hauled. Always good to practice the worst possible situations, it will be that much easier to complete if it ever happens for real. 

Great crew to work with! Thanks Adventure 60, see you next year.