MIRACLE IN LA BAQUEIRA: FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF A TRACKER RESCUE IN SPAIN
Here’s a guest blog from Fer Barrios who was rescued with a Tracker DTS last season in the Spanish Pyrenees (translated by machine, then tweaked, so please excuse the Spanglish): Hello my name is Fernando Barrios and I will tell you the miracle (or luck) that I had after being swept away by an avalanche. This happened in a corner of the Spanish Pyrenees, near the ski resort of La Baqueira.
It was a sunny day, the storm had passed, and it was all incredible in a season that was not very good on this side of the Pyrenees. But it had now been snowing three or four days, the perfect combination for high avalanche hazard. But the quality of the snow was amazing.
It all started when I got to the ski station at nine o’clock, with two very excited friends. We decided to make a descent down a regular place very busy, we did our beacon checks, and started the odyssey. Everything was great and our motivation was high. Personally I had a challenge in my mind: an open line in a mythical place on the north side called Vignette, a place rich in history and much respect as it is very exposed with a slope angle between 45 ° and 60 ° with a height of 600 meters (almost 2,000 vertical feet). The perfect combination of sun and powder. I did a little exploring with my binoculars and decided to go.
We discussed the plan with my friend, Aingeru, and he decided to come. At about ten o’clock in the morning, we reached the place, looked at each other and we said “no.” Three hours later we came back again and still decided against it. We headed north to another area to continue scouting. At about half-past two o’clock, Aingeru said, “I’m going to work, take care.” I was left alone–until I found a friend , Manu, who asked, “Where have you been?” I told him and Manu agreed to go back, so we got on the chairlift. Upon reaching the top, it was four in the afternoon: a bit late, but our excitement got the best of us. I began my descent. I saw a very large rock and decided not to jump. As I stopped, I hear, “Warning !!!!” At that moment I realized the big problem. There had been a big fracture above me. I looked back and forth and everything was moving. I pointed my board away, but I was right in the center of a great flood. It started to suck me away and that’s when I started with the swimming movements to avoid being swallowed by it. Suddenly everything started to go very fast down the avalanche; it seemed that I was on a toboggan. Do not ask me how, but it was very very fast, going over rocks and then I was crossing the road. At one point, I took a blow to my back.
Suddenly all was calm. I was not completely buried, so I started pushing the snow off my body. Then another avalanche came down, burying me five feet deep with no air pocket and snow was packed in my mouth. The first few minutes or seconds were horrible, with my eyes open under the snow and I was unable to do anything. A voice or something in my mind urged me to relax and I went into a very calm state. I knew this meant I was dying, and I wondered if I would be found dead or alive. It was a moment of desperation, a state of trance, of total relaxation. I felt like I was dying, until I heard voices: ”Fer, Fer Feerrr ….” I thought it was a dream at first. When I regained consciousness, I saw Jordi and Ruben and I asked, “Am I alive?” Jordi began to check my body for injuries and asked, “Were you with someone else?” I said, “Yes, but he stayed above!” Just then my cell phone rings; it was a friend telling me that Manu had called him commenting on what happened. After getting bundled up in some blankets, I took a rescue helicopter directly to Vielha, where I waited for an ambulance to transfer me to the hospital. At the hospital they made several checks and the x-rays showed nothing. Nobody could believe I did not break anything, just a scrape on my nose and a big scare. I am telling this story because I am grateful that I had an avalanche beacib and so did Jordi and Ruben. They saw the avalanche from La Baquiera and immediately came to help me. They reached me before Manu even could.
All this would not have happened if we had thought it through a little more and not been carried away with excitement–and the belief that nothing will happen. Things like this happen when you least expect it. So if you decide to go off-piste, always bring a transceiver, shovel, and probe. Choose the right location, conditions, and partner. He’s the only one that can save your life!
Thank you very much to everyone who cares about my health and especially the people who rescued me: Ruben Blanco, Jordi Tenas, Suso Folgar, Txema Trull. Alan Villanueva, Edu Carrera, Mikel Oficialgueri, Nil Torremocha, Josue, La Baquiera Search and Rescue. If I forgot some more, sorry. Thank you very much everyone, I have no words that can say how thankful I am to have been brought back to life again.