One of the greatest risks of climbing high altitude mountains is being caught in an avalanche. It is very difficult to predict avalanches because many, many factors go into what actually triggers them. Basically, when the snow pack is unstable, the upper level of snow can break away from the lower level of snow and HUGE amounts of snow and ice can pour down a slope, burying and destroying everything in its path. Avalanches can travel at speeds of over 200 miles per hour!
This photo is of an avalanche we witnessed on Annapurna IV while climbing back down to Base Camp, after we had decided conditions were not right to try to reach the top. This avalanche covered over 7,000 vertical feet and was over a half mile wide.
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Postcards from the Field: Annapurna