RECORDING STORIES – The Roar of Avalanches
***Disclaimer – learn about winter safety before attempting to record avalanches. This type of recording can be extremely dangerous. Consult a local expert and learn how to travel and record safely in winter conditions.
A local mountaineer took me out snowshoeing in the Eastern Cascades. We hiked up into a large basin with majestic mountains on all sides. As we sat to eat lunch the sun crested the ridge line and hit the massive cliff face to our west. It began to crack and groan. After a few minutes, the energy of the sun triggered a series of avalanches! I was in awe for the first slide and then scrambled to set up my mics. Avalanches were happening every 5-10 minutes! It was amazing to watch and hear. Some avalanches had a powdery sound, almost like sand. Others sounded like refrigerator sized chunks of ice tumbling down a mountain face. Others had a roar like distant thunder. I was amazed at the length of the event as most avalanches last 30-90 seconds. Some started with a rumble, others with a sharper crack, and all had long decaying tails as the snow and ice tumbled down the mountain side. That day had an incredibly rare set of conditions. The danger of larger avalanches was low, but the sun was triggering smaller slides I could record from a safe distance. I was lucky to experience this afternoon of avalanches and was incredibly thankful to have had a chance to hear the power of this captivating natural event. It is similar to experiencing a tornado or wildfire.
My Double Mid/Side drop-and-record rig was left in the woods in various locations recording for 10 days. During that time, I was lucky to capture two large avalanches. Getting an isolated recording of a large avalanche is incredibly difficult. It is problematic to leave a drop rig close enough to an avalanche chute to get good recordings, but also far enough away that it won’t get buried in tons of snow. A windless night is needed so gusts are not masking the low roar of the avalanche. After days of waiting, I got lucky and a gigantic slide happened about a quarter mile from my mics. It has a lush guttural roar with an immense natural power. Hear that massive slide at the beginning of the avalanche demo.