10/28/12 Thoughts On Our First Layer
Took a drive tour over Loveland Pass coming back home from the front range yesterday. Stopped to hike the dog up the eastside ridge at the summit of Loveland pass. Stomping through freshness layered in among the scree it was great to get smacked in the head with 0 degree, 30 mph winds under a cobalt grey sky.Stood into the wind and took a breath of the cold. The jet stream was whipping clouds overhead, obscuring the tops of the highest peaks off the Divide, blasting eastward. Snow was falling and the wind was transporting it in great swirls on the open faces of the pass, steadily erasing whats left poking through the snow. Off in the distance, A-Basin looked better than it did all of last year, lifts churning on a busy Saturday, snow in the tress .There were even a few intrepid souls braving seriously early season conditions on the West side of the pass, skiing down to the lower switchbacks . Looked to be about 8 inches of fresh on top of a 60 mile deep granite base. Admire the love, a little early for myself. Drove over a mitten in A-Basin”s cross walk. coming down the pass. No hand in it. Ahh winter. It’s back.. At least above 11,000 feet.
Back in our world, EV is covered in its first layer of the white stuff. I drove back over Vail pass looking the notorious layer that is the foundation for our snowpack. Usually for us in Colorado this becomes a loosely faceted layer that sets the stage for an avalanche cycle in mid to late November in EV and can dog us for the entire season, depending. Last season Old Man’s early season was perfect example, sliding to the ground in November.
This first snow set the stage for the crown jewel of a garbage Continental snowpack in 2011/2012. Early October snow with a long long period of clear, warm weather created 2-4 mm very loose facets out of the first snow. Surface hoar also reared its’ ugly head. When we finally did get some snow, it came with wind and the results….well you remember. The snow pack never recovered.
Our best hope is continued snow without a third Indian summer before the larger snow load arrives. As bad as last year was ,two years ago was the textbook for a decent snowpack. fo us. Snow, snow and more snow, consistent temps and little wind. “Average” year ? I’d take it.
Every year is different and fascinating in our world, , not only because of the endless variables that affect our snow, but the endlessly variable human element as well. You can’t make the stuff up that happens out in EV. Keeps me coming back and I can’t wait to tell the tale this year. See you soon at the bus stop. EVI.
This gallery contains 8 photos.
New snow, back to summer break on Wednesday. Some shots of a recent EVId project. Get some!
3/4/12 SnowBalls/ Trip Report 3/4/12
Bluebird weekend with the Snowball festival. EV saw big numbers. 140 by two o’clock yesterday, 90 by noon today. Top of the World today reveals tracks everywhere. Temperatures rising again over 30 degrees.
Saw JD the Poma. He mentioned that he has seen plenty of large groups yesterday teeing it up everywhere. Tracks in the middle of west wall with no slide activity. Tweeners was stomped and Abe’s as well, confirming JD’s story. Met up with Law at the top by chance, grouped up with MFD and Atomic Mid Fat. Followed them down to Old Man’s. Cornice had risen dramatically with the wind arriving with the clearing storm.
Waited and watched the first two try to attack the cornice with a rope. Without the proper weight in the middle of the rope the rope cut nothing but plate sized chunks of snow while exposing them both to the edge of the overhang. They inched their way off the Old Man’s entrance with every rope toss and ended up over King Tut’s still trying to lasso a part of the cornice. I waited with Law above and watched. Good to leave a person in a safe area if you decide to tackle a cornice. I learned that lesson after my turn at cornice stomping left me with a ski in midair. A pole from Law behind me helped me back up to solid ground.
Skied lower down above the entrance proper as the calf roping continued. I asked them to back off a second. I probed the edge of the new cornice section at the entrance with my pole and gave a few good stomps. A sizable chunk of the newly formed section of cornice dropped and impacted the crown area of last weeks slide, the old bed surface in the middle of Old Mans almost completely filled in with the recent new snow. The chunks exploded on the scarp and ran through the frying pan. No step down, the new snow in the middle of the bowl held tough. Even with three hundred tracks in EV the last couple days, the rest of Old Mans was a blank canvas.
Dropped the entrance, skirted the debris and skied a surprisingly good Olds tree chute far right. Exited through lower trees where the snow was rapidly warming.
2/29 and 3/1 Trip reports/Alaska or Bust
Wednesday and Thursday were two very different days. Wednesday the six or so inches came in wind affected and dense. The mountain was overrun, the front range emptying out for the busiest mid-week day this year.
Eighty people out in EV. Based on what I saw, the black flag warning was warranted. Recently formed windslabs with the warming temperatures were active in Benchie with the first crew. Tele line tracks were set in with no activity. My own experience in the West Wall didn’t go as planned, stuffed the landing and got hit by a small slab from behind. Thanks to Dan and crew for the spot, and the secondary spot when I went back to look for my AK JJ. The small slab was about a foot of new snow on the sun crust underneath. Thankfully, not a large release. a warning slap from EV was noted and I skied out with my tail between my legs. It happens, everything’s good till it isn’t. Get yourself in, get yourself out. Not my first time skiing out on one, still sucks on a powder day. Didn’t see any step down past the deceptively sturdy mid layers, just the warming, wind affected new snow.
The biggest evidence of activity was on the last pitch to the traverse from the Benchie drainage. Below the north facing cliffs above the traverse track the entire new load ripped out 100 ft wide and a couple feet deep, running through the disaster species.
This is the same spot that Colby De put a photo of on facebook earlier in the year of a similar slide. Below tree line problems again,a constant all year.
The day that shouldn’t be was filled with a strange manic energy. The Poma catwalk turned into 1-25 on Monday morning, filled with road rage and angst. Glad to see it end with nothing serious going down in EV.
Thursday was the opposite on the mountain and in EV. Storm day with nobody around. The front range frenzy was gone and the snow was much less wind affected, piling up all day. At 9 there was about four inches. By the afternoon the mountain was skiing well, filled in, and EV was reset with about a foot of new. Skied with J, DPS and Jonny R who hates EVI, but who I have a lot of respect for as a skier and experienced backcountry traveler.
Our run through Tweeners and the trees was silent, deep and uneventful, the new fluff not nearly as reactive as the previous days snow. Triangle face held and skied well. Much colder temps locked up the mid layer, at least for the time being.
Watched a group get into Old Mans, ski the right side trees and exit in the lower middle. No activity from their run, but the cornice up top appeared almost overnight, around four to five feet now.
Much better day all around condition wise and personally, kept them both on my feet. Back on the 207’s my favorite pow stick of all time. I found out the hard way that the enter mounted JJ’s are little short for landing gear. That’s right, blame the skis.
Today is one month out to AK. Tailgate AK and time on Thompson Pass on the mother of all snow years. Steep stable snow? Can I get an amen. A foreign concept for us Colorado’s backcountry skiers this year. Needless to say we at EVI, are pumped. For me it’s back to Valdez after a four year hiatus.
If any friends of EVI are going up there, let us know. We have a roving 30 base camp. Heard they are skiing tree lines for the first time in twenty years on down days. With 70 feet of snow and a relatively stable pack at the moment, AK is the call for avalanche weary lower 48 skiers. Yeya.
2/26/12 Strip Club
Headed out into the moonscape of the scoured world. Wind event 2012 is in full swing and EV is not immune. One look at the Gore Range says it all. Mountains bathed in white a few days ago are stripped bare, the precious contents transferred to Nebraska. Flagging on the peaks yesterday was huge, clouds of snow pluming off anything above 10000 feet. Really a sense of deja vu, the Poma hike scoured, the anti-tracks of travelers past sticking out in relief, exposed by the winds. It reminded me of early December conditions. DPS and I headed out just to see what the results of the wind, not expecting any phenomenal skiing. There has really been no periods of consistency with weather or snow this year and everyday seems to bring something new.
Not much traffic, no surprise there. Top of the World really wasn’t that bad wind wise, the worst of the event is hopefully over. Snow conditions were variable, meaning I skied seven different kinds of snow during our Tweeners run. Rock hard scarp gave way to thin window pane like wind slab. Old pow in the trees, old pow with a cracker crust in any sun hit lowers out of the wind. East facing sun crust of different variations. It was a snow condition buffet, and I had my plate full. I survival skied the run, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Hanging out with DPS on the ridge, looking around and shooting the shit is always a good time.
The run out to the water tank was the capper. The wind had brought down smaller limbs and pine cones and scattered them like confetti on the run-out. Flying through the luge on a mostly brown carpet with the crunching of the pine cones under the skis capped a strange, otherworldly run in a otherworldly year.
On the ridge we watched Benchie and Old Mans reloading, the plumes of snow cartwheeling into the scarps. The crown in Olds is still visible. The fracture profile looks pretty similar to the slide I set off with the ski cut heard round the world early in the year. Strip on the right side of Old Mans is holding tough.
I’ve chosen a couple of strip runs next to old slide paths this year. These strips of snow have provided good skiing, while mitigating the danger with the old slide path interrupting the open faces. Pow strips have provided this year when we couldn’t step out into the open faces we wanted to ski. Can’t ever remember choosing runs in EV this way during any other year.
East faces are crusted from sun and warm temps. Upper north aspects are cross-loaded or slid out. Lower protected trees are the best skiing at the moment, out of the sun and wind.
Bottom line in EV, we need the reset button pushed in a bad way.
2/22/12 Gluttony and the Reset Button 2/23/12
Out in to the 11 inch day at Vail yesterday on my day off. Skied inbounds for a couple nice runs and then headed out to see the conditions in EV. We seem to have avoided the big winds predicted for Wednesday and the new snow was accompanied by warm temps and layered in the resort like spackle. After waiting for openings, the sounds of bombs filling the air, we headed up the Poma. Took notice of the ski patrol bomb holes on the way out. No significant movement from any of the charges on the steep east face above the catwalk, just some isolated cracking around the blast holes. Looking around at the other black marks in China and Blus Sky and again, no activity.
The last three days I’ve been poking, prodding and stomping around, looking for evidence of instability with the recent winds and then the 11 inches that turned into a foot and a half in EV. We started our day in Tweeners, taking the opportunity to break small burgeoning cornice chunks along the way. As with the previous days, nothing. Some minor shedding of the upper wind affected scarp areas, but theses natural slab breaks were tiny and only ran a few feet.
The skiing in Tweeners was again accompanied by no movement whatsoever. No sluffing and no slab release in the upper concave wind affected face. The lower triangle face held again and we were off into the trees to enjoy some deep freshness. So far so good.
Second run we decided to get back to the Old Man. Old Man’s had sat unskied for a few days. With the ridge top winds, this was going to put our observations to the test. We spent a good fifteen minutes taking turns trundling stove sized cornice chunks down into the scarp area. We made a mess of things in the upper entrance, but completely necessary to see if anything would step down into the rollover faces that ran last week. Again watched the chunks impact and explode, with no results.
Stepped into the right side, J leading the charge and sent it. Watch as his tracks laced the right side again with no movement, sluffing cracking or slab release of any kind. Luke and I followed one at a time, meeting up at a safe area in the right tree stand. We all kind of looked at eachother. Holy shit, a day of deep snow and moderate stability. I couldn’t believe it either. Looking up, we could see that the second rollover face was still not filled in completely from last week and shark fins protruded from the thin snow. No visible naturals anywhere we could see. Spacklefest was on.
The factors?. I don’t claim to know why this was possible, but the dense wet snow, warm temps and little wind helped. The weak layers are still down there in the pack but at least today they were dormant.
Third run Luke and I had EV to ourselves and took out time to enjoy a lenghty skin. We took a slow boat out to our favorite actual East Vail Chute and took time digging a pit and doing some CT tests. We should have a video of the CT results and a brief gratuitous pow video to view soon. Again, the snow was deep and unreactive. Skiing pow without having to dodge bullets every turn was a nice change, if only for a day. We got out of EV finally around 5 pm. We were powder gluttons for sure, and our cup runneth over today. A whole large pizza then sleep.
Woke up, muscles tired and groggy. Looked out the window to see that reset button has been pushed again. Another four inches and dumping at 7 am, with the winds up and no visibility. Not assuming anything about snow today as weather conditions are drastically different. Start at square one with the progression of runs and snow assessment again. Headed out to see what is going on in the ever-changing world of EV Looks like second season is on and the storms are starting to track our way. Let you know.
2/16/12 Hey Buddy/West Wall Revisit
Saw a two guys I recognized from yesterday at the Pitkin stop again today. Geared up, waiting for the bus and ready for battle in EV. MFD all-time/ Pontoons and his buddy mid-fat Atomics/ Naxos (the worst AT binding of all-time, sent myself to VVMC on those things). Asked them about yesterday, what they saw and such. Just interested in their observations from a big cycle day.
Didn’t think anything of it until I got to the bus stop after my lap. Saw MFD Pontoons standing alone. Said hey and inquired about the whereabouts of mid -fat Atomic. MFD said that his buddy kicked off and lost a ski. He was now alone in the Racquet Club chute. I asked him, matter-of – fact, why he wasn’t he with him? The answer.
MFD said that mid-fat didn’t know where he was exactly in the chute, but MFD had a good idea where he was. He was in touch by cell phone and was going to go around, find him then render aid.(Really?)
MFD said Mid-fat knew from yesterday that his bindings were “loose”, and he should’ve cranked them down, but ignored his advice. (punishment for using Naxos?)
Loaded the bus and sat watching MFD render aid by text.
When it hits the fan, who do you know that you can trust to keep their head and help you? How do you know? Solo missions might get a bad rap, but is it better than having a useless partner? Finding able partners isn’t the easiest thing, and might not be the buddy who is leading you into EV. No easy answer.
Went to check out the West Wall slide from yesterday. My personal powder hunting tempered by the recent events. Hit the ridge on a beautiful sparkling morning, with a couple of inches of fresh again as the snow cycle remnants moved through. Not many people out.
Checked out the track in the skier’s right side of the Wall that was put down by the skier who triggered the slide. He skied the first gully skier’s right in the Wall where you can sneak through through cliff band with minimal/ no air. A small sluff on the line, but that seemed to not relate to the actual avalanche. The actual slide was remotely triggered 75 feet to the skier’s left of the track towards the middle of the bowl. The crown was a foot to two feet deep.
Dug a pit on the 25 degree lead in to the roll over in the middle of the Wall, above the small, butried rock band that lines the top. Representative of the E aspect, but not the incline, as the face below the band rolls into the thirties at least and gets more sun than where I was going to dig. Heres what I saw.
Air temp: 3 C
Surface temp: 3 C
0-60 cms: 3mm facets/ fist –
60-70cms: melt/freeze crust/ pencil
70-80 cms: .5 mm facets(coulmns?) fist –
80-145 cms : .5 mm sintered rounds/ 4 finger
145-160 cms: .5 to 1mm stellars (new snow)/fist –
Thick crust with small, loose facets above the crust, below the dense, sintered old storm snow. Significant temp gradient around the crust.
Did a couple CT tests.
Here’s what I saw.
First column: CT-12 at 65cms Q1. Ran on the facets above the MF crust.
Second column: CT-2 Q2 at 35 cms. This column ended up next to an evergreen shrub. Broke within the depth hoar. Interesting the crust was knife hard around the shrub area.
Filled in my pit and headed out to the bus on a Tele Line ridge run. No obvious new activity.
Another Mushroom burial/injury on 2/16, not sure of all the details. Heard that the Kitchen was the place of the first accident a couple of days ago, not sure the exact location of this one, but Mushie strikes again.
2/15/12 Carnival De EV
EVI note: Info is still coming in from yesterday, so the post has changed some, trying hard to report all objective info, sorry for any confusion and thanks to those helping us clarify the events.
Bluebird powder day in EV. Overnight storm loaded up the zone with a significant amount of snow, variable amounts, knee-deep and above in certain places. BID(Blown in Deep) is the technical term. Headed off the grid for the first run with Luke and stayed clear of the procession headed up to Benchie. A ton of hungry pow hounds were out early and the carnival was on.
Came back around to the top for our second run to see how the combination of the rapidly warming deep fresh snow and the mass of skiers interacted. They didn’t play well together. West Wall slid, skier triggered from the skier’s right side almost wall to wall , below the first set of small rocks that line the top. Had a friend see it go down. A skier skiing a ribbon of blower powder before a large avalanche followed him down, a sympathetic release from a small slab the skier kicked off during his run. I can’t make this stuff up. New warming snow interface on the crust that happens in the West Wall with the east facing sun hit and warm temps probably was the culprit. Find out tommorow.
Tracks in left side of Benchmark, but debris running past the first flats from the gully left of Mushroom Rock. Another sign of skier triggered instability.
Tele Line had tracks but no activity that I could see.
The capper was Old Man’s. Looked over the edge of the entrance to see a track leading into the each of the first two gullies left of the tree line. Below, a significant debris pile ran beneath them into the flats and no obvious tracks out. Shit.
Headed down right ridgeline and found where we could safely enter and do a search of a majority of the lower debris pile. Probably happened first thing in the morning, but wanted to make sure we didn’t leave someone out there before we headed out. Cleared the debris with Luke and thankfully found no signals. Then we got the hell out of there.
The crown was deepest on the skier’s left side of the second rollover gully by the small cliff, three to four feet of soft slab. It extended into the middle of the bowl. CDC had a small slab release of its’ own under the cliff band.
As far as I know nobody was hurt today, but the potential was there. Here’s what we saw.
EVI, Be My Valentine…
What better a day to grab that powder loving guy or gal and take them out to EV to get the love juices flowing? The overcast to broken skies with S-1 light snowfall and blending from light to calm winds ((L) 1-16 mph) didn’t deter the most discerning of inamorata/inamorato from blazing up the skin track to the top of Benchie and dropping in to profess their passion for the goods with some fine pow turns and periodic wails of pleasure and ecstasy. On the “Danger Rose” (oooh that’s sexy) one could profess that the “dangerous love” was at least considerable on the NW-S facing aspects… Those not blinded by the considerable chance at some likely “rough lovin” could get their moderately risky business done on the W & SW facing slopes. Tracks abound and no shame (recent debaucherous activity) in sight… the powder lovers were painting their affection all over the big white fluffy canvass with big S-Turns abound. Only a few dysfunctional examples of tracks seen hitting the top drops off Old Man’s, traversing skier left over the first cliffs in Old’s then directly over to the northern cliffs two-thirds the way down the open +35 degree avg. aspect, the prominent CDC cliff band. Not sure that relationship is really going to last, but one could conjecture that love makes some behave in some very incredibly peculiar ways.
Linked up with Marty, the legendary wing-man himself, to not only get our powder fix of the day, but to also put a cross hair on our beloved snowpack and shoot it straight in the heart. We sought to identify a deadly problem that has been plaguing some unfortunate riders recently. We’ve all seen the recent reports of the very gruesome reciprocation that the star-crossed snowpack has taken out on members of the BC riding community. The trend of doom has been below treeline in some very precarious terrain traps and that is where some more careful examination is due. From the “hasty” and not so hasty test pits of the season, it’s about lovin time we drop some SWAG on this very problem. Freshly and stalely outfitted with the latest in snow-nerd standards, we figured it’s about time to throw down and get neck deep in the business. What is the problem that we are dealing with? In short, deep persistent weak layers releasing the majority of the top of the snow pack on an interface between the buried depth hoar and the upper “cake” layer of the good stuff. So let the intricate romance with our naughty snowpack begin… (this would be way more bad-ass with snowpilot, but whatever).
2/14/2012 @ 2:30pm on Forgotten Trees with an elev. 10,200-10,400 (estimated from topo).
Small clearing in trees on N-facing Aspect below treeline of 30 degrees.
Sky: Fluctuating from broken to overcast. Wind: Calm to Light. Temp Air: -6.5 deg C. Precip: Very Light (S-1).
Boot Pen: Balls Deep, Yeah, that’s what she said… Type: Profile Pit. Temp Surface @ 150cm: -6.5 deg. C
No Red Flags besides the low-moderate obvious wind loading of leeward aspects.
<150 DF’s (decomp & frag. precip particles) 1.5mm F+ -6.5 deg. C
140 DF’s (decomposing & frag. precip part.) 1.5mm F+ -6.0 deg. C
130 DF’s (decomposing & frag. precip part.) 1.5mm F -6.0 deg. C
120 FCsf (near surface faceted particles) 1-2mm F -5.5 deg. C
110 FCxr (Rounding Faceted Particles) 1.0mm F -5.0 deg. C
100 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 0.5-1.0mm F -4.5 deg. C
90 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm <95cm 4F -4.0 deg. C
80 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm 4F -3.5 deg. C
70 RG’s (Rounded Grains) 1.0mm 4F -3.0 deg. C
60 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm <60cm F+ -2.5 deg. C
50 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -2.0 deg. C
40 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -2.0 deg. C
30 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.5 deg. C
20 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.0 deg. C
10 DH (Depth Hoar) 3.0mm F+ -1.0 deg. C
Did a very nice ECT (Extended Column Test) 30cm deep X 90cm wide X to 120cm deep from surface, back cut out.
Results yielded: ECT23Q3(PC)… the whole 150cm down to 60cm collapsed on the interface (if you can remember the December surface hoar produced by endless clear days and cold clear nights) ~60-63cm is where the ECT collapsed but did not shear. This indicated a collapse and even propagation, but no sudden planar or resistant planar shear @ 30 deg. So that would put us at ECTP23. Read from that what you will… in leymans’ that’s a deep persistent weak layer that will propagate distances, collapse and cause instability in the snowpack, hence, most aspects on the CAIC Rose being rated as considerable. Watch out for higher angle slopes that will cause the upper layer to collapse as well as shear and slide.
That’s all the snow-geek and SWAGger I got for ya! hopefully you were suave and savvy enough to get your significant other’s adrenaline and love potion pumping with you’re superior shredability out in EV today. If you didn’t here’s some snow porn to help you thru tomorrow… but remember, never trust a hoar, no matter how deep you bury it (Whammy!).
2/12/12 5 Second Rule/ Trip Report
Headed up to see the after effects of a big Saturday. Like heading into a trashed frat house after the cops come, the area was deserted and littered(with tracks, not Old Style beer cans) . Fully expecting to see some slide remnants in the bowls, but the reports of a slide in Benchie were just spray. Forty or so tracks in plain view. Plenty of snow testers exploring all aspects. Maybe a small fracture on skiers’ left side of Benchie, but nothing real significant and hard to tell as the area was laced with tracks on top of the possible remnants.
Greybird day and temperatures finally cooling off with the incoming front. No recent movement in Old Man’s, the right side stamped with tracks and a few poking into the first gully skier’s left of shrubbercross alley.
Took full advantage of the stability and headed left middle gully for the first time all year. One might even call it a, gasp, SKI CUT!!! Just kidding, can’t help myself. The snow was settled and surfy, no movement at all the run. Still some reef in the roll over gullies, but finally getting covered.
Some advice. 5 second rule. If you are going to delve into the middle of any open areas, you need to be able to ski your line all at once, with speed, without stopping on the cliff bands. Otherwise don’t bother. CMHing through these areas will get you pounded.
Headed out to the ridge and saw two small(30 ft wide) slab pockets had ripped on the lower skier’s right side of the West Wall. These were small shallow areas with no propagation or run distance (50 ft), an effect of the recent new snow on the sun baked east facing West Wall giving way.
Found good snow in the Forgotten Trees, shaded north facing, it provided good knee-deep pow skiing. Hit the lower cliff band in the trees and fractured a 20 foot circle of snow. Just collapsed, didn’t run but stopped me dead in my tracks. Time to look around and enjoy the solitude of the moment and the light snow starting to fall in the trees.
Found an undisturbed tree pocket next door to my landing to do a quick CT test and snow profile. 38 degrees, north facing, untouched. Perfect. Again not too much difference in the snow profile from other recent pits. 10 cms of fresh snow of 55 cms of slighlty denser old storm snow. At the bottom the less than fist density 3 mm facets still there to the ground.
105 cms total depth, -3 C air temp, -1C snow surface temp. CT column results were a little different from a couple of days ago.
CT-2 Q1 at 95 cms. Old snow/new snow interface, just the top fluff.
CT-17 Q3 at 35 cms. Again within the 3mm facets, but ragged and uneven.
Only did a single column, so no back up for the results. Just lots and lots of tracks. Lots.