Tag Archive | snow pit reports

The End Of The Road….For EVI

Driven out of Vail  like the mighty lynx out of Cat 3 , I, Martineast found myself on the road in search of new terrain.  The factors had come down from the universe and it was time to go. Really the death of the Visti Bahn was too much to bear.  For me, that signaled an end of an era in Vail history and for me personally, my stint in Vail. That’s right, EV won’t have Martineast to kick around anymore.   I look forward to the first report of conditions, I expect another touchy year with the early snowpack resembling last years’ junk underneath, but I can’t tell you for sure.

Wyoming, Utah, Idaho. Drove through all of these and had the urge to keep going.  Washington. Pac-NW it is. Mt.  Baker sounds good, why not? World record snowfall, middle of the Northern Cascades. No Condos, 125 dollar tickets or fur stores. A sick little resort resort tucked away from the world high in the Northern Cascades. Bellingham, the closest real town, is 50 miles away.

Different from Vail? About as radically different as you can get. Land of moss, weed, wool and hanging seracs. Volcanoes, ice, crevasses, glaciers. At the end of WA-542, Mt. Baker sits below Mt. Shuksan, an imposing Cascade wedge with a massive serac hanging from it. A couple day lots, couple of base areas and that’s it. Possibilities for backcountry around Baker. Endless. When you can see, that is, as weather is a constant off the ocean. Literally, the end of the road.  Next stop B.C.

It’s been a long time since anything inbounds has required a second look to ski. I’ve been lulled into complacency by our wonderfully groomed golf course. Baker, however, has it all over. Better bring your A-game. Steep slots and trees runs, roll overs exceeding any point of repose in Colorado. Covered ice, rime spines, snow ghosts. Sidecountry that dwarfs the resort. Bottom line, if planet Hoth had a ski area it would be Baker.

Spent time out the gate my first afternoon to check out the snowpack. Dug my pit on a North facing 28 degree angle slope just above the gate, right off the skin track. Snow total, 305 cm depth on December 13. T his was before the current four foot snow cycle that has since closed the road. Results on my two columns dug to 160cms: CT-build a house out of it. Incredulous at the results of my first attempt at column failure, I recut and dug the second with the same result. It took all my weight and pulling on the second column as well to get a Q2 shear at 130 cms, way off any scale. Cascade snow pack is for real. I’m sure things have changed of late, our latest cycle has come with big wind, so we’ll see the impact of that. (63 inches in 4days, 100 plus trees down on the road up. Resort, I mean ski area,  is closed for three days to clean up  and dig out, truly a wild place on earth.)

Learning a new area isn’t overnight. I have no comfort level with the backcountry terrain here. My initial day had good vis and what I could see just on an EV length jaunt outside the area was vast and varied. Trees and spines, convex rolls and chutes endless are calling. In due time. It was good just to get my hands in snow and get a general idea of local conditions.

Here to relearn it all. I guess that’s the reason for the move. Look forward to the posts from Vail,  Luke in Jackson, Me in Baker. EVI worldwide. Note: we plan on being in AK again if the snow shapes up, so stay tuned…

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Baker parking

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Some layers of the concrete differ, but the result is bomber

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Baker inbounds

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.

2/19/12 New York State…of mind

It’s been a New York state of mind weekend, if you know what I mean.  Took the lead from Deuce and started my lap today with a stop at the beacon park to work on multiple burials.  That little SP button is a world of its own and finally after a few practice sessions, I feel solid about using it, although a mark function would be useful.

The procession down the groomed section of Poppyfields to 21 from Two Elk was endless. Our fearless guests ski like they drive, work and live in their home towns, all together, right next to each other, up in each other’s business.  I made it through the human slalom, up and out and head back for a Mushroom Bowl revisit.

Wanted to dig a pit in Mushie, albeit far away from the Kitchen, to see what was going on. The tally is now four burials past the gate at the Poma this week as told by the new signs up at the hike.  A viable option for EV access might be to install a beacon triggered access gate like ones used around in other resorts in the West, just a thought.

The recent avalanche statistics are sobering, not only for East Vail and Mushie, but for the rest of the state as well. as fatalities and incidents are spiking as new storms roll through, dumping new snow on top of facet world.  With another system rolling up on us, the avalanche activity doesn’t seem to be coming to and end anytime soon.  Interesting week ahead.

Headed even further up the line than yesterday, as I was solo and not willing to even come close to a unskied tree chute over 30 degrees.  Greybird and snow starting to fall, I found a cool low angle stumpline to bound around on. Sunk the tips on the last pillow before the small shelf and a did a spectacular ground flip, stopping on my tails. Looked over to my right and saw my huckleberry, a small unskied patch of snow, surrounded by trees.

Here’s what I saw.

Air temp: 3 C

Surface temp: 3 C

Incline: 25 degrees

Aspect: N

0 to 65 cms: 3mm loose facets fist – Depth Hoar

75 to 85 cms: 1 mm rounds 4finger/fist- Old Storm Snow

85 to 95 2 mm stellars fist – New Snow

Cut two columns and did two CT tests.

First column: CT-14 at 35 cms Q1

Second column: CT-12 at 25 cms Q1

No real suprise, but confirmation that with added steepness, snow load and the pressure of a 180 pound person impacting this snow pack off a twenty foot cliff (one incident in the Kitchen area went down this way), there is no way the snow could support it.

The real question is why, after one or two incidents  in the same area, people still continue to ski in the same exact spot.  A question for forensic psychologists, not EVI.

Last day in Mushroom, back out to EV tommorow to check it out.

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.

West Wall Crown

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.

West Wall Pit

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.

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 

0     Ground

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.

2/9/10-2/10 Chance of Snow

Chance of snow. Finally.  No hundred percent chance of sixteen inches that leaves us like a jilted bride at the altar.  Chance, that’s all we ask here in the Vail valley. My favorite forecast.

Currently snowing here, and Thursday/ Friday provided the best EV skiing of the year, but with different stability indications.  Yesterday, stomping the edge of the yet to be formed cornice of Old Man’s with skis sent the 60-80cm of wind load to the egde of the frying pan with an easy shear, but did not propagate or step down in the rollover gulley past the first flats. (This measurement is rough and only is at the very top of the run at the start of the rollover where the cornice usually forms.)

Friday, at the same place, with  renewed wind load even deeper, around 80 cm, the same test produced no shear and moderate cracking that didn’t fully break. Soft slab blocks stood perched on edge, but refused to drop and run.

Thursday

Skiing was excellent both days, the snow on Friday was thicker and sprayed like spoonfuls of mashed potatoes on each turn as we got into the midddle of the bowl. The snow stayed knee-deep and fresh all the way through. Watched a group of four ski left Benchie with no results. The tracks in West Wall, Tele Line, Benchie produces no slides that I could see.  Didn’t have much movement on my run and only minor sluffing running the right middle concave gully.  The following four tracks had only minor surface pockets moving a very short distance.  The upper part of the pack seems to be stronger than it was a week ago,  Definitely interesting to see the change in 24 hours with the same rudimentary test in the same place.

Super big Saturday with the Teva games in town and the mountaineering race ends up at Benchie.  Will racers and EV skiers be battling for the same skin track?   Much pressure this weekend and hope the seeming increasing stability is for real.

Also, check out this TGR blog if you haven’t already.

http://www.tetongravity.com/blogs/So-Far2011%E2%80%9912-Ski-Season-Marked-By-Avalanches-In-The-West-5761839.htm

2/8/12 Meadow Mountain/ EV Trip Reports

Took advantage of the perfect weather to do a midnight skin up meadow mountain under the full moon on Tuesday with Luke and Paulie and dog.  First group gathering gearing up for the AK world as it is now a countdown in days towards the end of the season. Surreal snow world cast in a  ghostly bone white light, the trees and skin trail glowed brightly under the moon. We worked our way upward through the meadows and aspens while snow machines rallied around us, transferring partygoers from the trailhead to the cabin for a full moon party.

After a couple of hours we arrived at the cabin, drawn into the cabin by firelight and laughter.   We arrived and were greeted warmly by the Mushroom people, speaking in tongues and smiling, They welcomed us to their fire with clicks and whistles and we obliged them. The light from Minturn and Vail were visible and the Gore range rose up in authority, bathed in blacklight.

The ski down was low angle and variable, pockets of stale powder, interrupted by frozen track chatter.  Dog decided that snow machines were more fun and took off on us. Luke got a second lap around midnight back to the top by snow machine and a bonus ski down with the wayward mutt.

Headed out to EV on Wednesday afternoon in rising westerly wind and lowering, thickening grey clouds.   Haven’t been back in some days, so again interested in what has transpired since last week.  Hit the poma and was warned by an older guy passing by on the catwalk about the danger in the West Vail Chutes.

Top of the world and  I saw tracks  beaten in the usual places.  Much of Benchmark is unrecognizable from last year and unskiable due to low snow, so the skier’s left side is hammered.  Right side of West Wall, Tweeners and Tele Line all had tracks.  No recent slide activity that I could see.

First time able to ski left past the initial cliff band and into the right center of Old Man’s. The upper scarp is still rock hard,  Supportive dense wind buffed pow skied o.k and the roll over areas through the two cliff/reef areas held fast.  About a dozen tracks littered the skier’s right side middle of the bowl, while the CDC area remains unskied.  The bottom of Old’s had covered mounds of old debris.

First time cutting over to the MVP area from Old Man’s, wanting to see how the Forgotten Trees were skiing.  Upper turns in the trees were more stale cake but fresh, as most of the other tracks headed straight.  Came upon the first cliff band and side-stepped off a three-foot ledge onto a briefly steep(40 degree) open tree pocket after the rocks.  Sunk to the ground and fractured a small area under the rocks that disintegrated  like sand.

Took the opportunity of standing on terra firma and looking at a small but distinct fracture line to take a look at the snow. Not much change 2-3 m facets less than fist density, topped by slightly denser old and new storm snow.  Any column cut still can’t stand on its own and fractures Q3 within the facets.  No real surprise in stability.  Still around 110 cms.

Ended up skiing 30 ft wide refilled bed surface pockets in the trees to get to the exit.  Traversed out onto thin and crusty east face and onto the track out to the bus. Thin fast and littered with stumps and bushes, it is not fun. Biggest March ever.

Hell Yeah! Old Man’s Revisit 1/24/12

Headed up the Visti sipping a forty and listening to Def Leppard.  Around Visti pole six I shot up, and by the top I was feeling loose. By the time I reached the Top of the World, I was cross-eyed and tingling. Continued down to Old Man’s where I stripped off all my clothes and straight lined the middle, still listening to Def Leppard and screaming “Ski to Die” with a Born to Lose tattoo on my bare chest, just like I did last week.  Passed out in the trees at the bottom.  Woke up an hour later, and started my traverse out.

It must have come to me in a dream, that everywhere in EV was filled with evidence of the large cycle that happened this Sunday. Crowns and debris were everywhere in areas over thirty degrees, N-NE facing in the trees.   Found a good spot on a NE  convex roll over around 9500 feet in a 150 foot wide clearing that had fractured during the  cycle.  A good spot to test in as the hangfire was minimal above, about fifteen feet to the line of trees and bed surface under my feet.

I wanted to check out the snowpack, and then do a couple tests and see if my results were in line with the obvious instability. Also I wanted to see if stability was any better a couple days after the event. I found the spot. It was N-NE facing, the roll over pitching  to 36 degrees at the top of the crown.   I choose to do a full pit profile, then  compression tests and lastly an AK block, a test created in Alaska by Bill Glude.

 You need a graduated probe, two dial snow thermometers(digital suck) a snow saw, inclonometer, a field book and a pencil.  Keeping your pack and gloves on, lay your pole on the snow and use your shovel to make a nice clean wall down 160 cms the length of  the pole in AK here to the ground. Why 160?  Hard to trigger a weak layer over six feet, a full column would take too long in AK in the field.  Put your probe in the side of the pit to use as a measuring stick.

Dig your pit and smooth the face of the area as wide as your pole.   Enough room to not only look at the snow but then be able to cut columns for your test. Profile the snow on the graph in your book, noting hardness, depth of different layers, different crystal types and sizes.  Also note temperature gradients every 10 cms(temperature gradients indicate poor adherence from one layer in the snow pack to the other.  By using two thermometers at once you can expedite the process. You also note time, aspect,  elevation, sky cover, snow and snow surface temp  Looking for obvious weak layers, crusts and density changes. Use your hand brush whatever to feel the layers out and expose them. Mark three shovel indentations gently on top of the snow and cut each shovel mark  with your saw and excava the sides of  the block with your shovel to give yourself room to cut the back of the block with your saw  to isolate the cloumns.

not quite ready to cut into columns gotta clean it up

Cut the back of the block from both sides with your saw and eliminate the  column in the middle. Now you have two isolated columns. Lay your shovel genlty on top of each column and do your CT(compression tests wrist, elbow and shoulder.) tests and check your results.

I dug to 110 cms and hit ground. I got CT-2(compression test with column failure on two wrist taps)on both columns with a Q1(very clean, easy) and Q2 sheer(moderately easy, not as clean) respectively at 60 cms on the old settled storm snow(.5 mm degraded stellars)  interface on the 2mm loose facet layer. That means very not good. If you were guiding, you’d get the hell out of there.

facets of doom

Looking down the crown, I saw this was the layer weak layer on which the slab ran, probably triggered by a traversing skier or maybe naturally during Sundays’ cycle. So far so good. My transient test  results confirmed the still awful stability in the trees.

Next was an AK block, a Reuchblock without the back cut, basically to make it  more representative of a natural slope.  Lay your skis out and dig the block  face to your desired depth, 160 cms again is good or to an obvious weak layer you want to test.  Isolate the sides of the block to a pole length with your shovel/saw.

The idea is to get your skis on, and get on the block. First flex your knees, then  a deep flex then a series of jumps until you get the block to fail.  Then you determine the stability by that number. Indicator of very bad stability.

Cut my block, took my skis than took one boot step uphill next to the block and the convex roll fractured 4 feet above the last crown 75 feet wide and moved about a foot.  Exactly why you keep your Float pack on during a test.  It did surprise me and I ended up hugging a chair sized block but again the slide had  happened here couple days ago and I was standing on bed surface.  I can only imagine what is was like on Sunday in these trees.   The block itself triggered remotely with a Q1(easy clean) shear as well.

If you were doing any of these tests on a uncontrolled slope,  you would have a spotters and/or anchors. Make you own decisions and do your own tests on your own ability level, using your own judgement.  This goes for your skiing as well.  I skied down linking snow-covered debris piles to stay out of trouble.

Bottom line: still crappy stability, but most main areas have run, although lurking pockets of instability im sure are there especially in the trees. Able to ski covered bed surface in all steep areas to avoid possible triggers. Although not like a few days ago, still very suspect in unskied debris free  N-NE areas all elevations but especially down lower.  East facing had crusted up due to the sunhit.

Snowpack: No significant temperature gradients in the pack

Here’s what I saw in my pit.

Ground to Twenty cms:  Four finger 3mm moist loose facets.

Twenty to Sixty cms: Fist 2mm loose facets

Sixty to One hundred cms: Four finger settled old storm snow .5 mm degraded stellars

One hundred cms to one ten cms:  Fist light new snow 2-3 mm stellars

At Sixty cms: The interface between the denser old storm snow and the loose facets was the spot where things have been triggering down lower in the trees.

Friday / Saturday Observation

The trip to EV on Friday was an interesting one. Without a doubt best pow turns of my season, however it was also the most high stake avi danger day as well. Had multiple signs of weak snow pack, wind, numerous whoomfs, cracks, and even triggered a few small slides on both open faces and trees north-through-east. The aspect skiers right of our line had slid rather large and rather disturbingly as it is a line I have skied weekly in past seasons. Martineast recapped the day well here and I only regret not having a camera to take some shots.

In an effort to feed the need Saturday, I went out all geared up for another EV lap, keeping in mind I would most likely be turning back and skiing in-bounds with a fully loaded pack. After some quality lift chair time I reached the top of Sourdough and decided I’d keep my self busy with some beacon training and to check the snow to see if the drop in temperature had improved the snow pack.

After beacon basin, I searched to find areas which represented the terrain I had been skiing yesterday and just as I had expected, the snow was still rotten — super rotten.  Below are pics from a “hasty pit” I dug in a north-east facing tree’d area similar to the terrain and aspect where I had encountered the most activity two days prior.

Looking at the photos, you do not need to be a snow scientist to understand what is causing the high risk conditions in our surrounding area. Keep in mind, this photo was taken on a treed northeastern slope, the same aspect as many tree lines in EV.

The photo above with the shovel clearly illustrates the newly fallen snow on a super consolidated layer created by warm temps and wind supported by an extremely faceted snow layer. After digging and looking at the snow I was convinced to turn around.

With the newly fallen snow Saturday night / Sunday morning, it will be hard to resist heading out for some fresh turns. The already crazy high avalanche danger persists.  This pit shows that even in the trees and in areas we may think are safe, we aren’t.  Stay inside the ropes for now…

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