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Wasatch Avalanche Conditions

Regional discussion and conditions reports for the great state of Utah, from the alpine peaks to the desert slots. Please post partners requests and trip plans here or in the Utah Climbing Partners section.
 

Postby Ed F » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:33 pm

Skied USA Bowl today. Ski penetration on the break in was 18"+. Probably around 25" fresh in most places. Very foggy and cloudy today, which kept the snow pretty nice all day. Some minor flurries, no significant accumulation while I was out there. Snow quality was somewhat less than the ideal Wasatch fluff, but for April 30th, it was downright amazing.

The big story for avy danger was the wind-loading from the early parts of this storm. The Monitors were majorly corniced and looked pretty nasty today. We didn't notice any significant instabilities, but we kept the angle too low to really notice anything. It's a pretty simple equation right now: there's 25"+ of snow sitting on top of a great sliding surface. It should settle pretty quickly given the time of year, but with the cold temps and clouds until Monday morning, settlement might be delayed. But, that also means skiing and riding conditions will be fabulous until at least Monday.

More snow on the way! Hard to believe it was the day before May today and I was breaking trail in two feet of pow. Beautiful. I'm sure you guys looking for spring mountaineering routes must be slashing your wrists right now along with the mountain bikers. :D
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Postby TyeDyeTwins » Sat May 01, 2010 4:28 am

Observation April 30 With 2-3 feet of new snow and because Park City Mountain Resort is offically closed for the season, we thought a tour to the steep Jupiter area would be the best bet today. Skied 3 laps in Scotts Bowl, 1 lap on Rhino and another lap on Portuguese Gap. All the runs skied today were in the "over the head" I cant see a thing catagory. There was plenty of wind with the storm, creating some large cornices at the top of Scotts Bowl. The only avalanche activity found today was a small sluff after Troy dropped into our 3rd lap on Scotts Bowl. This sluff was the result of 3 feet of new snow that was not bonded well to the burried melt/freeze crust.


I would call the avalanche danger where we were skiing today MOSTLY LOW, considering that we heard no whoomphing, saw no cracking, and only got a minor sluff all day. However in the other steeper sections of the Wasatch Range (Mt Superior, Wolverine Cirque ect...) I would call the danger MODERATE for loose snow avalanches in wind drifted terrain. When loose snow avalanches run on a melt/freeze crust they tend to run quicker and farther than expected so keep an eye behind and in front of you when taking on the steepest terrain. Without the presence of a weak layer, this instability shoud heal out quickly.

Park City Mountain Resort is officially closed for the season so Troy and I headed there to ski Scotts Bowl the way it was intended to be skied......No crowds, No lifts and 1st tracks all day long.
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Last edited by TyeDyeTwins on Sun May 02, 2010 5:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby marauders » Sat May 01, 2010 9:04 pm

TyeDyeTwins wrote:Park City Mountain Resort is officially closed for the season so Troy and I headed there to ski Scotts Bowl the way it was intended to be skied......No crowds, No lifts and 1st tracks all day long.


Amen to that! Nice work.
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Postby Ed F » Sun May 02, 2010 9:18 pm

Skied south-facing on Flagstaff today in a complete white-out. We didn't even skin to the ridge, and short-lapped on the lower parts to maintain at least some visibility. I couldn't see anything above me, but everything seemed really wind-loaded from last night. It was very easy to propagate cracks in the new snow, but it didn't seem very slabby. Given the lack of visibility above us, we didn't really venture onto (or under) anything too steep today. I really didn't like the ease with which cracks were shooting in the new layer. None were breaking down into older snow, but I just had a "bad feeling."

The snow quality was nothing short of spectacular, over-the-head powder. It was actually tough to ski in open areas because with the white sky, blizzard, and the face shots, you could barely tell what direction was up. Too fun for words.

We're going to try to get a last taste tomorrow am before the sun does its damage tomorrow morning...
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Postby TyeDyeTwins » Mon May 03, 2010 6:17 am

Observation May 2 Went up to Grizzly Gulch and the West Face of Patsy Marley today. When the fog cleared it was obvious that a shallow (2-4 inch) natural cycle occured during the storm. Despite this natural activity the North and West aspects were not nearly as sensitive as the southerly and easterly facing slopes. With 3 feet of new snow every run skied today was still in the "over the head" catagory and it also made trail breaking a bitch.

I would call the avalanche danger where we were skiing today a SOLID MODERATE on wind loaded slopes.

The 1st picture is of a small avalanche in Grizzly Gulch's Michigan City. Small and shallow avalanches like this one pictured were found on every aspect with an elevation above 8,500 feet.
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Postby Ed F » Mon May 03, 2010 12:24 pm

Word to the wise for early birds today: "The Little Cottonwood Canyon road will be closed Monday, May 3, 2010 for avalanche control work starting at 6:00 am. Please stay clear of the avalanche starting zones on the north side of the canyon between Maybird and Grizzly Gulch until after 9:00 am. Alta Ski Area will be under Interlodge travel restictions during this period so there will be no hiking allowed."
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Postby Ed F » Mon May 03, 2010 8:51 pm

Skied high upper BCC today. We started at dawn and managed to get in 4500' before the sun destroyed everything at about 10:45am. Up until then, the powder was still fantastic, slightly settled, and really fast. The morning was also really windy and cold, so the snow stayed great. Once the sun made its appearance, things went to crap in about 10 minutes. The difference between our second to last and last runs was amazing.

We didn't find any instabilities at all today. Avy danger will depend on what the sun does today. It's supposed to reach 47 degrees at 9000'. I wonder if high, north-facing will be any good tomorrow? More snow in the forecast all week. Maybe the lake will load one of the systems up like last week...

May 3rd powder.
:D
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Postby WhitePine » Fri May 07, 2010 6:25 pm

Anybody know if we are getting a good refreeze overnight?
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Postby powskier » Sat May 08, 2010 5:15 am

Solid freeze last couple nights. Low to mid twenties tonight. Not quite as cold, but cold enough.
http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/Brett/PHP/TempCharts.html
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Postby powskier » Sat May 08, 2010 5:17 am

Solid freeze last couple nights. Low to mid twenties tonight. Not quite as cold, but cold enough.
http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/Brett/PHP/TempCharts.html
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Postby TyeDyeTwins » Mon May 10, 2010 4:02 am

Observation May 9 Had plans this morning of skiing Tanners Gulch. All my partners heard about the WMC being up there and decided to bail out on me, so I went to Alta today. Skied the Main Chute off of Mount Baldy, East Greeley, Stone Crusher and what some call RBJ 19. I started a small point release when skiing East Greeley around noon. Had I not skied out of it I am sure it could have taken me for a short ride but it was nothing too concerning.

Overall I would call the danger LOW in the morning increasing to MODERATE with pockets of CONSIDERABLE during the heat of the day. Places where pockets of CONSIDERABLE would likely occur would be the south facing couloirs of Little Cottonwood Canyon and Stairs Gulch type areas. On our way down to the Tushars we saw a large wet slab in Upper Phelps Canyon (Box Elder Peak) from I-15. This wet slab trend has been occuring mostly in the Provo area this year. If you find yourself climbing in the Provo area be sure to dig several deep snowpits on your way up and listen for whoooomphing. So far this spring has been quite cool so when we do finally get several nights of no refreezes.......turn your avalanche antennas on.

The 1st picture is of a small avalanche I triggered on East Greeley.
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Postby TyeDyeTwins » Tue May 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Observation May 10 Saw a short break in the clouds so I went up to Cardiff Pass. Found about 1 inch of new snow that increased to 3 inches at the pass. The storm was starting to come back in so I skied the south facing back to my car. The new snow was wet but fast. By 2pm the snow started to fall again. I'd imagine that the bond between the new snow and the newest snow is solid due to cold snow falling on warm snow. As I was driving down the canyon the snow/rain line was at the base of the Y Couloir. Overall the kind of conditions observed would dictate LOW danger on every elevation and aspect.
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Postby WhitePine » Wed May 12, 2010 7:35 pm

May 11th Tuesday I sped up to Alta after work. Hit the parking lot by 6pm and had plenty of time to get to the Baldy Shoulder. It was snowing HARD so visibility was poor but good enough. Since I was flying solo I stopped there but a few guys ahead of me hit the main Baldy Chute. I was surprised that it was bottomless. I didn't feel any crust. I did cause some minor sluffing. Between the Baldy Chute and the Shoulder, I could barely make out some fairly recent avalanche debris under the cliffs. Other than that it was a fantastic way to end the workday.
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Postby WhitePine » Wed May 12, 2010 7:39 pm

powskier wrote:Solid freeze last couple nights. Low to mid twenties tonight. Not quite as cold, but cold enough.
http://www.avalanche.org/~uac/Brett/PHP/TempCharts.html


How cold is considered cold enough? Since the snowpack is coldest at the surface and warmest at the ground (At least during mid-winter), I'd imagine that just a few degrees below freezing would only affect the top few inches of the snowpack. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
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Postby powskier » Wed May 12, 2010 11:36 pm

Cold enough (in the evening, without solar radiation) is below 0c or 32f. But the other half is duration. A fully saturated 0 degree snowpack won't freeze very quick @ 28 degrees f. , but 28 degrees will freeze a snowpack given enough time.
There are some other factors as well such as sky cover, humidity, and snow porosity.
The last few nights we've had a poor freeze below about 9k feet. Last night @ 8500' we went to 31 at 11pm, a low of 29 and back to 32 @ 11 am. 12 hours of barely below freezing and we barely froze at the new snow/old snow interface. No freeze below it.
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