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Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

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.
 

Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Sat Jan 22, 2011 5:01 pm

Observation Jan 18 and 20 I have to admit that I have been skiing a lot this month and I have not been posting. These observations are from last week and conditions have likely changed.

January 18th Considering the avalanche danger was considerable on Monday and anywhere low was raining, and anywhere up high was windy, Ron and I went to ski Rocky Point starting from Brighton Ski Resort. In the parking lot the wind was blowing so hard that my shoes blew away, looking like a modern tumble weed. While skinning up to Catherines Pass we noted that there about 3 inches of grauple with a strong rain crust underneath. Once at Dog Lake we saw a recent avalanche on the East Face of Mount Millicent. The avalanche crown was about 3-5 inches deep and I would rate the avalanche as class 1 (enough to drag you over a cliff or into a tree). Around the steep banks of each lake was similar activity. Skied the steep Dog Leg Chute on Rocky Point and continued down, skiing the steep Pioneer East face along the way back to the car.....all with no avalanche activity. No depth hoar was found on our outing thanks to a once a winter, January rain storm. Overall avalanche conditions were pockets of Moderate at most and low everywhere else. Had there been 2 to 3 feet of new snow, avalanche conditions would have been Considerable to High.

January 20th Did the Dawn Patrol thing at Alta on Thursday morning and man was getting up there at 6am well worth it. Skinned up Flagstaff in the early moring light with about 10 others (Did I see you up there ED F?). Skied the 3 o clock slide path around 8am first tracks. The 1st couple of turns were icy but then the 8 to 11 inches of soft Utah powder started to move into face shot catagory. At a crossloaded rollover I got a small sluff to run on the ice. While driving back down the canyon I saw extensive sluffing on Superior's south facing Black Knob that appeared to be skier triggered.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:58 pm

Observation Jan 21st- Oquirrh Range (Sharp Mountain)
Started the day in Ophir Canyon. The road was snow covered and plowed only about half way, just short of Serviceberry Canyon. After just a few minutes of skinning Ron and I came up on the entrance to Serviceberry Canyon. Looking at Sharp Mountain we decided to avoid the famous river crossings of Ophir Canyon and started our skin up Serviceberry Canyon. At the entrance there was only 2-5 inches of snowpack total.....however the strong rain crust made it seem like several feet. As we increased our elevation the snowpack depth increased. Once we reached the base of Sharp Mountain we observed some old crown lines on the NE facing Chandler Peak Chutes. Insted of climbing the normal route to Chandlers Pass we opted for following the road to the East Ridge. While bootpacking up the wind damaged ridge I dug a quick snowpit. On this East Facing 37 degree slope I found 2 inches of wind packed powder on top of a thick rain crust. Below the rain crust there was about a foot of softer snow cone type snow. Below this snow cone snow was a 2nd crust, with some strong basil facets between this lower crust and the ground. Total depth of the snowpack was 1.5 feet on the ridge.
Skiing the south facing slopes of Sharp Mountain was a blast. The wind affected powder got better as we skied further down Serviceberry Canyon. After making over 500 turns we got down to the car just before sunset. To complete the day we saw a Bald Eagle while getting the car packed up. In my opinion the snowpack structure was not concerning and the avalanche danger in the southern Oquirrhs is LOW with a check mark. However, IF (and this is a mighty big IF here) we get 3-4 feet of new wet snow there is a chance that if that amount avalanched into a gully, the weight could be enough to break into the snowcone layering, causing a full depth, dangerous avalanche.
The 1st picture is of Sharp Mountain from the entrance of Serviceberry Canyon
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Ron splitboarding Sharp Mountain
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Ron splitboarding Sharp Mountain
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Ron splitboarding Sharp Mountain
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A Bald Eagle flying over Ophir Canyon
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A beautiful sunset over Rush Lake and the Stansburry Range
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Last edited by TyeDyeTwins on Sun Jan 23, 2011 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:45 am

(Did I see you up there ED F?).


I think we started a bit later -- you were probably a couple hundred feet above us on the skinner. Small world.

Nice Oquirhh info.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby marauders » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:48 am

Beautiful pics! I wish I could have gotten out today.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:40 pm

Observation Jan 28th
Got a late start and had thoughts of skiing Mt Aire on friday. At 11am the parking lot at the base of Lambs Canyon was nearly full. Searching for 1st tracks we drove up Lambs Canyon to the Lambs Canyon Pass Trailhead. Skinned the 2 plus miles up to Millvue Peak. Along the way we saw some new cornices and LOTS of well developed surface hoar on the northerly aspects. In 2 places the cornices dropped causing a shallow sluff/slab each time. Should this surface hoar be burried tomorrow by the forecasted winter storm, we could see 1 foot deep, easily triggered avalanches in the steep northerly terrain sections of Lambs Canyon. The Lambs Canyon and Millcreek Canyon areas are legendary for surface/depth hoar so really this comes as no surprize. At the summit we decided to ski the Northeast Bowl all the way back down to the car. While skiing through the deep gully we found surface hoar on all the steep side walls (north, east and west aspects). Total snow depth averaged around 2 to 4 feet in most locations. Near the car there was some serious but thankfully not too long bushwhacking. At times the lower sections of the trail were narrow and difficult to ski. None the less it was great to get out of the inversion and have a mountain all to ourselves.
Ron climbing along the Millcreek/Lambs Cayon Divide way above the nasty inversion
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Ron splitboarding down the Northeast Bowl of Millvue Peak
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:53 am

Near the car there was some serious but thankfully not too long bushwhacking. At times the lower sections of the trail were narrow and difficult to ski.


Bushwhacking is just a part of touring in Lambs... sometimes you want a machete in there. Ever skied the drainage to the north of the summer trail? Some nice lines, but the bushwhack out in that creek is a real shitfest.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:09 am

1/29: Toured around PC Ridgeline and Willow Fork. Since we're about to get a bunch of new snow, I just wanted to comment on the amazing variability in the surface right now. Damn near everything -- alpine ice, stout sun crust, light crust, settled sheltered snow with hoar, dust on crust, settled powder, windpack, crazy cornices...
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Sat Feb 05, 2011 10:59 pm

Observation Feb 4
Decided to ski Middle Canyon in the Central Oquirrhs yesturday. At 7am we reached the road block and it was open with 2 trucks sitting there. We came up to them and stopped. They did not even flinch so we drove up the surprizingly plowed Middle Canyon. About 3.5 miles up we reached the White Pine Flat and there was a parking lot with a truck already parked there. Minutes later a truck came down the road saw us and continued driving down. Just as we were leaving the parking lot a Kennecott worker told us that if we parked there our car would get locked in. So we packed up and drove back down...only to find the gate LOCKED. We drove back up Middle Canyon and there was no one there. After 15 minutes a snowplow driver came by and let us out. Pissed off and trying to salvage the day we drove down to Ophir Canyon.
Due to time and weather we skinned up Porphyry Hill. The views were outstanding but the skiing conditions were terrible. There was powder, wind packed powder, crust, ice, wind drifts. We dug a snowpit on a windloaded Northeast aspect and found about 3 feet of snow. The top 4 inches was soft powder sitting on top of thick rain crust. There was surface hoar under the crust however....the crystals showed signs of rounding, plus we got a very "sticky shear" when the snowpack was tested. Below this rain crust layer was very strong snow all the way to the ground. Although the rain crust was thick at 8,200 feet, it is showing signs of weakening. Overall I would call avalanche conditions in the South Fork of Ophir Canyon low with a check mark. It should also be mentioned that all the large West Facing avalanche slide paths were extremely crossloaded in the Oquirrh Range.
Summitpost member BigAirBear skinning up Porphyry Hill
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Summitpost member BigAirBear summiting Porphyry Hill
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Summitpost member BigAirBear on the summit of Porphyry Hill
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Skiing Porphyry Hill
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Summitpost member BigAirBear skiing Porphyry Hill
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:22 pm

Finally got out to ski after being laid up for a week with this cold going around. Coughed, hacked, and wheezed my way up to USA Bowl. 10-14" of fresh in most places, a little more or less where the wind had pushed it around. Ridgetop winds were hammering all day -- the upper elevations of the Wasatch looked pretty exciting yesterday. No major instabilities noted except for ridgetops where the wind created nasty windpack slabs which were very responsive. The sun was shining all day, so south and probably west took some damage. South was getting pretty sloppy yesterday by 2pm or so.

South Monitor looked really wind-loaded. The east-facing portion had cooked off earlier in the morning where the snowpack is shallow and solar radiation can heat the slopes underneath.
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Windy on the ridge:
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Fresh pow after way too long in the Wasatch:
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:25 pm

2/10: Twin Lakes / Patsy Marley area: No instabilities noted. Sunny slopes are probably going to be crusty today. Still lots of fun snow out there.

Twin Lakes
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Pretty Superior
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Bulletproof up top
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Better down low
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:45 am

2/11: White Pine. Got a late start and skinned up White Pine. We wound up skiing the lower portion of the Tri Chutes on Red Stack. I didn't like how much it was heating up in the late afternoon, so we just ripped skins and bailed and decided not to tempt fate by going any higher. Despite afternoon sun, the snow was still great. Gorgeous day out there today -- we had much less ambitious plans for the day and we just kept going regardless. I wish we could have gotten out earlier.

There was a considerable amount of surface recrystallization last night on a lot of aspects, but I doubt it will survive until the next snow (which looks like a bit...sigh). Very sunny day today, and I'd bet sunny south and west aspects are going to be ugly tomorrow.

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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:43 pm

2/14: Beartrap. I can die now saying I've skied corn in February. Skied good corn on the SE facing slopes of the knobs between Beartrap and Mill D North fork. The crust froze hard enough on open slopes to be very supportable, and corn starting forming as the sun baked exposed east to south slopes. Extremely warm day -- I didn't put gloves on until I skied today. The ski was classic late spring Wasatch: crust at the top, corn, then slop at the bottom. We were done by noon, but as we left a bunch of dark clouds blew in as we drove away.

February Corn Harvest
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:34 am

Observation Feb 10th (Oquirrh Range)- Went back to Ophir Canyon in search of some untracked powder. After several river crossings in 8 degree temps we caught a glimps of Lowe Peak and decided that it was too icy for a quality ski. We found a gully/slide path (we call it The Great White Gully) to the observers right of Dead Ox Pass that was holding protected snow. We climbed to the top of The Great White Gully and from the Oquirrh Divide we found a small avalanche just off the small summit. It was on a steep Northeast facing slope and was about 2 feet deep.....but was only 10 feet across. The avalanche could have been bigger had there not been some trees acting as anchors (and no we did not dig a snowpit due to safety concerns). We dug a snowpit on a West Northwest facing slope and found 3 feet of snow with a thick rain crust with a foot of snow sitting on top of it. Above the foot of settled snow we found a weak and very thin sun crust with 6 inches of soft snow resting on top. Although this snowpit was mostly unreactive......the snowpack structure is weak and will not be able to support a big load in the future. Surface facets were found in all creek bottoms and on shady slopes above 8,000 feet. The avalanche danger at 10,000 feet on North and East Facing slopes is a dangerous moderate right now for persitant slabs in the 1-2 foot deep range. When the new snow falls on Thursday the avalanche danger up there will likely reach CONSIDERABLE so be careful about your choices up there next weekend.
Ron skinning the Oquirrh Divide
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The small avalanche on the Oquirrh Divide
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The view of the Southern Wasatch from the small summit
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Ron splitboarding The Great White Gully
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Dan skiing The Great White Gully
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The Great White Gully after we skied it
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:41 am

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