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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 Matthew Van Horn » Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:34 am

Be careful out there! (I know you are.) When I finally save up and buy some gear I want you to be around so you can show me around.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby marauders » Thu Nov 25, 2010 1:53 am

Bitter cold, but beautiful this morning in Grizzly Gulch. About 6 new inches. South facing skied fantastic, good coverage. North facing was inverted and skied slow. Stayed away from loaded terrain and everything was rosey.

A quick note on everything that froze during this morning's tour: my goggles, then my glasses, then my eye lashes, primary camera battery, then the secondary battery, frozen water bottle lids, frozen PBJ sandwiches, rime crystals growing on any skin exposed within seconds. Yoah! It was cold!

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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Fri Nov 26, 2010 5:22 am

Observation November 23rd and 24th- Got up to Willow Fork for the 1st and 2nd time this season. Found great coverage for this time of year on most aspects and elevations. On the 23rd the winds were causing a massive amount of snow transport over the West/South Monitors. USA Bowl in Mill F Fork was scraped down to the ground in most places. Skied Wills Hill on the 24th and despite the fact that it was well below zero, it was an epic day to get out and ski for sure. Although the snow was inverted, it skied well and no collapsing/cracking/whomphing was felt/heard all day.
Troy skiing Wills Hill with temps well below -10, hard to believe its November.Image

Observation November 25th- Went up to Silver Fork today and charged the steeper hills in OVER THE HEAD I CANT SEE A THING POWDER. Got 1st tracks in North Davenport. A ski cut at the top of the chute caused a small surface sluff, but nothing too concerning. What was concerning was the grauple pooling at the base of the cliffs, which was thusly and easily avioded. In for another steep and deep line we went to Flannigans where we were once again the 1st tracks. At the top of our line of choice the snow became "punchy and hollow" and even worse there was a large wind pillow in the release zone. Due to the obvious danger of a windslab we decided to ski a more "conservative line" in the nearby, steep trees. After letting off a small surface sluff with a ski cut I dug a quick hand pit. There was about 2-3 feet of heavy, inverted snow and below that was softer snow. Despite this layering the snow was unreactive on the North Facing. However the West facing was a completly different story.
Near the end of the Flannigans slide path the run becomes West facing. While skiing the steep gully I triggered a 1 foot deep and 12 foot wide hard slab in a shallow rocky area. Further down the run, Troy made a hard turn on a roll over and got a large shooting crack to shoot out across most of the gully. Skiing behind him I dug another quick hand pit and found a shallow snowpack with several layers. The wind packed top layer (3 inches thick) was the most reactive layer, however the entire snowpack (approx. 2 feet) collapsed too easily for my standards. Shallow rocky areas should be avioded until some healing takes place. Maybe this is why the Summer Road @ Alta was closed today? Today was textbook MODERATE in the North and West facing terrain of Silver Fork.
Troy skiing North Davenprt.
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Troy skiing Flannigans in Silver Fork.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:53 pm

Observation November 26 and 27- Considering conditions were not only EPIC but STABLE as well, we decided to go back to Silver Fork. At the top of the upper North Facing ridge someone had knocked off a sizeble cornice with no results. Took 2 laps off the North Facing terrain (just below Over Easy and then North Davenport). Skinned up to Flannigans and skied the steeper Northerly terrain without incident. Overall the avalanche conditions in Siver Fork were LOW. What concerned us was the shinny surface hoar that was widespread in upper Silver Fork. Considering that this surface hoar is being burried today, this will likely be a future avalanche layer.
On the 27th I went up Mount Aire's Elbow Fork. No surface hoar was found in Elbow Fork. The total snowpack depth ranged from 1 to 2 feet deep, which is actually above average for this time of year. Avalanche conditions there were LOW as well.
Troy skiing North Davenport
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:39 am

First, sorry for not posting here until today, and thanks to everyone else for their observations. I've been out a few times so far this season, but I was in some of the same places as TieDye, and it's mostly moot now with this new storm.

This was an odd storm today. It really did favor upper LCC with a northwesterly flow, and almost nowhere else. We skinned up to the top of Flagstaff today, and the snow totals varied greatly with aspect and elevation. Despite the forecast, there was quite a bit of wind blowing high, but not much blowing low. The result was some easy to move windslabs in pretty predictable spots. We skied laps off of Flagstaff into Days Fork. The snow at the top was really shallow, and I was able to set off thin windslabs with a casual ski cut. Once I skied into the lower-angled terrain, the topsheet was still pretty responsive, but easy to manage with the angle. We exited back to LCC on powder-on-crust. It got deeper once we were a couple hundred feet off the ridge, so the bottom portion of the ski was pretty nice. There was probably 18" settled in the lower reaches of Days. Days Headwall looked really wind-loaded, but people were skiing it with no problem today.

The weather today was pretty cloudy and foggy with intermittent sun, and it flurried almost all day. Temps at Alta were about 17 when we started, and the wind was blowing really hard, especially on the ridge tops. Windchill on the ridge tops was pretty low. We left late in the afternoon, so the snow should stay really nice until at least tomorrow.

Speaking of windslabs, there is a really great post-avalanche assessment by one of the guys who took a ride today on TGR: http://tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php?t=203483&page=21

Scary stuff. If you're not familiar with what was below them, let's just say it would have been ugly.

Update: UAC link on Avy: http://utahavalanchecenter.org/avalanch ... t_11292010
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby PocketsOfBlue » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:47 am

Enjoyed a nice 4.5 hour tour from Alta this morning. Skinned up Pole Line (Cardiff) Pass, traversed West over the knob, and skied a NW-facing shot into Cardiac Bowl. Snow was good if not great, a little wind-compacted but still smooth. Next we donned the skins and traversed up Cardiac Pass where we saw a few parties doing laps. Apparently we had the same idea as everyone else, as I counted no less than 12 tourers going up or down the East-facing slope off or Cardiac. Encountered similar snow conditions as the previous run.

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Rob making the last few tours down Cardiac. Note the two dozen plus tracks.
IMG_0005.jpg (62.99 KiB) Viewed 956 times


The sun shone bright all morning, until clouds started rolling in in the early afternoon. The snow was clearly rapidly warming on the South-facing exit off of Cardiff, which made for more challenging conditions down low. I assume that's pretty much the norm.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:41 am

OBSERVATIONS NOV. 29th AND 30th

November 29th (Monday)-Went up to Grizzly Gulch in search of the mighty 17-22 inches that fell in Little Cottowood Canyon. Finding less than 4 inches of new snow we went into the more complex terrain of Silver Fork. When skiing behind a tree in North Davenport I got a 4 inch deep by 10 feet across wind pillow to release on the now burried depth hoar. Similar results were encountered when skiing Flannigans later on that day. None of these sluffs running on depth hoar where concerning....but had there been 22 inches sitting on top of this layering......consequences could have been severe. Basically....the more new snow....the more hazard, especailly when it comes to the upper North Facing terrain of Silver Fork.

November 30th (Tuesday)- Headed up Toleto Bowl this morning. Along the way we came across the debries from the avalanche in the South East facing Toleto Chute. This windslab was triggered by a skier and appeared to be less than a foot deep in the crown area. Skied into Holy Toleto and then skinned up and over to Montreal Hill. Skied the steep northerly chutes of Montreal Hill with no sluffs and got some more BLOWER powder. According to the Cottonwood Forecast there is going to be another RIME event, which will spoil all the great powder out there. Typical November.

The 1st picture is of the skier triggered Avalanche in the Toleto Chute
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The 2nd picture is of Troy skiing the BLOWER powder on Montreal Hill
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Last edited by TyeDyeTwins on Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:56 pm

Got out in Summit Park for the first time this season. It's still really bony, but it's probably where it was around Jan. 1 last season, so not too shabby at all for Dec. 1. Temps were in the 32-38 range today and very humid, and the snow on all aspects at that elevation got soggy today, even sheltered north. We were kicking off tons of rollerballs on steeper terrain. At any rate, Summit Park should be good to go after another foot or so. Getting down today near the bottom involved lots of maneuvers that would stretch the definition of "skiing."
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:41 pm

Observation December 2nd (Thursday)
Went up to Kessler Peak's Argenta Slide Path for the first time this season. The lower half of the avalanche path was a melt/freeze type crust, brushy as hell, full of deadfall and lacked enough snow coverage to prevent scraping the skis. The upper half of Argenta was a different story. Once we reached the upper most bowl before the summit ridge we dug a quick snowpit. What we found was 100cm of snow, with a rime crust burried about a foot down. This rime layer was unreactive in our tests. At the base of the pack we noted some depth hoar lying on the ground/snow interface. Inspection with a snowcard showed that these facets near the ground are starting to heal. We had to pry pretty hard with a shovel to get the snowpack to move on that layer....but once it moved it was an still a simi clean shear.
Troy and the Argenta snowpit
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Continuing up to the top of the Argenta Chutes was steep, slippery and windloaded. Once at the top of the main Argenta/Mineral Fork ridge we started breaking trail up tward Kessler Peak, searching for some fresh lines away from everyone else's. In hindsight that was a big mistake. Nearing dark we stopped at the first big open face we found, not knowing it was a hanging snowfield above an 80 foot cliff. It was windloading so we took the most conservative route we could onto the face. About 800 feet down the "open face" started to narrow down, where to my dismay I realized that we were above a very large cliff. I decided that maybe I could traverse to the left and find a way out, and nope no good. I told my partner who was way above me to search to the right. Minutes later I hear that it is just as bad over there.
Troy minutes away from getting cliffed out
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Knowing we only had 30min of light left we immeadiately chose to skin back up our tracks back to the ridge. While hovering above a cliff and putting on my skins I dug a quick hand pit and was scared at what I saw. Above this large cliff band was tons of windloaded snow, that now Troy and I would have the pleasure of climbing up. Keeping a healthy distance from each other we started skinning back up the steep slope, knowing that an avalanche in this terrrain would be certain death for who ever gets caught and carried. Loosing 1 of our 9 lives along the way, we made it back to the ridge before dark, only expirencing 1 crack about halfway up the snowfield. We skied back to the car without incident and lived to ski another day.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Sat Dec 04, 2010 10:32 pm

Knowing we only had 30min of light left we immeadiately chose to skin back up our tracks back to the ridge. While hovering above a cliff and putting on my skins I dug a quick hand pit and was scared at what I saw. Above this large cliff band was tons of windloaded snow, that now Troy and I would have the pleasure of climbing up. Keeping a healthy distance from each other we started skinning back up the steep slope, knowing that an avalanche in this terrrain would be certain death for who ever gets caught and carried. Loosing 1 of our 9 lives along the way, we made it back to the ridge before dark, only expirencing 1 crack about halfway up the snowfield. We skied back to the car without incident and lived to ski another day.


Whew. Great report. One of my good buddies took a ride over a 50 foot cliff in that area last year when the slope broke around him. Same story -- open slope to a choke and windloaded cliffy area. He was fine and he even found his skis, lucky bastard. Turning around and spacing out was probably the only good decision to make. Nice work.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Kai » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:11 am

We went up to the top of Red Baldy today from White Pine parking lot.

Dug a couple of pits on NW facing slopes. Weak layers were evident, but we couldn't get the snowpack to slide or propagate using various tests. (Not even lots of jumping on the rutschblok test led to any collapses.) We judged it pretty safe.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:56 am

Dec 5th ACCIDENT REPORT This report is NOT of an avalanche. Before reading this story I would like to say THANK YOU to all the tourers who took time out of their day to assist in today's resque in Cardiff Fork. The local climbing communtiy of Utah was more helpful than I ever imagined.
Troy making his last turns of the season...only moments away from a terrible ski accident on Holy Toledo.Image
Troy, Ron and I went to ski Cardiff Fork (Big Cottonwood Canyon) today. Using Little Cottonwood's Toledo Bowl we made it to the top of our intended run....Holy Toledo. I dropped in 1st, skiing soft powder until I got to the middle of the apron, where the snow changed to hard wind board. I made it to the bottom and Troy started down the run. The powder was of the "bullet variety" so Troy was going fast down the face. When he hit the windboard he fell/flew onto his back and stopped moving. My other partner Ron who was still at the top of the run came down to Troy . By now Troy was yelling that his leg felt funny and was trying to traverse across the hill. Suddenly Troy made a ski turn and yelled in pain, " Oh fuck, oh fuck, my knee, call rescue." I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911, which did not work. 3 other tourers in the area heard the event taking place and arrived at the scene immeadiately. By now Troy and Ron had made it to the 4 of us at the bottom of the hill. I could tell by Troy's face that something was very wrong.

"I felt the top of my knee go to the right and my lower knee go to left when I put weight on my left leg" says Troy. My heart sinks and without pause we (as a group) started to discuss our options. Should we call a resque helicopter? No too expensive ($10,000) and he is not in screaming pain without weight on the leg. There is no way that we can get him back to Alta. Its down the 5 miles of Cardiff Fork or the helicopter. Doing what we could with what we had, we used 2 pieces of a collapsable pole, a back brace, and also used Troys skins to splint the leg. Knowing it would be a long 5 miles to the road we emptied Troy's pack and took his gear (including 1 ski). Knowing the route all too well Ron and I assured the helpful tourers that we could handle taking Troy down. The time was 10:47am, we would not make it to the trailhead until 3:00pm.

Using a combination of the pack strap carry (Troy holding onto my backpack as I pizza down in front as a brake) and me supporting his shoulder with my body, I got Troy down, carrying him most of the aweful 5 miles in a little over 5 hours. Talk about EXAUSTING! While heading down Cardiff Fork there were many helpful skinners and snowshoers who gave Troy IB Profin, comfort and support. Overall this is what Troy and I have been training for. All those First Aid and Safety/ Proffesional rescue classes really paid off. In my opinion there was not much more we could have done with the situation. At the emergency room Troy was told that likely he tore his ACL and his MCL, which will require surgery, physical therapy and no more skiing for the rest of the season. As I type this with sore shoulders and a sore back, I am nothing but thankful that an avalanche or even worse a broken leg was not part of the senario today in Cardiff.
Last edited by TyeDyeTwins on Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby ZeeJay » Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:19 pm

So sorry to read about Troy's mishap.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby Ed F » Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:20 pm

Ouch. Great work getting him out. Sorry he's got to miss the season...that's tough. Nice to hear other tourers were willing to help out.
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Re: Utah Avalanche Conditions 2010-11

Postby TyeDyeTwins » Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:51 am

Observation Dec 12th
Went up to Cartiff Fork (along with everyone else in Utah) and was surprized to see so many people out. We decided that God's Lawn Mower did not have enough snow coverage for rock/tree free skiing so we kept skinning up to upper Cartiff Fork. Just about every steep terrain shot in Upper Cartiff was skied out by 2pm. My splitboarding buddy and I skied High Ivory and then Montreal Hill without incident. In the most exposed spots there was some rime crust, but in the trees there was heavy wet powder. Overall the avalanche danger was textbook "LOW go where ever you want to go".....as long as there is enough snow.
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