Observation May 25
Had some very close calls with avalanches out there today. Troy and I started by skinning Twin Lakes Pass from Brighton early this morning. We broke trail from the lake to the pass. Just as Troy and I reached the pass a wet avalanche came off of the "Highway to Heaven" slide path, stopping just before our skin track. We decided to ski the East Bowl in Silver Fork. Got 1st tracks with no incident. As we went to skin up to Flanningans we heard over 15 whoooomphs and felt many more collapses (a new season record for us). At the top of Flanningans we dug a snowpit. We found 2 inches of light powder with 2 inches of crust all sitting above a perfectly soft perserved powder layer. This layering was responsible for the whoomphing/collapsing. Judging by our snowpit we abandoned the thought of skiing the Spillway Chute (hanging snowfeild above a 70 foot cliff) and we went to ski a shot on Flanningans that we knew (from past expirence) we could successfully slope cut safely if it did avalanche.
With the camera set up Troy came in to make his 1st turn on the steep chute. About 4 seconds after his turn I heard a whooomph and watched the slope break apart. As I went to have a closer look, the large avalanche grew and grew as it approached the trees. At the avalanches maximum I was praying that Troy was not in the slide somewhere. By the time I switched my beacon to search I heard a BOO (the signal that everything is ok) in the forest off to the side of the slide path. I decided to decend right on the avalanche bed surface to get down safely. The bed surface was like skiing fine dust on crust.....a perfect avalanche layer.
This avalanche occured around 1pm on a steep (+35 degrees) Northwest Facing slope at about 10,200 feet. The avalanche crown was 5-7 inches and the slide ran almost 900 vertical feet into the trees. The debrie pile was about 1 to 2 deep and was about 250 feet wide. Avalanches like this are not usually a concern for late May but as it has been said a 100 times already this season.....this is not your average year out there in the Wasatch. Today's avalanche danger was definately in the CONSIDERIBLE catagory by the afternoon........Wasatch your back out there tomorrow.
The 1st picture is of Troy making his 1st turn in Flannigans that started the avalanche
The 2nd picture is of the avalanche from the top of the slide path
The 3rd picture is looking up at the path from near the toe of the debrie pile. Not all of the debries are pictured.