A LOW avalanche hazard exists at all elevations and on all aspects. While it is unlikely to trigger avalanches today, it is not impossible. Anticipate the possibility of small avalanches in isolated or extreme terrain. Low does not mean no hazard.
Be cautious in consequential terrain where even small avalanches in isolated locations could carry you into terrain traps, such as rocks and cliffs, compounding the hazard.
A shallow showpack with exposed rocks and hazards exists in many locations. Challenging travel conditions, such as breakable crust and extra firm snow surfaces are widespread. Soft snow can be found in isolated locations at mid to upper elevations, in wind sheltered areas, and at the lower elevations.
PREVIOUS ADVISORIES AND UPDATES HERE
Problem 1: PERSISTENT SLAB
While poor structure still exists in the snowpack, mild weather and a lack of any rapid load to the snowpack, has allowed an otherwise alarmingly weak snowpack to substantially stabilize. It will be important to remind ourselves that LOW hazard does not mean NO hazard, and small avalanches may still be possible in isolated or extreme terrain. No matter the size of the avalanche, any exposure to avalanches will be compounded if it also involves terrain traps. Choosing safer terrain is a good way to increase your safety margin.
The deeper weak layers, such as basal facets, have slowly been stabilizing over time, and will be unlikely to trigger today. Closer to the surface, old, firm, wind deposited snow, sitting over weaker snow, will reveal itself as either thin, breakable crust, or more substantial and supportable, firm slabs 2-8" thick, on all aspects, at mid to upper elevations. You may be able to trigger one, or a portion of these stubborn slabs, but it will likely be small and uneventful, unless it were to carry you into terrain traps and/or extreme terrain, compounding the hazard.
Let's remind ourselves that avalanche advisories are our first step to understanding the big picture. We still have a responsibility to further assess, verify or disprove stability or instability on our chosen slopes for travel. There is a lot more to avalanche advisories and traveling in avalanche terrain than the simplistic color spectrum of the north american avalanche danger scale. Got questions? Stop in and visit us at today's FREE AVALANCHE WORKSHOP at the Gold Mint trailhead 11:00 am to 1:30 pm.
Problem 2: Loose Dry
Loose dry avalanches will be unlikely to human trigger as this hazard will be small, and only in isolated, wind sheltered locations on slopes 40º and steeper, generally at the upper elevations. While most of Hatcher Pass is either wind scoured or loaded with breakable crust, very isolated locations in wind sheltered areas harbor low density, faceted, re-crystalized snow sitting on firm surfaces. Low density, loose snow will allow for human triggered small sluffs, that may be able to carry you into additional hazards, such as terrain traps, compounding the risk.
Pictured below: Old, natural, small, loose dry avalanches on a South aspect above Gold Chord Lake at approximately 4350'. Similar loose dry avalanches will be possible to trigger today in isolated locations.
Extremely firm, smooth, and slippery snow surfaces are widespread. Slide for life conditions exist at mid-upper elevations on steep slopes.
If a wolverine can't stop sliding , then there is a good chance we can't either...
Yesterday's picture below is of a wolverine's claw marks scraping the snow surface. Claw marks were 10 feet long, where the wolverine made a last ditch effort to stop sliding on a steep slope.
Natural loose dry avalanches from this week were observed yesterday, see picture under Loose Dry Avalanche Problem.
An isolated, very small, skier triggered slab from previous wind loading, 2-10" thick, was triggered on a south aspect at approximately 4500' yesterday. The skier was not carried or caught.
Natural wind slab avalanches from last weekend's wind event (1/12 - 1/13) were spotted on Monday.
Above: Natural wind slab avalanche on west aspect of ridgeline between Skyscraper and Granite Mtns.
Above: Natural wind slab avalanche on east aspect in cross loaded gully directly north of Martin Gully
Above: Wind scouring on East ridge of peak 4068.
Above: Raised tracks on Marmot, SW face.
Above: Thin coverage in many areas, rocks exposed.
Above: Deep holes and moats in the boulder fields.
This week’s weather at 3550′:
Temps averaged 29ºF, with a low of 18ºF and a high of 34ºF.
No new snow.
Overnight at 3550′:
Temps averaged 20°F.
This week’s weather at 4500′:
Temps averaged 27ºF, with a low of 21ºF and a high of 32ºF.
Winds averaged ESE 6 mph, max 21 mph . Gusts averaged ESE 11 mph, max gust ESE 43 mph.
Overnight at 4500′:
Temps averaged 19ºF overnight, with a Low of 17ºF.
Winds averaged SSW 2 mph overnight. Max gust W 9 mph.
NWS Rec Forecast HERE
State Parks Snow Report and Motorized Access information HERE
Generally cool temperatures forecasted this weekend with high pressure. It's 6ºF at the Palmer airport this morning and 18ºF on top of Marmot Mountain at 4500'. An inversion today has produced warmer temperatures at the upper elevations. Light winds through the weekend. No new precipitation forecasted.
The avalanche hazard is expected to remain the same through the weekend.
NWS point forecast HERE
Today is the annual Hatcher Pass Avalanche Workshop. Please carpool as parking is limited.
Save the date: HPAC Annual Fundraiser and Cabin Fever Reliever, Saturday,February 2, 2019 at the Moose Lodge in Palmer. Tickets available now for $20 HERE or $25 at the door.
Come dance and celebrate winter with the rippin' band, the Tanana Rafters- bid on silent auction items- and sip local beer and Double Shovel Cider!
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