This information is a Conditions Update. Danger ratings are only issued with avalanches advisories. The next avalanche advisory is scheduled for Saturday February 2, 2019.
Previous avalanche advisories HERE
MIDWEEK SNOW AND AVALANCHE CONDITIONS SUMMARY
Avalanche hazards exist for persistent slab and loose dry avalanches at mid to upper elevations. Human triggered avalanches are possible and natural avalanches are unlikely.
Slab avalanches are the main concern, up to 2-3 feet deep, and large enough to bury, injure, or kill a person.
At low elevations, natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.
Avoid steep slopes with terrain traps such as gullies, cliffs, choose slopes with gentle, fanning runouts.
Hatcher Pass has had mild temperatures and overcast skies. A major pattern shift for Southcentral Alaska weather began last Tuesday, bringing 9.5" of new snow (0.94" SWE), strong south and southeast winds, and above freezing temperatures up to 3500'. The majority of the new snow fell under light winds from the east.
Surface conditions have improved dramatically with the addition of new snow. However, a word of caution: new snow is hiding rocks and hazards, especially on south and southeast aspects that were already thin from strong winds over the last two weeks. Currently good ski quality abounds on all aspects and at all elevations.
This report is a mid-week conditions update, so please be sure to check hpavalanche.org for advisories on Saturdays and follow the HPAC Facebook for updates. Help us keep tabs on the Hatcher Pass area! If you see any avalanche activity send us an observation HERE. Thank you to everyone who has already submitted observations this season - you can see those HERE!
Surface conditions have improved dramatically, with the addition of 9.5" of snow since Thursday 1/24.
Above freezing temperatures on Tuesday 1/29 settled the new snow substantially. Here, rollerballs, a sign of warming, are found at 2500' below Peak 4068.
Areas that were visibly wind effected last week look much more appealing with 9.5" of new snow.
Be warned that new snow is barely obscuring rocks and other hazards on south and southeast aspects where coverage was already thin from strong winds over the last two weeks.
Terrain traps, such as the gullies in the foreground and across the valley, will compound the consequences of even a small slide. It's best to choose terrain with gentle, fanning runouts.
Problem 1: Persistent Slab
Above 3000', on northerly and westerly aspects along ridgelines, and on cross loaded features on all aspects, hard old wind slabs of varying thickness can be found sitting under 9.5" of new snow from last weekend. This slab is generally sitting on loose, faceted snow. It may be possible to trigger an avalanche on this layer, especially on steep, unsupported slopes. Even small avalanches may have the ability to carry or wash you into secondary hazards, such as rocks and cliffs, quickly compounding the hazard.
Let's continue to remind ourselves of a few simple safety protocols for backcountry travel which can increase our level of safety while in avalanche terrain. Always carry on our persons, and know how to use, a beacon, shovel and probe, avoid terrain traps, ski and ride one at a time, and spot our partners.
Hard old wind slabs of varying thickness can be found sitting under 9.5" of new snow from last weekend. This slab is generally sitting on loose, faceted snow. It may be possible to trigger an avalanche on this layer, especially on steep, unsupported slopes.
Problem 2: Loose Dry
Loose dry, new snow is sitting on widespread old, slick wind crusts. Human triggered, small, loose dry avalanches will be possible on all aspects, on slopes 40° and steeper today, especially on leeward aspects where new snow is slightly deeper. At mid to upper elevations, in very isolated, wind protected locations, new snow will be sitting on up to a foot and a half of loose, weak, sugary snow. Triggering a loose dry avalanche under these conditions will entrain older, sugary snow and result in fast moving sluffs with more volume. Loose dry avalanches will generally be on the small side, but may have the ability to carry a person into secondary hazards, such as terrain traps, compounding the hazard.
Natural wind slab avalanche on Peak 4068, northeast aspect. Slope overloaded by a combination of 1/25 wind transported snow and 1/28 new snow. Estimated to have occurred mid storm on 1/28.
Closer view of natural avalanche on northeast aspect of Peak 4068.
Weather at 3450' since Saturday 1/26:
Temperatures averaged 28°F, with a low of 20°F and a high of 33°F.
There has been 9.5" of snow (0.95" SWE) recorded at Independence Mine since Thursday 1/24.
Weather at 4500' since Saturday 1/26:
Temperatures averaged 23°F, with a low of 16°F and a high of 27°F.
Winds averaged E to SE 7 mph, max 13 mph. Gusts averaged E to SE 12 mph, max gust 23 mph.
Stay tuned to the NOAA point forecast for an updated weather forecast each day. The best way to see if it's snowing in Hatcher Pass is to look at the webcam snow stake HERE and the Independence Mine SNOTEL site HERE
State Parks Snow Report and Motorized Access information can be found here.
TODAY'S BOTTOM LINE:
Avalanche hazard exists for persistent slab and loose dry avalanches at mid and upper elevations. Human triggered avalanches are possible and natural avalanches are unlikely.
Click on the "FULL FORECAST" button for all the details, below.
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