The Bottom Line: The hazard rating above treeline is CONSIDERABLE. There are multiple avalanche problems making safe decision making complicated..... Triggering a slab avalanche is likely in specific locations: steep, wind loaded terrain - ESPECIALLY where the slabs have built upon weak snow. The snow line has risen above 2000' recently and anywhere we get rain on snow Wet Loose Avalanches are possible. ALSO, glide cracks may release into avalanches at any time . . . limiting/avoiding exposure under them is prudent.
Problem 1: Persistent Slab - (new Storm Slabs sitting on weak snow)
Distribution: All aspects above treeline. Size: small-large+. Likelihood: likely. Sensitivity: reactive.
Description: About 1-2' of new snow has fallen around the Valdez region (1-2" SWE), since Jan 23, and is likely to be sitting on facets and/or surface hoar. Evaluate ALL avalanche terrain carefully or choose mellower terrain. If SNOW is the Question, Terrain is the Answer. It is currently unknown how reactive these new slabs will be on this problem layer - remote triggered and sympathetic avalanches may be possible.
Problem 2: Wet Avalanches
Distribution: All aspects below the rain line (2-3000'). Size: small. Likelihood: likely. Sensitivity: reactive.
Description: Rain on snow is the recipe for wet loose avalanches and it is continuing into Saturday. Small natural wet loose avalanches are possible in very steep terrain. Remember that even though loose avalanches may be small, they can easily have enough power to push a rider off or into a terrain trap.
Problem 3: Glide Avalanches.
There are open cracks from the port to 42 mile between 3500-4000' on multiple aspects and on January 8th there was a full release near mile 31 and there were multiple full releases on the Deserted glacier between Jan 12-18. It is important to remember glide cracks can release at any time and are not associated with human triggers. New snowfall is covering up these gaping, crevasse-like features so use caution particularly when traveling in FLAT LIGHT. The best way to manage this problem is to limit (AKA avoid) travel underneath and beside them.
The current list of known open glides cracks from West to East:
No avalanches have been reported since Jan 19th.
Please share your field observations including signs of stable snow HERE.
The most recent NWS rec Forecast can be found HERE:
323 PM AKST Thu Jan 24 2019
The Thompson Pass Mountain Forecast covers the mountains (above
1000 ft) surrounding Keystone Canyon through Thompson Pass to
Temp at 1000` 33 F 38 F
Temp at 3000` 32 F 27-34 F
Chance of precip 100% 100%
(above 1000 FT) 0.71 in 0.75 in
(above 1000 FT) 0-7 in 0-5 in
Snow level 1500 ft 2400 ft
Wind 3000` ridges SE 1-10 mph S 15-22 mph
SNOWPACK BIG PICTURE: The older snowpack is quite stable (good strength and structure). Any new snow since Jan 12 is likely to be sitting on widespread facets and surface hoar. There could easily be 3' of new slabs sitting on these buried weak layers on Friday Jan 25.
Recent snowpack history, from top to bottom:
Jan 23-current multiple days of warm and wet with freezing levels up to 2500'.
Jan 13-22 was mostly clear and dry with light to moderate north winds. Widespread Surface Hoar growth.
Jan 12-13 brought 3-10" of new snow with little wind.
Jan 4-12 was VERY cold and dry: moderate winds and wind chill reaching -50F. Pockets of surface hoar and widespread Near Surface Faceting.
Dec 30-Jan 3 The New Year's Eve storm brought nearly 2.5" of SWE to Valdez and almost another 1" (SWE) on the 2-3rd of January. The rain line was 1200' during the Jan 2-3 storm, forming a 1-3" crust locking up all the snow beneath it. These storms accumulated over 3' above 2000' near Thompson Pass. Both of these storms had little wind.
Above 4000' the snowpack averages well over 300cm deep and has good strength and structure (few lemons). Below 4000', the snowpack is significantly shallower and has old problem layers that are bonding well (rounding) and currently dormant: facet-crust combos and BASEL facets (all the way to sea level).
If you get out riding, please send in an observation.
Do a rescue practice with your partners. Always carry a beacon, shovel, and probe, and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM.
Practice good risk management, which means only expose one person at a time to slopes 30 degrees and steeper, make group communication and unanimous decision making a priority, and choose your terrain wisely: eliminating unnecessary exposure and planning out your safe zones and escape routes.
The current hazard rating for the Valdez region is CONSIDERABLE, above treeline, for all 3 forecast areas. Rider triggered avalanches are likely in steep terrain: slab avalanches above the rain line and wet loose avalanches below....Click FULL FORECAST for more information.
Please share your field observations HERE.
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