Detailed Observation

Date2019-02-24
LocationEastern Alaska Range
ObserverLea Hartl
AvalancheN

General Observations

2/24/19: Skinned up Trims Creek (inspired by last week’s group!), followed ridge west of Item Peak headwall to about 6500ft, skied mostly W/SW aspects from ridge back down to Trims drainage. Very sunny day, some wind in the creek but calm further in.

 

Very variable snow conditions overall. Snow surface has been shaped by wind (everywhere) and sun (S aspects). Very broadly speaking, N faces have been wind loaded (and have cornices), S aspects tend to be wind scoured. However, we found local pockets of wind loading on all aspects, e.g. where slopes get cross loaded or wind is funneled due to some terrain feature. S/SW aspects have a thin sun crust in places. The mixture of wind crusts, wind slabs of varying hardness, and/or sun crust in the top most layers of the snow pack rests on depth hoar/facets. Snow depth is very variable and seems low overall.

 

There is old debris in the drainage from large releases from both the N and S sides, and we saw one small, somewhat more recent looking crown line just below the ridge line on the steep NW/W facing slopes off the ridge east of the Item peak headwall. Other than a few rollerballs off very steep, rocky areas on sunny aspects, we observed no activity related to sun/warmth.

 

Wind slabs were our main concern on this day, particularly isolated areas of older, hollow sounding, hard wind slab on top of the bottomless facets (i.e. the rest of the snow pack). On our route, these were fairly easy to identify and did not seem reactive. However, if one were to release, consequences are potentially high.

 

Snow quality for skiing was a mixed bag. Sometimes the wind packed snow is supportive, other times it is not, every so often we were surprised by a couple of good turns in small patches of recycled powder.

 

Conditions in creek: see last week’s obs.   

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