Dec 28th. Mig and I skin up for a quick low angle runout. No signs of instability. Fun.
B and P join us, we have dinner at camp and do some excellent night time beacon drills.
Dec 29th. The four of us (B, P and Mig) skin up Doyle to check out the lines.
Here are some things I was thinking about, other than this snow feels darn nice.
5 Red Flag Check:
1 New snow? Not for at least 72 hours. Check!
2 Wind blown snow. Up on Agassiz yesterday it was moving, but not here. No new windslabs. Check!
3 Signs of recent avalanches. No. Check!
4 Collapsing Or Cracking In Snowpack. No. Check!
5 Rapid rise in Temperature. Maybe on the other side of the mtn in the sun. But not here on the cold sunless NNE face. Check!
So that is great! no red flags here!!!
Ok how about some AlPTRUTH.
Avalanches: No signs of recent Avalanches. Check!
Loading: No wind loaded snow here, at least not in the last 72 hours. Check!
Path: Yes. We like riding avalanche paths. It's amazing.
Traps (Terrain Traps): Yes. There are trees to hit at the bottom of the path, and some gullies. Most avalanche paths in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness have terrain traps, except for some lines in Humphrey's Cirque.
Rating: considerable or higher avalanche danger. Well KPAC gives snowpack summaries but not a danger rating... but one can look at the Dec 27 update and realize that we where in a moderate or less rating...
Unstable snow: No collapsing, no major cracking.
THawing: Nope not on this aspect.
Ok 2/7. Not bad. We got this right? Note that at 3 out of 7, one should consider changing plans.
My partners dig a pit and I move on up the mtn to break in trail and check things out. My partners radio the snow test results and things are still looking good - no signs of instability. I'm getting a little bit higher up the mtn, around 10800. I dig a pit. It's complex. There are more alternating hard/soft layers in the snowpack than I am used to seeing in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness... And it is much more shallow (50-60cm total depth) here in the 33° zone. I perform an Extended column test and get an ECTP25, with the failure in the basal facets about 10cm from the ground.... me no likey. Partners show up and they are confused by my result. It just don't jive with their ECTX result lower down the mtn. They can't reproduce the result with another ECT. I admit (to myself) that I may have been hitting a bit harder on hits 11-20 from the elbow... That is good that they can't reproduce my result, but I still feel queasy.
I go out a bit farther where the pack is about 75 cm deep and perform a propagation saw test. I get a PST 25/100 (Arr) down ~65cm.
There was no displacement, so I assumed it was (Arr), and not (End) result. I should have looked closer at the weak layer to see if it truly arrested....
I decide we should ski the left side where the snowpack is deeper, and we should not ski down that roll over. Did I think that, or did I say it out loud?
We skin to the top, no collapsing.... I leave the group, because the skiing is hard on the rocky/icy ridge. I thought P was gonna go with me.... Next thing I know, I am skinning sparsely treed 36°+ terrain by my lonesome self... Dumb. At least I am in radio contact with the crew and we are able to regroup.
We ski it one at a time, B, P then Mig. I go last, and go further left than everyone... I must have not said aloud that we should ski the left side, or we all forgot about it... The left side is a deeper snowpack, put also harder to escape from if the avalanche rips.... No one skied the rollover.
It was awesome and nothing bad happened. But that is the problem with skiing avalanche terrain. If ya make a bad decision and nothing bad happens ya get no feedback. In fact you can actually get rewarded with powder skiing nirvana....
We regroup and the stoke is high.
During my solo skin up earlier I got to peek down into the Telescope chute and It looked dreamy. Looked like more snow too.... So we head over.
There is continued discussion about the snowpack and avalanches. We've been talking about it all day and I can feel discussion fatigue, decision fatigue, and physical fatigue creeping in...
We get to the top of Telescope and break up into two teams of two to asses the stability.
So I step slightly into a 40° side shot and dig. I am getting tired... Maybe P should help, so I ask. He declines due to the fact that we both should not be exposed. Right! Why didn't I think of that!!!! Fatigue.
So I get an ECTP13 in the top 30cm of old windslab. I kinda freak out cause I am feeling done pushing my luck. I announce I am skiing the trees back... P reminds me that this is an isolated windslab. True. We join the other guys who were just above us. M got no failure result in his ECT. His pit was more representative of the slope. Ok I am in. Well that was a 180 change of mind!
Mig ski cuts across to a safe zone. Nothing. P skis down to a second safe zone, and B to a third. Sadie dog and I are up for the long run to the bottom. It was fast and fun.
The run out in the Aspens was great and the coverage was adequate.
Now I wonder about the things I may have done different on this day in avalanche terrain... Any thoughts?
Routes, debrief, pictures.
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