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  • ADK Avy Conditions

    This was received from Drew Haas via his website/blog. Link doen't work, so I've copied and pasted. Be warned, beware, be well.


    New post on Adirondack Backcountry Skiing

    3359
    by Drew Haas
    Yesterday was a first for me...

    ...The first time in 15 winters touring in the Adirondacks that I backed off from skiing a slide due to the unstable snowpack.

    In those 15 years I have seen numerous instabilities, most were isolated pockets on a slide that were manageable with ski cuts, or avoidable with route selection. A few were surprising and in terrain features that would have spoiled your day if you tangled with them.

    However on the Angel Slides yesterday it was apparent on the ascent that there were widespread instabilities and they were not manageable. When my partner and I arrived at the base of the wide slide there was a old skin track/ boot pack meandering up the bottom of the wide slide and eventually making its way over to the skiers right side of that slide. At mid height on the slide the pair of skiers pulled the plug and skied the edge and went home.

    We ascended the brushy bottom of the wide slide and made our way towards the skiny slide at the first treeline brake at 1/3 the way up the slide. On the last switchback before the tree brake we noticed the slope collapsing and shooting cracks in the snow surface. At the time we felt that we were not on a slope that posed immediate danger because of the pitch of approximately 25 degrees and the amount of vegetation anchors. We continued to the mature tree line between the two slides and experience more collapsing. We then dug a pit and got a good look at what was going on below our feet.

    Though the snowpack was shallow, approximately 30 inches deep. It was obvious they our numerous rain events and then the deep cold spell had made for some impressive facets on the bottom of the snowpack.

    What we saw:

    Bedrock > Water ice> 6 inches of facets > 4 inches of light density powder > 10 inches of dense powder > 8 inches of light powder.

    We did a quick shear test and hadn't finished isolating the column before it failed... touchy!

    The layer of light powder over the facets is the culprit and is where the collapsing was taking place. If the slope was to fail it would fail to the ground.

    Since we were in a safe zone at the time we discussed that the snow was going to get deeper above and the facets were most likely still present at the top of the slide where the pitch was approximately 37 degrees.

    The choice was obvious to descend and call it a day.



    Drew Haas | February 11, 2014 at 9:02 am | URL: http://wp.me/s1tcMu-3359
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  • #2
    Thanks for this post, hopefully the snowpack will stabilize, how this new layer coming tonight blends in will be interesting, will it be heavy or light? I was thinking that this woul dbe the right time but Drew's report is eye opening.
    Enjoying the journey with my favorite hiking partner.
    Please visit ADKGurl's Blog: 46-High-Peaks

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm heading up Santanoni Twin Slide this Saturday if all goes well after putting it off the last 2 weekends because of the avy conditions. It'll be interesting to how the rain forecast for this Friday affects the snowpack. Thanks for postin.
      May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

      www.adirondackmountaineering.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mudrat View Post
        I'm heading up Santanoni Twin Slide this Saturday if all goes well after putting it off the last 2 weekends because of the avy conditions. It'll be interesting to how the rain forecast for this Friday affects the snowpack. Thanks for postin.
        IMO, you should wait for a freeze after the rain, if not the weight of the snow after the rain , will accentuate AVY danger.
        8000m 0/14

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by mudrat View Post
          I'm heading up Santanoni Twin Slide this Saturday if all goes well after putting it off the last 2 weekends because of the avy conditions. It'll be interesting to how the rain forecast for this Friday affects the snowpack. Thanks for postin.
          Let us know what you find. I was thinking that this warmup may consolidate the snow pack but the freeze afterwards would make skiing not so much fun. Another snow on top of the frozen surface is just another layer to slab off. At this point we may just have to wait for spring corn.
          Enjoying the journey with my favorite hiking partner.
          Please visit ADKGurl's Blog: 46-High-Peaks

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by DackerDan View Post
            Let us know what you find. I was thinking that this warmup may consolidate the snow pack but the freeze afterwards would make skiing not so much fun. Another snow on top of the frozen surface is just another layer to slab off. At this point we may just have to wait for spring corn.
            I'll definitely reply here with an update. Yeah, I don't imagine skiing will be fun when it locks in next week.
            May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

            www.adirondackmountaineering.com

            Comment


            • #7
              I'm planning to do Maccomb Saturday with a group of 4. I've done it before and we had no problems, in fact I butt slid down the slide and it was a blast.

              I've been reading these warnings. While I am an experienced hiker, I am not an experienced ice / slide climber. I don't have avvy gear, and I'm not planning to buy any before Saturday. We all have ice axes.

              Should we avoid the Macomb slide? Will the next week bring better or worse conditions?
              Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

              Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
              Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
              Past President Catskill 3500 Club
              CEO Views And Brews!

              Comment


              • #8
                All,
                I bushwhacked Santanoni via Twin Slide yesterday. It seemed like a good choice given the conditions since there's vegetation and most of it is low angle stream bed until the top where we stayed along edges of slab. Conditions are not good--faceted snow and now a 3/8 inch crust. We plunged our way up through around 30" of snow on average. Every now and again we could crawl up the crust before we'd break through. It was just thin enough that axes just sheared through it in most cases. So, it's less than fun to the tune of a 15 hour day. ON a slabby slide it could be downright dangerous.

                NP brought up a really good point when I described my day. He said it will take alot of serious thawing to consolidate the snowpack under the crust so high angle ice will be the "safest" to play on as opposed to slides.

                As for Macomb...not sure w/o seeing it, but be prudent and stay along the edge if you do climb it.
                May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

                www.adirondackmountaineering.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by TFR View Post
                  I'm planning to do Maccomb Saturday with a group of 4. I've done it before and we had no problems, in fact I butt slid down the slide and it was a blast.

                  I've been reading these warnings. While I am an experienced hiker, I am not an experienced ice / slide climber. I don't have avvy gear, and I'm not planning to buy any before Saturday. We all have ice axes.

                  Should we avoid the Macomb slide? Will the next week bring better or worse conditions?
                  One thing for sure, it is going to be quite cold this week, so this means not much thawing and if there is a crust above the loose powdery snow, it might remains as it is now.

                  The real questions is? Under the powdery layer is it hard ice or hard surface that will make a nice sliding board for the powdery layer to give up under weight.......

                  Report seems to indicate that this is what you should expect right now.

                  I will let you make your own call for a go/nogo decision.
                  8000m 0/14

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you are venturing onto the slides you should have at the very least a cursory knowledge of how to assess the risk of an avalanche. The Macomb slide, along with most other slides in the Adirondacks, approach angles necessary for an avalanche at their upper reaches. The bed surface on the Macomb slide makes it less likely to slide, but that doesn't mean it can't.

                    Personally, I always carry avy gear if the slide is greater the 25 degrees and has sufficient snow cover. I also always dig a pit on a representative slope. There have been a lot of red flags lately: numerous reports of shooting cracks, collapsing, warm temps and rain, and recent avalanche activity (Phelps). The only way to know the affect of the recent weather is to go dig a pit and assess the conditions yourself.

                    It all comes down to what your comfortable with in terms of risk management. If there is an alternative route (which there is) that doesn't risk an avalanche you may want to consider taking it. Otherwise, as mudrat said, stick to the side of the slide and know where the high risk areas are.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I don't recall there being a lot of trees around the slide, but thanks to you and everyone else for the advice.
                      Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

                      Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
                      Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
                      Past President Catskill 3500 Club
                      CEO Views And Brews!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MaxSuffering
                        What are the sides of the slide made up of then?
                        Slight sandy bank and then spruce.
                        May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

                        www.adirondackmountaineering.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Avy is such a harmless sounding word. How about AVALANCHE? How about tons of snow? How about like an endless metal roof with no snowguards? How about the other room listening to this room? How about an expert moderator, or closing off this section for winter?
                          I might be kidding...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mudrat View Post
                            All,
                            I bushwhacked Santanoni via Twin Slide yesterday. It seemed like a good choice given the conditions since there's vegetation and most of it is low angle stream bed until the top where we stayed along edges of slab. Conditions are not good--faceted snow and now a 3/8 inch crust.
                            Thanks for the beta. It is to be expected given the stack up we have had.
                            Enjoying the journey with my favorite hiking partner.
                            Please visit ADKGurl's Blog: 46-High-Peaks

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Met a group On Sunday, (3/2) and we skinned up Range trail from JBL, crossed onto the Wolfjaw Brook NW slide at the "split." Skinned to first headwall - From there I noticed several small crown lines above on upper headwall. The new 3'' of snow from Sat. night rested on top of a hard wind slab, which after digging a pit, I saw sat on top of layers of light density powder, rain crust, more light density powder, older slab, and ice. That and the wind scouring was enough to convince me that going any higher would call for serious route finding technique on the descent, and that a bad fall on the upper head wall would trigger small fractures (in more ways that one) at the very least.

                              Descended the slide from where we were (recommend skiers left!) to Range Trail. On the way down, we felt glad with the decision not to go any higher into the steeper pitches of the slide - each turn on our descent punched through the wind slab and sent broken pieces of wind slab and loose powder sliding. After meeting the Range trail, descended through the woods to Southside trail (the woods are great skiing right now - lots of snow tucked in there). Skied further down Southside trail to start of Bennies Brook Slide and put the skins back on to assess the conditions from the lower angle of the slide, expecting more of the same. Lots of older ski tracks on Bennies. Skinned up the lower angle of the slide, stopped well below the "Y" split. Judging from what I skied earlier in the morning on the other side of the spine on the NW Wolfjaw brook slide, I expect that the conditions on the steeper pitches of Bennies are moderately avalanche prone. As I approached the split and the steeper angles on the slide, I noticed more wind slab/loading on the slope. There were ski tracks coming from the headwall(s), so it has been skied relatively recently. Turning around, we enjoyed the ski out on the lower angle of the slide - decent snow and room for good turns. Not as "punchy" as the NW slide was. Fast ski out to the car at the Garden!

                              All in all, it turned out to be a great day in the mtns! Don't ski without caution; from what we saw there is a lot of wind loading on top of weak snow layers on steep pitches right now, even on slopes that are generally considered less avalanche prone, like Bennies. The cold temps certainly haven't helped. The right amount of new snow and warmer temps can help stabilize the snow pack. Selective route finding may get an expert skier down these pitches, but lower than normal snow cover and lots of exposed ice and rock can only complicate a small fracture, slide, or bad fall.

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