Friday, December 17, 2004

waterton Ice/avalanche Dec 17th 2004

Avalanche conditions general in waterton area: December 17th

I have only been wandering around for a few days but there does not seem to be enough snow for a high hazard at tree line or below tree line. There certainly is potential in the alpine but I suspect that it would take an isolated terrain feature i.e.: wind-loaded gully on an east aspect for a natural avalanche to occur.
The winds have been high for the last 4 days with gusts on the prairie just outside of the park reaching 140km + (this was one day last week mind you). Despite the high winds I see no snow moving at ridge top and I suspect that most snow has been transported. Warm temps seem to have consolidated the snow into a breakable to rock hard crust. Certainly warmer temps expected sat. (+12) could raise all alpine features to considerable plus. My gut feeling is that it is moderate to low at the moment in the alpine. Don’t forget that I mentioned isolated terrain features and having only been in the alpine on one aspect have limited observations. The possibility also exists to trigger a slide?

Ice conditions general
The famous south aspect climbs on the Cameron lake road are taking a beating with the melt freeze. “Experts choice” center fell down last night. Left hand looks climbable but my advice is to wait till things cool off a bit. “Quick and dirty” although formed somewhat is very thin and the other climbs associated with it are non-existent. However on the bright side the climbs across the creek on Buchanan ridge are looking good. The creek is fairly low and it may be possible to cross without getting your feet wet. I personally would take hip waders or rubber boots just in case. There is at least half a dozen climbs of moderate difficulty and a big fat first ascent 1500 feet up in a basin just opposite the well site marker. Not to hard I suspect, huge and fat, just like me.
The compound gullies have been my playground the last few days. They are a little spooky for their grade because of daytime heating but at least four have formed. The climbs above the golf course are in and actually look to be fun.
The routes on Vimy look to be in also I can see the Sofa Mountain climbs (Sullivan Falls) but that would have to be a camping trip this time of year I suspect.


At 12/17/2004 11:19:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

For anyone interested in checking out the snow pack data has lots of good info. It is also a good site for kayakers!  

Posted by chris goble

At 12/17/2004 04:39:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avalanche conditions Waterton Park December18th 2004
Alpine : Moderate Tree line; Low Below tree line: Very low

Information based on profile 2100 meters NE aspect Summit Knob located just west of summit lake.

The last storm system to come threw early last week had all the potential to drop a meter of snow on the area. One little problem, the temps were such that it rained to mountain top. The upper snow pack has a knife hard rain crust (30 –40 cm) that is best described as bullet proof. We are talking 357 magnum the most powerful hand gun in the world. Don’t worry about feeling lucky punk cause you ain’t going to cause a slide. The specific terrain features rule still holds true. IE: wind loaded gullies. It may be possible to trigger an avalanche on steep unsupported terrain but this would apply to ice climbers for the most part.

There is a moderate shear (M12) down about 70cm but the snow pack is so well supported by the upper rain layer that the shear is deceiving in its significance. The rain/ice crust softens a bit as you drop on elevation but the hazard is reduced because of the diminishing snow pack. The ground anchors are not covered yet.
To sum it up there is great skiing to be had after the next storm. Put 20 cm of snow on top of this crust and even I might go skiing!! Right now the skiing sucks on all aspects and elevations. Will tomorrows warm spell change anything? I doubt it. Use common sense when it comes to dealing with the back country. Mother nature has a way of throwing a wrench in the machine. My confidence in this forecast/observation is 90%

Posted by Joe McKay


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