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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Snow Report April 20-21, 2012

Time for a snow report.

As you can see from the attached photos, and the gallery linked below, the snowpack is very healthy this year. At mid and low elevations, I'd venture the snowpack is 150 -200 of "normal". Higher elevations APPEAR to be in the 120% range, but could be more. What is notable is that it's been a cool, wet spring, so the upper elevations continue to hold huge amounts of snow that might otherwise have avalanched already.

It was very ominous that in four of the most dangerous avalanche chutes we crossed, only two had debris in them. My take on the situation is that there is still a ton of snow loading the upper reaches of all the peaks, so the chutes are empty not because there wasn't/isn't enough snow, it's that the big events have yet to happen.**
The debris filling Midas/Boston was a 10' high wall of basketball -to-shopping cart sized blocks of snow that measured 200 feet wide. It was a treacherous crossing--very unstable, unpleasant, unnerving.

There has been much angst about "access" and opening roads or closing them. My experience is to be thankful that this road is currently closed by snow. The Mrs. and I snowshoed four miles with full packs to reach camp--a tough first overnighter of the year, but also glorious. We access this area in spring because the road IS closed and we have the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of an amazing place free of RVs and SUVs! Nothing like the lilting call of the Varied Thrush, and the rush of the Cascade River to carry one along on a restful afternoon nap. We didn't see another person the entire weekend (until hiking out, almost to the National Park boundary).

We did see and hear plenty of avalanches, including one big one at about 11PM off Cascade that shook the valley for a good five minutes. Filmed another off the "usual" W chute of J-burg at about 10 Sunday morning--respectable size, but certainly not Mr. Big, nor the Big One. It was big enough that Athena menionted it reminded her of a shuttle launch! The overnight hours were filled with the crash and roar of small events near and far. We also saw and heard thousands of migrating Canada geese. They were flying well above the summits--probably 12,000' in altitude, yet we could clearly hear them honking to each other as they formed and reformed their V formations. Wow!

We will continue to visit this place as long as the road is closed to motor vehicles, and there is snow to avalanche...

**I've mentioned the snowpack is highly stratified throughout my winter reports. It well may be that there are no true "Climax Avalanches" this year because the snowpack will slab and fracture in a progressive fashion, unloading in an exfoliating manner. Then again, some of those layers are so thick, avalanches may be very similar to climax events even if they don't slide from base/ground.



monorail said...

Sounds like a magnificent trip. Great photos! You mentioned that you shot some footage of an avalanche... is that posted online anywhere? I've been wanting to go avalanche-watching myself, but I'm squeamish about crossing volatile slopes.

Tom Hammond said...

Thanks monorail! Indeed, a great place to visit when the road is "closed".
The footage is in a format incompatible with easy youtube. I need to do some research on codex so that I can post them--over the years I've gotten quite a few awesome short movies (some now on DVD). We definitely minimize our exposure (only go when conditions are right, and modulate locations), and camp in a couple of the safest places in the valley.