Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pilot Peak "Peanut Butter" Skiing - 3/21/2012

We were hopeful that the new snow from Tuesday storm would have been preserved during the night.

Mores Creek Summit Snotel 6100 feet
Trinity Mountains Snotel - 7800 feet
But it was not meant to be! The temps kept raising during the early hours of the morning. Check the above snotel data for Mores Creek Summit and Trinity Mountains. The Trinity mountains is an adequate "proxy" to estimate temperatures at higher elevations.

The combination of warm temps as well as the inverted new snow (lighter density at 20-10 cm depth, and heavier and wetter snow in the top 10 cms) negated us having a POW day today.

Not surprisingly the 25 cm of new snow produced easy trigger and moderate slip likelihood without no evidence of propagation potential; CTEQ2 and ECTN. Warm temps are greatly accelerating the rounding and sintering of snow grains, and bonding the new snow with the pre-storm surface. In fact, the Q2 results were bordering the Q3 score realm. Stability tests were conducted at 7500 feet, East aspect, on a slope with a steepness of 28 degrees.

Between the 25 cm to 50 cm there were two layers of melt-freeze crystals that produced moderate results (CTMQ2), and as mentioned before no evidence of fracture propagation. These are the layers where the rain from last week collected or "pooled".

At the 80 cm another weak layer was identified with CTHQ2 stability results. This weak layer caught our attention because it was the cleanest sliding surface, but it was very sluggish. The 80 cm was only reactive when the top 40 cm was removed. This type of test is call "Deep Tap test", and it helps to identify deeper instabilities.

The snow in the top 100 cm was mostly in the 1 Deg-C (surface snow) to - 1.5 deg C (80 cm layer), with most of the snow structure at or close to 0 deg-C. It is fair to say that the snowpack at Mores Creek Summit is pretty much a spring (isothermal) snowpack.

By the way, our two team of "snow geeks" performed the above stability assessment at two different locations and we were completed in 15-20 minutes. We would like to encourage this type of stability assessment, it was not only valuable in making ski decisions today, but it provides a better understanding of the Mores Creek snowpack as we continue to harvest POW skiing during the spring storms.

The surface snow had free water (remember the 1 Deg-C temps listed above), thus it was common during ski touring and skiing to trigger point releases of wet loose snow at steep slopes that only involved the surface snow.  Please be mindful of these wet loose releases, in steep terrain it can take you to places (terrain traps such as Summit Creek with 8-9 feet snow banks!) or obstacles (trees) you would like to stay away from.

Wet Loose release triggered by ski cutting at a East aspect slope. 
Natural Wet loose release in a South aspect slope.
The weather forecast for the next few days does not look promising:

This is a forecast for Mores Creek Summit at 8000 feet! Notice the temps above 0 deg-C as well as the rain forecasted for the next two days. Bummer!

The above forecast is available at: Mores Creek Summit Weather Forecast under the "Hourly Weather Graph" link in the lower right corner.

The skiing was technical with the inverted heavy snow in the top, and lighter snow below. However, we still have plenty of fun skiing the "Almost Top of the World" area.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Freeman 12'th Mile Shots - March 18th

Sunday was a day of poor visibility, with sporadic bouts of dense fog, and a mix of snow and graupel precipitation. Through out the day I could hear other parties but we never saw each other.

Freeman Ridge - Sonya Glades
 I hoped for clear weather overnight to allow cold temps that would have metamorphose the top 10 cms into even "softer" snow. The snow felt denser that Saturday, but it was still fantastic skiing.

Stability tests at 7000 with East aspect on a 28 degree slope showed similar results from Saturday (March 17th) with CTMQ3 & ECTN scores. Again NO clean fracture planes were obvious, and free moisture was still present. The snowpack depth was 2.8 meters at this elevation ... the corn season is going to be plentiful!

Weak Layer Interfaces 

A small avalanche that ran 100 feet or so was visible at the 12th Mile Creek drainage on the South Aspect of Freeman Peak at approximately 6800 feet elevation below a steep rock outcrop. It involved only the new snow (35 cm).

The layer below the new snow has frozen above 7000 feet at South and East aspects, but below that elevation or at NE aspects it was possible for skis to punch through the first layer of wet snow (1st weak layer soak in free water from the rain).

The top 30 cm had temps from -1.6 Deg C (T surface) to 0 deg C (T30) - Notice that the gradient is below the 1 Deg C per 10 cm necessary to result in faceting. Temps for the wet snow at the 40-60 cm were in the 0.3 to 1 deg-C region. I use an IR thermometer with emissivity calibrated to the snow, and thought that somehow it missed its calibration, thus I was quite surprised when the above 0 deg C temps were confirmed with a regular thermocouple probe thermometer. Between 70 and 100 cm the snowpack was at 0 deg C. In other words - the top meter of the snowpack is relatively warm, and it will take few days to reach thermal equilibrium, and for the free water at the 40-60 cm weak layers to freeze. The colder temps forecasted for early this week should help too.

Skiing at East aspects below 7000 feet down to Mores Creek was fun but not stelar, but the coverage was fantastic for the two lines I skied. Skiing the top 800 feet of Freeman East and NE aspects was more fun, but visibility was poor at both selected lines in the open slopes. Now, the skiing at Freeman South shots down to the 12th Mile Creek was phenomenal with great snow for 1400 vertical feet! And the wooded glades provide great visibility. I was not the only one harvesting the good snow at Freeman south shots, there were plenty of GOOD looking tracks laid down. By the way, THANKS for the uphill track - it was a really nice one back to the main Freeman ridge.

If you are interested in watching a video for Sunday skiing, check this post later in the week.

Video Posted 3.19.2012:

Video produced by John T son, Lachlin, from last Saturday.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Splendid Skiing at Freeman - March 17 2012

The weather have not been generous since last Wednesday, the last time the Boise Mountains saw snow precipitation below 7000 feet. During the early hours of Saturday March 17th, 25-35 cm of new snow covered the crunchy rain soaked surface layer. This is the first time that Mores Creek Summit get snow after the rain event of the last few days.

Morning climb up to Freeman via its main ridge.
Today temperatures dropped during the day, thus the snow had time to loose excessive moisture. The first ski run we did was fun, but during the day, the snow kept getting better and better. The sking became spelndid! Check the next video.

Stability test results from 6500 to 7500 feet at E and NE aspects were consistent, with moderate compression tests (CTM), no evidence of propagation potential (ECTN or PST100/100), and low likelihood of slip potential (Q3). Weak layers identified were soaked with free water at layers 40 and 50 cm below the surface.

Steep but small Test slope - to the left a small slab is release, to the right a loose snow release.
The 25-35 cm of new snow was soft, and it was only cohesive at few locations affected by wind (such as picture above). We looked hard for evidence on instability or releases caused by the recent rain to no avail. No avalanches of any type were detected at all. However, we noticed that the surface tension of free water was keeping layers in place. Every weak layer interface above 50 cm failed to produce clean fracture planes. Instead, we found plenty of free water "pooling" into the weak layers. These phenomena is called by avalanche scientist - capillary barriers.

A clean fracture plane was identified at 70 cm (CTHQ2).

John and Lachlin

Freeman NE Ski Lines

Freeman- more NE Ski Lines
We would like to thanks the folks that support honoring Steve Romeo by naming an area of Mores Creek Summit after the creator of TetonAT blog. Below some pictures of for the Twelve Mile ridge south of Freeman's ridge. A blog reader suggested Rando ridge, since Steve was well known as Rando Steve. We love the idea, and we hope "Rando Ridge" is adopted by our BC skiers/riders community. Besides, this area has great skiing, it gets little use, and I am not aware of any particular name used to identify the ridge.

Rando Ridge - 12 Mile Creek Drainage
Lower Rando Ridge - 12 mile Creek Drainage
Lower Rando Ridge - 12 mile Creek Drainage
After another wonderful day of skiing, wee were delighted to try at Trudy's her exquisite bread pudding - Yummy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Steve Romeo - Celebrating His Life
Funny that one of the first few posts here is of skiing on the first snow of the 2006/07 season. It snowed to the valley floor on the night of Thursday, September 21st and created havoc in many Jackson areas. Many of the leaves are still on the aspen trees and the weight of a couple inches of wet, heavy snow caused many trees to topple.
I have been angry for several days after learning about Steve Romeo death in an avalanche at Ranger Peak. Yesterday morning as I prepared to head out to Mores Creek Summit for a short tour, I voiced to a close friend my anger about Steve's avalanche, and about other avalanche deaths involving very experienced folks during the last two years. A day earlier - Friday, was no better ... I could not stop thinking about Steve as I attempted to get on with corporate work.

I was never fortunate enough to meet this extraordinary individual, but he greatly influenced me. The TetonAT blog was a new concept, it brought together the BC Ski community. Mores Creek Summit Blog was the result of a discussion with Janet Kellam during National Avalanche School in 2007. We were impressed by Steve's prolific posting during Teton AT 2006-2007 first season. But I also noticed how his writing was empowering our community of backcountry skiers. Steve Rome legacy is that he brought our community closer together!

Today I was just sad. I shed tears for a man I never met. Later in the day I remembered this quote:
" Hay hombres que luchan un día y son buenos. Hay otros que luchan un año y son mejores. Hay quienes luchan muchos años y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida: esos son los imprescindibles. - Bertolt Brecht "
English Translation:
"There are men who fight for a day and are good. There are others who fight for a year and are better. There are those who fight many years and are very good. But there are those who fight all of their lives. These are the ones who are irreplaceable."
Steve you are irreplaceable. I will miss you postings, your leadership, and how you reminded us about the magical world to be found in the mountains. I know that many readers of Mores Creek Blog share my sentiment.

We all know the passion Steve Romeo had for couloir skiing. Yesterday as I toured the 12th mile creek drainage I could not stop wondering how much fun Steve Romeo would have had given the opportunity to ski the granite features of this mini-area in our own backyard - Mores Creek Summit. On this posting the authors of Mores Creek Blog ask for permission to the Boise-Idaho BC skiing community to name the 12th Mile Creek area after Steve Romeo.
Steve Romeo Ridge at Mores Creek Summit
Please post your comments with naming ideas, or suggestions about how to celebrate Steve Romeo's Life.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Skiing Conditions at 12th MIle Creek

What a week ... Powder skiing one week ... spring skiing a week later.

Last Friday we had delightful POW, Saturday we enjoyed soft conditions with sporadic intervals of very light rain. My ski partner Erin and I were surprised that the milder temps (-2 to 0 deg-C) and drizzle not only had a small effect on the snow conditions, but the stability remained unchanged from the day before with moderate test results (CTMQ2) and no evidence of propagation potential.

The next video have footage from last week Friday/Saturday, where sunny day = March 2nd, overcast day = March 3rd. Yeap, it is big time unrelated to today's skiing, but it never hurts to recall last week conditions.

Another video was created by Lachlin (JT son):

Not unexpectedly, todays conditions were warm, but high clouds and a light breeze kept the snowpack in check. We did not find corn, but we skied a velvety surface of 3-4 cm of melt snow. After 20 years, finally my partner and wife broke down, and had her first BC skiing experience. We toured and skied the Twelve Mile Creek Drainage south of Freeman's ridge.

Who said there are no runs next to Granite Spirals at Mores Creek Summit
12 Mile Creek Drainage at Mores Creek Summit
The top 1 meter of the snow is closed to isothermal at South and SE aspects up to 7000 feet, with only 2-3 Deg C difference for the top meter. Of course the graupel and facet layers were present, but no clear sliding plane existed and the crystals showed a high level of "rounding" and "sintering".  Stability test results did not revealed evidence of instability (CTHQ3 & ECTN). North and East protected slopes had a breakable crust, that we did not skied, but allowed for good skiing up to the ridges.

Skiing down to I21, Mile marker 50
Lachlin Limo picking skiers at Miler Marker 50
After a good day of skiing, it only made sense to stop at Trudy's to have her famous desserts.

Trudy's restaurant. Lachlin, John, Lulu, today's ski partners.
The Greatest - Huckleberry Cheesecake 
Chocolate Mousse Pie
Apple Pie
Make sure that in the future you try Trudy's delicacies, you will not regret it.

Tomorrow we go back to Winter. Check the latest hourly forecast (click at the image to zoom up):

This forecast format is very useful, thus a link is included below for it:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pilot Peak, Excellent Skiing! - 3/2/2012

Get out of Boise, and head out to the mountains!

The skiing at Mores Creek Summit was excellent today (Friday - March 2nd).

The conditions promise to be equally good this weekend. Lots of skiers took advantage of the great conditions, and we were able to see lines skied from Winter Corner, Lamar Area, and Pilot Peak. We did notice at times more than one skier skiing the same slope. An important safe practice in the BC is to ski ONE AT A TIME!

Although temps were below the freezing level during Friday March 2nd, a thin crust due to solar radiation developed below 6600 feet at East/South aspects. The snow above 7000 feet from Easterly to North aspects was remarkable fun.

The snowpack at Pilot is getting deep, at 7400 feet it was deeper than 3 meters!  Stability results were moderate at various aspects and elevations, with CTMQ2 at 35-40 cm layer. Propagation test results were negative (ECTPN). We noticed only one small natural release, that has been covered by the new snow. No other evidence of instability was observed by our party.

However, the temperatures are rising this weekend. It is important to remember that we have a complex set of weak layers and wind affected snow, as well as moderate stability results. Raising temps can tilt the scale into higher likelhood of triggering an avalanche, change the low density powder to "slabby"material, and reactivate structural weaknesses. This will require of us to pay close attention to changes in the snowpack structure as we tour/ski at various aspects and elevations.

Have fun this weekend! The recent snow has opened many lines until recently covered by brush.

Ono more note - I was pleased to hear from a local restaurant owner that BC skiers are supporting the Idaho City Community by stopping in town to have beers and munchies. THANKS!