Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunset Peak 12.10.2011

This blog is named after Mores Creek Summit for one reason ... and it was about time for me to hang around Idaho City Mountains this winter. This is my season first visit to Mores Creek Summit backcountry, and I was very pleased with the skiing. The coverage is thin, but the re-crystalized snow is not skiing bad at all. Of course, it helps when you own rock skis, and they have been hammered during the last 4 weeks of BC skiing.

Considering the snow depth of 20+ inches reported by the Snotel at Mores Creek Summit, I set my sights on Sunset Peak, and took advantage of the logging road to avoid the lower elevation brush.
Mores Creek Summit Snotel for the last 30 days.
It was a clear, sunny, and relatively warm day (0-2 Deg C). I was surprised no other folks were touring Sunset Peak today, but there were enough old ski and snowmobile tracks suggesting that it has been popular during the last week or so.

Last week while ski touring Copper Mountain-Banner Summit, Angel Basin-NE Oregon Elkhorn Mountains and Brundage Mountain, surface hoar was not present in the areas we toured and skied. That was not the case today at Sunset Peak, there was an ample supply of surface hoar (SH) at W, S, E aspects at elevation above 7000 feet. Most of the snowpack has been transformed into facets, and I am not looking forward to have this SH layer buried in top of another layer of facets that has experience settlement and densification without experiencing significant sintering. In other words, the SH will be sitting in a weak layer capable of becoming a fracture failure surface once we have slab sitting in top of the buried SH.

As mentioned earlier, the snowpack was thin at Sunset: 30 cm at 7000 feet, and 50 cm at 7700 feet. It helps that the snowpack is dense and facetted, otherwise the lack of a base would have been problematic to the ski bases and skiing in general. I should mention, building an uphill track on facets has the added benefit of testing your skills in setting appropriate angles and providing an extra work-out that will pay-off later in the season.

Today was a relatively warm day, with south winds that did not mitigated the significant facetting the snowpack is experiencing;
  • at 7000 feet; West aspect; Ts = -8 Deg-C, T10 = -6 Deg-C, T20 = -3 Deg-C
  • at 7700 feet; North Aspect; Ts = -8 Deg-C, T10 = -4 Deg-C, T20 = -3 Deg-C, T30 = -1 Deg-C
For both locations the gradients were much higher than the critical 1 Deg-C per 10 cm. This is the reason that the WHOLE SNOWPACK is turning into facets. In addition, it explains the ECTNQ3 - 40 cm down (DH, facets), when the snowpack lacks a defined slab structure.

Although most of the wind breakable crust lower in the mountain (below 7600 feet) has disappeared due to faceting, there is still some resilient thin breakable crust surfaces at NW, N, NE aspects close to Sunset Peak summit. I can handle buried obstacles, but this summer I skied breakable "cardboard" wind crusts at Las LeƱas to last a lifetime, thus I am determine to stay away from any crust this winter!

I will go ahead and publish this posting, but once I get back later tonight from a Christmas Party I will post a video from today's tour and skiing. The views were phenomenal!

Tomorrow, might be a good day to explore some stuff near Copper Mountain. Keep checking the blog!