Sunday, February 9, 2014

Freeman February 9-2014: Arduous Trail Breaking Day

Another 20 cms of new snow with medium density were waiting for us at Mores Creek Summit after Friday's NEW 25 cms of very light density snow. The temps have been increasing moderately from Friday to Saturday,  resulting in moderately inverted surface snow conditions.

The warming trend and copious amounts of snow made trail breaking arduous this Saturday! Our party uphill advance was considerably slowed down during trail breaking. A ski penetration of half a meter, where the top snow had to be considerably packed heavily taxed us. We were lucky to have a strong party of four, and took MANY turns breaking trail.

You might recall from yesterday's report ( that Friday's 25 cms of new snow came down in top of a 10 cms layer of faceted crystals undermined by a rain crust surface. After this Friday and Saturday precipitation event there is now a 55 cm slab sitting in top of the weak layer that has become reactive at all elevations and NW, NE, and E aspects at MCS. This layer was not an issue at yesterday at MCS  due to the lack of a slab structure at the places we skied, Summit Creek Glades.Today we did not toured South aspects, but is possible for this weak structure (at 55 cms depth) to be present at elevations above 7000 feet.

Extended Column testing at a NE aspect produced easy results with sudden collapse and planar fracture failures through the entire column at a depth of 55 cm; ECTP2Q1(SC/SP). Not surprisingly we experienced many whumpfs, and at steeper slopes fractures were produced. Saturday we restricted our skiing to slopes with less than 35 degrees in steepness.

Visibility was poor making it hard to play with cameras. It snowed all day long with another 5 cms of new snow by the end of the day. Conditions required to let the ski gain speed and use larger radius turns to keep them in the top snow layer, otherwise your speed was kept in check by the inverted snow conditions (light snow under slightly denser snow in the top.)

Enjoy the short video of Eric S. and Steve T. skiing Freeman.

Although the new snow is helping with coverage conditions, lower Freeman still needs another 50 cms to open up the lower chutes and clear most of the brush. Above 6600 feet at North and East aspects there was hardly any brush to deal with.

The forecasted warmer temps will results in rounding, sintering, and settling of the new snow. This will greatly help reducing instabilities in the long term, but it is likely that in the short term there will be a potential of releasing half a meter slabs in steep terrain and avalanche paths that might also trigger the persistent deep slab instability now buried under a meter at MCS. Exercise good judgment and err in the conservative side.

I am hesitant of publicly criticizing Idaho Department of Transportation at Idaho City, particularly when I deeply respect the employees that take very seriously their jobs. It is also understandable for the Idaho Department of Transportation to struggle through major snowstorms along I21 corridor. I also understand the budget restrictions IDT has gone through particularly for this area. But it is hard not miss the degradation in road upkeep between Idaho City and Beaver Creek Summit during the last two winters. And it showed this weekend. This issue not only impacts the snowmobile, backcountry skiers/riders, and cross country skiers community, but also the the Idaho City residents trying to make a living. The mores Creek Summit recreation activity is essential for the prosperity of Idaho City Businesses. But it is important to keep the area not only safe for vehicular traffic, BUT ACCESSIBLE to one of the most POPULAR winter recreation areas in the state. We might be approaching the time when it might be necessary for winter and summer recreationist to join forces to transform Mores Creek Summit to a National Recreational Area.

Wikipedia link for National Recreational Areas

This will greatly help in getting the attention from State and Federal Agencies and better serve the public and nurture the recreation opportunities of Mores Creek Summit.