Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pilot Peak - February 16th 2014

Conditions at Mores Creek Summit were better than anticipated. Last Wednesday  we got very very wet after spending 3 hours testing FMCW and GPR radars not too far from the Mores Creek Summit SNOTEL. And it was not raining, it was just snowing but temps were just at the freezing mark. It is no secret that after Wednesday several rain events have occurred at Mores Creek Summit area.

Bottom line - the snowpack depth has increased substantially in a week. Snowpack depths at and above 7000 feet are exceeding the 2 meters! A lot of terrain is opening up ... FINALLY!

Rain runlets were present up to 6600 feet in elevation. The rain event resulted in two rain crusts, one at 50 cms another at 15 cms. The rain crust at 15 cms was fragile, and skis easily broke through. The top 15 cms of snow was low density snow, but the skiing experience was driven by the 15-35 cm layer of heavier density snow. It was fun skiing, but not wasn't the deep low density stuff we skied last week.

A pit profile at 7200 feet with a NE aspect and 28 degrees slope, where the snowpack was 2.35 meters deep revealed the following structure:
Use this link to create your snowpit plots:
The 35 cm weak layer produced scores of CTEQ2 and ECT11PQ2, suggesting that this layer demands our attention in steep terrain. Easy compression scores with propagation propensity results are evidence of an unstable snowpack!

At various aspects (NE to NW)  and elevations small releases were observed at the 35 cm depth, corresponding to the weak layer reactive during our tests. We did not observed any significant releases, but we were skiing at Summit Creek Glades, where it is not possible to observe avalanche paths or steeper terrain.

Winds were moderate for most of the day, thus it is likely that terrain at the 7800-8000 feet might have some localized windslab in top of the 35 cm weak layer. Pay close attention when encountering windslabs,  or when transitioning to slabby snow with chalky texture. There have been reports by one of the avalanche centers avalanches pulling snow even from nearby low angle terrain.

It should be noted that indications of wet loose releases at south aspects with elevations below 7000 feet were present, but they were more than 24 hours old.

Today temps did not exceeded -2 Deg C. Snow flurries added another 1 or 2 cm of snow throughout the day.

The skiing was lots of fun, with some occasional tricky breakable crust at elevations below 6600 feet.

My ski partner for the day - Mark
Mark first backcountry ski experience at Pilot Peak