Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Powder Ski

Elliot, Gunnar and I went for a little backcountry ski on Sunday 12/16.  We ascended Mushroom Ridge then skied down into Westernhome Gulch.  The skiing was blower.  After that we ascended the west ridge or Gladiator Peak intending to ski a SE ridge down toward Galena Lodge.  At the top of the ridge  approx 9200 feet Elliot remotely triggered a slide.  He was skiing the ridge at 27deg but triggered a slide in the adjacent bowl with a starting angle of 32deg.

Our stability tests that day yielded easy shears on the new snow old snow interphase.  The slabs however were so soft that they often broke up when doing a hand shear rather than pulled out whole.  The weak layer was about 12 inches down.  The significant thing stability wise was the ease of the remote trigger and the propagation 100 meters across the whole bowl.  This layer will be real trouble with any additional load.  Any new snow will wake the snowpack up and make it really scary.  

Buried surface hoar crystals on the sliding surface.
So our big take away today was the value of good habits.  We were aware of the instability but our stability tests made us feel it really was not much of a hazard.  We had observe no other obvious signs of instability.  Stomping on ridge top wind loads had produced no slides.  We discussed what to ski and decided to ski the ridge instead of blasting straight down the bowl.  Even if we had decided to ski the bowl a ski cut at the roll over would most likely have triggered the slide and kept us safe.  So skiing one at a time and a conservative line AS A HABIT really payed off today.

By the way the skiing was awesome and we had a really sweet day.  Stay safe

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