5th Avalanche Course of the Season

A couple hours ago we concluded another Level 1 Avalanche Course. You’d think there wouldn’t be much difference between one course and the next, but you’d be very wrong. Each weekend this winter has presented different and interesting weather and snowpack characteristics to consider when traveling in the backcountry. 2 days before the course while on a personal ice climbing day I came across a few cool snowpack related conditions. The first, was this “surface hoar” which was on the eastern side of Mt. Willard:

Surface Hoar

Then as we rounded the corner to a more southerly exposure we came across some “pinwheels”, indicators of strong solar radiation effecting the slope, often a warning sign of wet loose snow avalanches:

Pinwheels
Pinwheels close up
Sandy re-named them “giant snow donuts”

After a couple days conditions in the area changed dramatically. Arctic air rushed in for the COLDEST day of the season, which happened to be our field day.

How about them numbers?

We still managed a pretty good field day getting up to Hillman’s Highway, checking out some fresh debris at the bend in the gully, the rockslide from Irene, and some layers down below in the sheltered lee area of the runout.

The 5th Class
Chatting with the snow ranger reminded me of March of the Penguins
Rockslide from Hurricane Irene
Looking up Hillman’s Highway

That was it for pictures. With the mercury at about -9 Farenheit and a -30 windchill we didn’t spend too much time in any one place. We did see some cool layers in a 1.5 meter pit just below this last photo. And the fresh debris, slightly visible in the above photo was a nice bonus. All in all it was a good field day given the weather stress, and I’m hoping to see the four of you out in the mountains again. Now to get ready for the Level 2 Course starting on Friday!

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