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 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!

About David Lottmann

David grew up skiing in the Whites and started climbing at a summer camp just north of Mt. Washington when he was 16. Those first couple of years solidified climbing as a lifetime passion. From 1996-2000 he served in the USMC, and spent the better part of those years traveling the globe (18 countries). After returning to civilian life he moved to North Conway to focus on climbing and was hired in 2004 as a Rock and Ice Instructor. Since then Dave has taken numerous AMGA courses, most recently attaining a Single Pitch Instructor. He has completed a Level 3 AIARE avalanche course, is a Level 2 Course Leader, holds a valid Wilderness First Responder and is a member of Mountain Rescue Service. When David isn't out guiding he enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, backcountry skiing, trying to cook something new once a week and sampling new micro-brews. He lives in Conway, NH with his wife Michelle, son Alex, and daughter Madalena.
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