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2016 Backcountry Trip Reports => February 2016 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: kamtron on 02/08/16, 11:01 AM



Title: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: kamtron on 02/08/16, 11:01 AM
Conditions report:

We enjoyed a nice day away from the crowds at Muir by skiing across the Nisqually and checking out the Wilson. The coverage on both glaciers is currently excellent, with very few open crevasses or noticeable sags. We traveled unroped and felt that was a fine decision for the conditions. The snow surface was mostly varying types of wind board which rapidly softened during the day. Made it to around 9200' before turning around and enjoying a run down the Wilson glacier. The best snow was near the top, the middle was sticky, and the Nisqually actually skied quite well and felt more consolidated. Some crust was setting up in the shady parts on our way down.

As we prepared to exit the usual way, we noticed that a D2 wind slab had released on the steep SE slope above the Fan and stepped down. The avalanche looked like it might have been triggered by small, wet avalanches from above. Folks had skied the chute lookers right of the main Nisqually chute and had caused some loose sluffs but hadn't entrained large amounts of snow.

Map with the location of the avalanche and the steepest part of our ascent route marked. Question of the day prompted by our observations was, Should we have taken a more conservative line due to wind-loaded slopes and warming?
http://www.hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAtaGRychULEghTYXZlZE1hcBiAgICQtOn9CAw


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: mtndfndr on 02/08/16, 12:14 PM
I believe I took a few pics of your group as you were crossing the Nisqually (group of 5 near the trees in the lower right). How did the route look from your high point over to the Fuhrer Finger? We were considering climbing it tonight but ended up changing plans because of the warm temps and avy potential.


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: kamtron on 02/08/16, 12:57 PM
The glaciers are in good condition, and the Finger and Thumb looked smooth. There is a bergschrund on the Thumb but it looked passable. Two dudes were heading that way to attempt the Finger tomorrow as we headed out. However, I believe you are correct that the chutes will not have enough time to properly consolidate with the rapid warming on winter snow. So I can imagine some avy potential or at least unpleasant snow for climbing and skiing. Best to wait for a longer stretch of good weather or later in the season.


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: kamtron on 02/08/16, 01:03 PM
40 F at Muir this morning, 6 am.
Not great for freeze-thaw....


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: mtndfndr on 02/08/16, 01:18 PM
Thanks for the beta. Looks like another Mt. Hood trip tonight instead.


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: vogtski on 02/08/16, 02:37 PM
Thanks for the Hillmap link!  Even this caveman was able to figure it out.

Can't speak directly to your route finding question, but FWIW here's my attempt to show a much safer, though over a 1000vf longer, route to the upper Wilson starting from Glacier Bridge:
http://www.hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAtaGRychULEghTYXZlZE1hcBiAgIDQiMm5CQw

We used to call this route Dream Bowl for the attractive bowl southeast of Cushman Crest visible from the Paradise area.  From the corner of the parking lot closest to the bridge, angle downstream slightly about 100vf to the gravel bars, ignoring the dead-end old approach road.  Pass under the bridge and watch for a place to climb above the low granitic cliff before reaching Tato Falls just up valley.  This might require just a bit of booting and slide alder thrashing at the start to reach the stream just above the falls, while avoiding sluffs from rocks above.  One can usually skin after the creek crossing, but beware the cliff below when it's icy.  Follow the inclined bench between two nested moraines (below the 1700 trimline) around a short exposed corner / cornice into a small stream behind the current Nisqually moraine.  Either skin up the large lee avalanche paths that converge here or follow my longer, safer line left, up, and around.  It's also simple to cross to the Van Trump side behind the small thumb about 7K for even less normal-lee exposure & perhaps easier trailbreaking.

Edit:  I should add that I was always picky when using this route, and that I've only done it in late winter conditions (Feb-Mar) in big winters decades ago.   I liked a little new down low for traction, but not so much snow or wind that the starting zones at the Dream Bowl rollovers were primed.  Charlie below must have been much later or a low-season, since at worst, we had to remove skis for less than a hundred yards and usually just a few yards.   Those planning a Spring trip should remember that the moraine section goes in the shade early  :)


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: ErikT on 02/08/16, 02:42 PM
digging the vibe of safety chat and beta sharing in this thread-- looks like a nice day out to explore the mountain -- been meaning to get over towards the Wilson, and a little alder ain't that bad!


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: kamtron on 02/08/16, 03:36 PM
Quote from: vogtski on 02/08/16, 02:37 PM
Can't speak directly to your route finding question, but FWIW here's my attempt to show a much safer, though over a 1000vf longer, route to the upper Wilson starting from Glacier Bridge:
http://www.hillmap.com/m/ag1zfmhpbGxtYXAtaGRychULEghTYXZlZE1hcBiAgIDQiMm5CQw


I'm digging the Dream Bowl! It's a zone I've checked out a lot from Paradise, even ogled some tracks there once. The spot we were questioning going up is basically fall-line down from the highest point in your path. It certainly wasn't as steep or solar as the slope we saw that slid (and luckily went nowhere near all day), so I've at least rationalized it that way. Still, gaining the ridgeline above Wilson will always require some lee slope crossing, so that was where my doubts came in.


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: Ldawson on 02/09/16, 01:45 PM
Our group was skiing Muir, and watched what I think is the same avy you mentioned. It happened right as a group (I assume it was you guys) was starting up the Wilson.

I've crossed that steeper slope you mentioned quite a few times, and wished there was a safer, lower angled approach to the Wilson, Fuhrer finger, etc. Maybe I'll have to check out that "dream bowl" route sometime.


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 02/09/16, 07:41 PM
A friend and I ascended near Tato Falls in ~2009, probably climbers' left of the waterfall, then mostly uphill along Gary's route. I remember there being quite a few plants down low. It's perhaps telling that I've not been back; I have a pretty high tolerance for thrashing, too. We would've been worried about getting cliffed had we traversed that far along the moraine; perhaps it's time to try again...


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: fbarker89 on 02/10/16, 12:23 PM
Quote from: kamtron on 02/08/16, 12:57 PM
The glaciers are in good condition, and the Finger and Thumb looked smooth. There is a bergschrund on the Thumb but it looked passable. Two dudes were heading that way to attempt the Finger tomorrow as we headed out. However, I believe you are correct that the chutes will not have enough time to properly consolidate with the rapid warming on winter snow. So I can imagine some avy potential or at least unpleasant snow for climbing and skiing. Best to wait for a longer stretch of good weather or later in the season.


This was my friend and I. we went up the Finger monday night after watching the conditions for 2 days form the upper Wilson. Conditions in the chute were spectacular! Conditions on the upper nisqually made you clench the glutes really hard. I did a lot of poking around and by the time we went up I felt really good about the avy danger. I didn't see anything that made me worry on the way up other than a cornice at the top of the thumb that cracked a bit when I got close. 


Title: Re: Feb 7, Wilson glacier scouting
Post by: kamtron on 02/10/16, 02:01 PM
fbarker89, you never know until you go!


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