Turns All Year Trip Reports

Hot Air => Random Tracks: posts that don't fit elsewhere => Topic started by: Charlie Hagedorn on 12/19/17, 09:16 AM



Title: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 12/19/17, 09:16 AM
In a January 1, 2017 thread (http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=37458.0), I promised a detailed document regarding what I call "The Kendall Trap", the confluence of access, seductive terrain, and skier density that combine to form a hazardous environment for experienced backcountry skiers.

Today is December 19, two years to the day after the 12/19/2015 fatal accident on Kendall Peak. This week's weather holds exactly the sort of conditions in which I believe the Trap is most hazardous. For these reasons, I have published a draft of the document today; perfect is the enemy of the good.

Many people will be looking for storm skiing at the Pass in the coming week -- please choose your routes thoughtfully, rule out terrain before you leave the trailhead, deliberately stop to assess hazard when leaving protected areas, and choose routes that reflect the reality that others may be above or below you.

I've created a website dedicated to backcountry safety on Kendall Peak's west side: www.kendallpeak.org (http://www.kendallpeak.org) . Direct PDF link: "The Kendall Trap (http://www.kendallpeak.org/KendallTrap.pdf)".

I plan several refinements to the draft document. Your comments, in this thread or privately (charlie@charliehagedorn.com), are gratefully appreciated.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: RonL on 12/19/17, 10:09 AM
Thanks for putting in the time on this. I haven't ski d the pass since I moved across the water in 14 or so but that 15 accicdent really got my attention and I think about it often. Kendall is a complex little mountain and I can imagine it must have grown in complexity with the increased traffic. Hopefully this shows up in people's searches for info about touring there. Granite could probably also benefit from something like this.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 12/19/17, 11:22 AM
Thanks, freeski.

Regarding 'extremely experienced':

From the NWAC accident report for 4/9/10:

Group Profile: All members were snow professionals with backgrounds as ski
patrollers, mountain guides, outdoor educators and avalanche instructors. Each member
had logged over 100 backcountry ski days.

Skier 1: Male. 27 years old. Level II avalanche certified. EMT-B.
Skier 2: Female. 26 years old. Level II avalanche certified. Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC).
Skier 3: Male. 26 years old. Level III avalanche certified. OEC.
Skier 4: Male. 28 years old. Level III avalanche certified. EMT-B.


To avoid debating 'extremely', I'll find a more quantitative adjective/description.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 12/19/17, 11:40 AM
Thanks Charlie. This is great information.

A tiny suggestion: How about rotating Figure 8 so the reader doesn't have to tip his/her head to the right to look at it.

Though peripheral to your subject, I think skiing Kendall Trees on a deep snow, high traffic day provides enormous opportunity for parties to get separated in the steep trees, which could turn tragic if there was a tree-well accident (very easy to happen in that area with deep snow).

After my outing on 12/19/15, I concluded that carrying two-way radios in that zone may be a good idea. It's easy to lose sight of your partner as they descend in the trees, then follow the wrong track and get separated. We were yelling back and forth on a couple occasions that day after this occurred.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 12/19/17, 11:46 AM
Thanks, Lowell.

I'm planning to rotate Figure 8's caption and page so that it displays well both in PDF-form and in print; it will take me a few hours of thrashing with LyX/LaTeX (#academicproblems). I wanted to get it out today :).

I've constrained the photo-essay to the terrain above treeline, as it's specific to the location. Tree-wells were the suspected proximate cause of the 12/19/15 disappearance until the accident site was discovered. A tree well note would fit well within the 'coda'.

Radios are amazing (thoughts here (https://measuredmass.com/2017/10/15/radios/)). Susan and I love 'em. With sufficient radio discipline, one can imagine coordinating inter-party movement with them; a topic for the future.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Randy on 12/19/17, 03:44 PM
Charlie -- I 100% agree that Kendall contains a number of higher risk areas and that it's growing popularity adds additional risks that were not an issue when the number of skiers on any given day was small. 

There are a number of other areas around Snoqualmie Pass and indeed the region that face similar issues from popularity and high avalanche potential.

For example the nearby Red Mtn has killed a number of people in almost the exact same spot

http://media.nwac.us.s3.amazonaws.com/media/filer_public/fd/9f/fd9ffcc0-0f82-46a4-881f-758c160b4a56/20170411_redmountain_fatality_final.pdf

http://media.nwac.us.s3.amazonaws.com/media/filer_public/39/c6/39c66a9d-9288-40a8-a6d9-e80ea3bb3a12/red_mountain_13_apr_2013.pdf

Also the entire "Alpental Valley" has been the scene of many fatalities over the decades -- Popularity and high avalanche potential are big factors here.

So I'm wondering about your thoughts on highlighting the hazards on Kendall vs a more general approach about the need to take into account the presence of other parties in risk evaluation and travel choices.



Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: CookieMonster on 12/19/17, 04:17 PM
Fantastic - you've done a great job. I would love to see something like this for all the popular zones.

* It feels like you're holding back a bit in order to not seem preachy.
* If anything, I would go ahead and make it a lot more explicit.
* I did something similar for Union Creek, and, even though I'm not blogging anymore, it remains one of the most popular pages on my blog.
* This is classic middle ground terrain. From my blog post:

"Theory of Relativity
In addition to incredible ease of access, the backcountry near Crystal Mountain is middle ground terrain. This sets up a classic middle ground perception problem because Union Creek has a rather benign appearance relative to high alpine terrain. In other words, you can drive to the trailhead, skin from the car, but you won't see enormous snowfields below savage peaks. Instead, as mountain terrain goes, Union Peak is really sort of small, steepish, and extensively gladed. To this point, there are plenty of places that seem safe.."

http://avalanchesafety.blogspot.com/2010/10/union-creek.html

* The Kendall Trap is exactly this sort of middle ground terrain.
* It seems like a safer choice, but it's not safe at all.
* Computer modeling shows that Kendall has a statistical signature similar to terrain that looks absolutely unsafe.
* So we're just fooling ourselves if we think it's safer.
* EDITED TO ADD: Whatever my blog post says about Union Creek also applies to Kendall Trap.
* EDITED TO ADD: I love that you call it Kendall Trap, because that's exactly what it is.

I would be much more explicit and maybe do something to make people question their decisions to go there? ParksCanada has terrain maps that ask questions like "Why are you here?" and "Do you think this is safe?" and "Do not linger here."


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: RonL on 12/19/17, 05:27 PM
Agree about the Parks Canada maps;

http://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/mtn/securiteenmontagne-mountainsafety/avalanche/terrainsav-avterrain/cascade

I think mentioning the past incidents on the map or links to accident reports would be effective.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 12/19/17, 06:12 PM
@Randy: Thanks! Agreed that the concerns of the Kendall Trap apply across many places in the Cascades. As time permits, I plan to address density as its own issue, unless someone does a great job of it first.

To highlight Kendall is both to bring up an issue of personal concern and to provide a point of reference for discussion: "Hey, our local terrain looks kind of like that Kendall-Trap thing I read about once". If it gets people talking more about terrain, awareness of conditions in adjoining terrain, and awareness of others, then the photo-essay has done its job.

@Cookie/Ron : Thanks! As the document's header suggests, it is not intended to be a guide, only to highlight a confluence of hazard that may be underappreciated. I aspire to the 'show, don't tell' school; perhaps it is enough to highlight hazard. Accidents that strike those who are unaware of hazard trouble me the most.

A Parks Canada-style map for Granite, along with an enumeration of the many accidents, would be a benefit to the uninformed.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: alecapone on 12/20/17, 07:40 AM
Does it for me charlie, thanks!

I have never visited Kendall, likely never will.  Does get one thinking about simular home terrain, like you said. I can think of s few popular spots at Stevens that have skin/ski tracks that can get hit from above. Tye peak, west face lichtenberg...

Regarding the original accident, your comments in the other thread have me thinking about personal safety, and habits.  More so, making oneself findable in the worse case scenario. If it does happen, someone is going to come looking. Make it easy for them. This doesn't apply to solo travel either.

Just bought a new beacon. Made sure my recco was still in my pack. Thinking about picking up a plb.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: SKIER-X on 12/20/17, 12:24 PM
Awesome contribution Charlie . I think it  paints with a broad brush , showing what some of the most pressing issues we all face with a growing B.C. community . Quality mentor ship , focus on situational awareness , safe route finding , considering if someone follows and conditions go to Extreme...Is this still a responsible route ? The conditions yesterday were 3 1/2 '  new soft snow , heavy and virtually bottomless, when you stopped it set up like avy. snow and you had to dig yourself out !  We HAD  to stay together . We took turns helping each other getting back on our feet , getting unstuck even as we had to leap frog down the fall line . Radios are nice but not as effective as being physically in sight and VERY close in these conditions as there was no margin for error and the time it would take to skin up and help with submersion would most likely become a body recovery. Definitely not a day to be a soloist ,  Again THANKS ...Soooooooo... MUCH ...    X


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: MW88888888 on 12/20/17, 01:25 PM
A nice piece of analysis, love the write up.  What I especially like was that it is a good example of why a whole route must be examined before it is skied - above and below - as you are skiing a mountain and the conditions can change radically from spot to spot. 

I can relate this piece to a number of high traffic areas I frequent.  I hope more folks really analyze the situations that went into those incidents you've brought forward here.

It only takes a little bravado and simple mistake to cause an avalanche that claims a life.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: kane2183 on 12/21/17, 08:13 AM
Great discussion!  RIP Monte!


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: ron j on 12/21/17, 08:50 AM
Very nice work, Charlie.
I thought I was pretty knowledgeable of that area but I had a couple of AHA moments while reading your piece.
thank you for putting this together... it is very helpful and will likely save some lives.



Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: heinzsd on 12/21/17, 04:13 PM
Thanks Charlie,

Good write-up and reminder of how easy it is to get lulled into terrain.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: snoqpass on 12/21/17, 11:31 PM
Pretty good reading, it mirrors quite a few of my feelings about that terrain that I thought about in the last few years and why I don’t ski it much any more


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: haggis on 12/22/17, 08:39 AM
I've ridden this area a lot over the years but 95% of the time its so fricking early that we are guaranteed to be the highest party on the mountain.  I think I've summited the ridge only once and gone up the tree band where Monty was found many times pending a check of conditions.  I will agree entirely with the statement about wx change.  Its night and day between the old growth trees and the open slopes below Kendall.  It catches so much wind there by comparison to the trees, way more that say the Phantom.  I think its positioned to get hit with west winds coming through the pass and also when it switches to easterly flow it gets lee side/crossloaded.  The snow depth always increases too and combined with the wind are factors to consider when debating going higher.  Never seen anything move on our trips higher but I do think about it more now with the way it works the change in danger gradually.  Tempting too as the short sections above the old growth offer the best skiing on the mountain too although riding skiers right is not somewhere I go as it spooks me.  Never been there at the weekend, usually a quickie before work hence the factor with skier density can be taken out.

Another take.  We were out on the morning of your 1st accident in April 2010.  Great snow BUT we were out really early before it warmed up.  Powder in April, not something you want to be riding in the afternoon on a solar aspect.  My TR noted this too and I got a lot of flack from folks over this one, certainly recall that even though we did not venture above the trees that day.  I'll link that is I can find it.

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=16323.25

Thanks for the discussion, very interesting and thought provoking.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Chamois on 12/26/17, 09:58 AM
Charlie -

I just got around to reading this.  Thanks for taking the time to put it together and share with this community.  We can all keep learning how to be as safe as possible and this provides a good example and context for a place where many of us have ventured.  Cheers and stay safe.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: sprice on 12/26/17, 04:27 PM
Strong work Charlie!

One resource I find never hurts is to check out ski routes on Hillmap.com before I go, using the CalTopo slope overlay. It is a cheap and easy way to visualize the terrain and easy for many folks to grock than contour lines. I like to use it before I re-ski the old favorites to remind myself of the terrain issues I have learned to ignore...  [I think hillmap.com was set up by some local folks]

http://www.hillmap.com/


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Don Heath on 12/27/17, 01:14 PM
I get the big lessons presented here, Charlie.  Thank you. One memory that haunts me now is that we climbed up and skied down that same pathway in February or so.  Hallowed ground, now.  But the biggest lesson hammered home to me throughout 2016 is, don't go alone. 

I used to ski alone a lot.  My wife would ask where I was going and am I going with anybody, and I would answer something like - Oh there will be plenty of people up there, I won't be alone.  Definitely not true.  Very occasionally I would legitimately team up with somebody, but more often it was comfort enough to have people near by.  Well, close only counts in dancing and hand grenades as they say.  Someone close is not the same as someone watching me, keeping track of me (and me them).  Tagging onto what Lowell said, it's hard enough keeping an eye on a person you're with.  Tracking a nearby solo skier?  Forget about it.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: flowing alpy on 12/30/17, 02:49 PM
The NWAC coffee hut set up shop at
the base area of the Kendall Trap today.
free parking on Alpental road, common
but sleds and snoshoes are not required.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: BCSchonwald on 01/02/18, 05:17 PM
Happy New Year Charlie!
I like your energy with this and have some feedback that I think will help contextualize Kendall in the history of avalanche fatalities of Snoqualmie Pass:

Since 1957 there have been 26 Avalanche Fatalities and several dozen documented near misses.
Sites where the fatalities have occurred are:
Source Lake/Alpental Valley- 12
Granite Mountain                  6
Red Mountain                      3
Mt Garfield                          2
Silver Peak                          1
Kendall                                1
I-90                                    1

I think giving Kendall the weight for this one tragic accident does a disservice to much more dangerous areas in the Snoqualmie Pass area.

The 2010 accident when examined as a case study reveals evidence of wind transport in your photo making missed visual clues part of the trap that you refer to.

It really is the 'Honey Trap' where cognitive bias that allows us to see something attractive and overlook the threat. Barry Blanchard said it best when describing his failed attempt on Nanga Parbat,'It was like having sex with death.' The immediate pleasure discounts the looming threat.

I would leave out suggested terrain since it is off topic of your project and requires more attention to detail.

The Snoqualmie Guidebook uses the ATES scale to describe the different zones and when you look at Kendall, the Knob and Kendall Trees are the only areas that actually offers Simple terrain. Any terrain on the west is very exposed to avalanche hazard. The Swathe was a result of a 1990 avalanche cycle that created the Phantom so all the tree skiing with the open slopes above could one day become another D4 slide path.

Keep up the good work!




Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 01/02/18, 09:58 PM
Quote from: BCSchonwald on 01/02/18, 05:17 PM
Since 1957 there have been 26 Avalanche Fatalities and several dozen documented near misses.
Sites where the fatalities have occurred are:
Source Lake/Alpental Valley- 12
Granite Mountain                  6
Red Mountain                       3
Mt Garfield                           2
Silver Peak                           1
Kendall                                1
I-90                                     1

I think giving Kendall the weight for this one tragic accident does a disservice to much more dangerous areas in the Snoqualmie Pass area.


It would be interesting to note how many of these other avalanches involved skiers. I'm guessing that if you omitted the non-skier fatalities the numbers above would be much smaller. So the notion of Kendall as an attractive hazard for skiers isn't such a stretch.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: snoqpass on 01/03/18, 06:07 PM
Quote from: BCSchonwald on 01/02/18, 05:17 PM
Happy New Year Charlie!
I like your energy with this and have some feedback that I think will help contextualize Kendall in the history of avalanche fatalities of Snoqualmie Pass:

Since 1957 there have been 26 Avalanche Fatalities and several dozen documented near misses.
Sites where the fatalities have occurred are:
Source Lake/Alpental Valley- 12
Granite Mountain                  6
Red Mountain                       3
Mt Garfield                           2
Silver Peak                           1
Kendall                                1
I-90                                     1

I think giving Kendall the weight for this one tragic accident does a disservice to much more dangerous areas in the Snoqualmie Pass area.

The 2010 accident when examined as a case study reveals evidence of wind transport in your photo making missed visual clues part of the trap that you refer to.

It really is the 'Honey Trap' where cognitive bias that allows us to see something attractive and overlook the threat. Barry Blanchard said it best when describing his failed attempt on Nanga Parbat,'It was like having sex with death.' The immediate pleasure discounts the looming threat.

I would leave out suggested terrain since it is off topic of your project and requires more attention to detail.

The Snoqualmie Guidebook uses the ATES scale to describe the different zones and when you look at Kendall, the Knob and Kendall Trees are the only areas that actually offers Simple terrain. Any terrain on the west is very exposed to avalanche hazard. The Swathe was a result of a 1990 avalanche cycle that created the Phantom so all the tree skiing with the open slopes above could one day become another D4 slide path.

Keep up the good work!




There was a slide around 2008 off Alta Mt into Gold Creek that makes both those look puny


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: flowing alpy on 01/03/18, 06:47 PM
tragic inbounds slide almost 11 years ago still hurts


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 01/03/18, 07:55 PM
Thanks for your perspective, Matt. I'll work in more context, noting that other places, especially the Source Lake drainage, pose substantially greater proximate avalanche hazard.

It was never the intent to make the claim that Kendall was the most dangerous place at the Pass, but rather to point out that it is a place that is subtly-dangerous for those both savvy and risk-accepting enough to seek safer places while storm skiing.

Of the areas enumerated in the list of fatalities above, Kendall is the only place that I have ever regularly storm-skied. Avalanche hazard, access, or both rule the rest out for me.

I do worry that highlighting Kendall will draw more skiers to it, exacerbating the skier-density concern, but feel that getting active discussion going is worth that risk.

Thank you all for the feedback; it is all useful :).


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: garyabrill on 01/04/18, 09:18 AM
Although Kendall is but one of a nearly infinite number of hazardous backcountry slopes, it certainly sets one up to make a bad decision and as such is an excellent example of a trap. I would make a few points:

1) Normally when one would ski Kendall is when there is a substantial amount of new or recent storm snow because of the old growth tree skiing. And as Charlie states the nature of the terrain changes dramatically at the top of the trees from being relatively avalanche safe to having the potential for great risk. Snowpack evaluation - and one would not likely dig any kind of profile - to make such evaluation below the top of the trees is essentially irrelevant for slopes above those same trees because of rather obvious wind effects but also solar effects.

2) Besides the aforementioned cross-loading because of the fetch of a west wind, the slopes above the trees as the angle increases become increasingly solar affected. That could mean a progressively harder suncrust with increasing angle, or at times when cold weather follows sunshine a faceted and potentially unsupportive weak crust (for adherence of new snow).

3) At certain times surface hoar could form on the open slopes above the trees and be covered by new snow. In either this case or in the cases above in #2 it might be possible to remotely trigger slopes above.

4) The steep slopes above the trees present a poor choice of terrain on many occasions when one might be expected to have chosen Kendall trees as a destination - when there has been substantial recent snow. For myself, having skied the area since the 1980's, I have only on two occasions gone above the top of the trees particularly towards the center or left of the main upper slope. There is no safe route above the top of the trees. Any route chosen has nearly continuous exposure to avalanche terrain. In addition the slope is large and if the slope releases the entire volume of sliding snow may come down onto a skier or group of skiers from above.

5) Over the long run one should expect that one's evaluation of stability will eventually be wrong. Although each stability evaluation may seem to be a good one, that will not be the case for all such judgements. The goal has to be not to put oneself in a situation where high consequences will certainly result in the event that one's analysis is wrong. When high consequences are possible one has to be extremely selective in exposing oneself to those consequences. There are times when the stability of the snowpack is a near certainty based on snowpack structure, and there are plenty of instances where the amount of sliding snow does not present a significant burial risk.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: NMaddox on 01/04/18, 12:33 PM
Quote from: garyabrill on 01/04/18, 09:18 AM
5) Over the long run one should expect that one's evaluation of stability will eventually be wrong. Although each stability evaluation may seem to be a good one, that will not be the case for all such judgements. The goal has to be not to put oneself in a situation where high consequences will certainly result in the event that one's analysis is wrong. When high consequences are possible one has to be extremely selective in exposing oneself to those consequences. There are times when the stability of the snowpack is a near certainty based on snowpack structure, and there are plenty of instances where the amount of sliding snow does not present a significant burial risk.


YES!


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: BCSchonwald on 01/08/18, 10:56 AM
Thank you HFNC for your sharp memory and analysis, should submit it to The Avalanche Review.


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: haggis on 01/08/18, 08:36 PM
I thought there were lots of female guides too, statement appears a bit sexist to me.

Also, can you go back to Freeskier or whatever you were before, the HFNC is confusing me.
Thanks


Title: Re: The Kendall Trap
Post by: Charlie Hagedorn on 12/19/18, 03:27 PM
It is December 19th, so I will bump this thread back to the top.  I planned to have the next in the series, "Density", ready to go today, but it will require at least a few more weeks of work.

Ski carefully this season; this year's snowpack is an outsized magnifier of consequence.


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