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Author Topic: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch  (Read 2931 times)
Alex_Podolak
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March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« on: 03/15/09, 08:20 PM »

Headed up to Phantom Trees with my roommates this morning.† With 13" of fresh on the ground and more falling at +2in/hr we took our time with each decision.†

Questionable stability was observed in the lower elevation trees with the top 5" sloughing very easily and the next 8-10" Fracturing on steeper sections.

Dug a pit and found the sun crust and hoar layer about 15" down.† First layer broke at 6 from the wrist but was not very consolidated. At 15 from the elbow a more cohesive layer cut loose just above the hoar layer.

Continued up Phantom and came across two snowshoe'rs who had spent the night up on Mt Snoqualimie. They said they were lucky their tent did not collapse.†

Skinned up to the opening before the summit and then started down for the first run through the tress. Snow was heavy with small amounts of slough.

On the way down we passed two different solo skiers!!!Huh Huh

This was a risky day to even be out and to be skiing BC alone is asking for trouble even in the trees on a fairly safe slope.

We stopped for lunch and the first solo skier skied down to us saying they had cut several slabs loose.†

We skinned up a short distance before coming across the first slab release. Crown was ~6-8" and maybe 50ft wide.† This appeared to be skier triggered on a convex roller. Run out was minimal.

A little further up we came across a second slide with a crown ~12-16".† This slide was larger and on another convex roll over.† It slid for 150ft and† the release propagated along a ridge line 250ft wide.

We assumed this was also a skier trigger slide, but upon reaching the top we were surprise to see that this was a natural trigger caused by a tree bomb of snow.

At this time we decided to get out of Dodge, quickly!!

Skied out linking up with the second solos to stick together. Made it out to the car with about 8" of new snow falling from 9am-2pm.

Glad the day ended safely and was concerned to come across the solo skiers.

Be safe out there this new snow has been falling in variable densities set several weak layers.

See the attached picture of this second slide, and more shots on Picasa.

http://picasaweb.google.com/Alex.Podolak/PhantomTrees090315#
« Last Edit: 03/15/09, 08:25 PM by Kite heeler » Logged
haggis
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Posts: 289


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #1 on: 03/15/09, 08:46 PM »

Wow, sounds sketchy alright.

1 question:

Quote: "This was a risky day to even be out and to be skiing BC alone is asking for trouble even in the trees on a fairly safe slope."

Why go out in the 1st place if its risky, as in at least high rating on a slope such as this?† If avalanches are being triggered by skiers then yes there is an advantage to having a group over being solo in that you have a chance of being dug out but the triggered high risk is still there.† It all just sounds like a really bad call to me.† According to NWAC there was 24" new snow in that storm up until 2pm today so would be interesting to hear the group dynamics and if anyone was concerned prior to starting up?

Just looking at the photos too, a very similar slope and trees to the Commonwealth basin trees which I was debating on in the next few days.  I might wait a while so thanks for reporting this.

Glad everyone made it down OK, I'm staying away for a day or so after setting off all sorts of debris at alpental and that was in a supposed controlled area!.
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Pete_H
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Posts: 201


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #2 on: 03/15/09, 10:07 PM »

Skiing W Face of Kendle / Commonwealth today we found conditions sketchier than I've seen them in a long long time.
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Jim Oker
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Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #3 on: 03/15/09, 10:28 PM »

We were in the general Snoqualmie neighborhood too (open and forested south and sw slopes), and ended up picking a gently uptrack up to a beautiful forested ridge, and instead of dropping in on some nice steep tree lines we just tucked tail and did a bobsled run back down and just to the side of our carefully-placed uptrack (in deep forest there were even some nice untracked if slow turns, but in the open it was wallowfest unless you were in the tracks of others). I have to agree that I've not seen the snow so obviously reactive everywhere in a while. Stuff seemed to slide on multiple layers - some in the middle of the latest pilleup as well as near the bottom of it (didn't get too analytical as our stomp tests alone suggested high caution). We just saw too much snow move as we'd cut above tree wells or big rolls, and blocks were cracking off into the uptrack, so we wanted to keep the slope angle mellow. It was still a cool day to get up on a mountain. Life could be worse - we could have been on snowshoes!
« Last Edit: 03/15/09, 10:33 PM by Jim Oker » Logged
Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #4 on: 03/15/09, 10:35 PM »

Glad you're ok. Careful.

From Mark the Wise in SABNW:
Quote
WEATHER SYNOPSIS FOR WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY

Current clearing and cold bring facets and hoar,
Factors to watch when storms beat down the door.
March sun melts snowflakes, and more than a few,
Yield nighttime crusts after day turns to goo.

And recent wind transport has made for some slabs,
On south and east aspects where local danger is bad.
But overall the snowpack should settle and rest,
Before the next weekend puts our skills to test.

Cooling and snow arrive Saturday it seems,
Loading hoar, crusts and facets and making bad dreamsó
Follow this later Sunday with snow, winds and warming,
And ingredients are there for an avalanche warning.
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mtj
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Posts: 16


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #5 on: 03/16/09, 07:09 AM »

Avalanches are serious.  Enough with the silly poems on NWAC.  I've felt this way for years now. 

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cjm720
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Posts: 68


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #6 on: 03/16/09, 11:25 AM »

Last I checked the Phantom isn't a "fairly safe slope" especially in these conditions, solo or not.  Just sayin'

Headed up to Phantom Trees with my roommates this morning.† With 13" of fresh on the ground and more falling at +2in/hr we took our time with each decision.†

Questionable stability was observed in the lower elevation trees with the top 5" sloughing very easily and the next 8-10" Fracturing on steeper sections.

Dug a pit and found the sun crust and hoar layer about 15" down.† First layer broke at 6 from the wrist but was not very consolidated. At 15 from the elbow a more cohesive layer cut loose just above the hoar layer.

Continued up Phantom and came across two snowshoe'rs who had spent the night up on Mt Snoqualimie. They said they were lucky their tent did not collapse.†

Skinned up to the opening before the summit and then started down for the first run through the tress. Snow was heavy with small amounts of slough.

On the way down we passed two different solo skiers!!!Huh Huh

This was a risky day to even be out and to be skiing BC alone is asking for trouble even in the trees on a fairly safe slope.

We stopped for lunch and the first solo skier skied down to us saying they had cut several slabs loose.†

We skinned up a short distance before coming across the first slab release. Crown was ~6-8" and maybe 50ft wide.† This appeared to be skier triggered on a convex roller. Run out was minimal.

A little further up we came across a second slide with a crown ~12-16".† This slide was larger and on another convex roll over.† It slid for 150ft and† the release propagated along a ridge line 250ft wide.

We assumed this was also a skier trigger slide, but upon reaching the top we were surprise to see that this was a natural trigger caused by a tree bomb of snow.

At this time we decided to get out of Dodge, quickly!!

Skied out linking up with the second solos to stick together. Made it out to the car with about 8" of new snow falling from 9am-2pm.

Glad the day ended safely and was concerned to come across the solo skiers.

Be safe out there this new snow has been falling in variable densities set several weak layers.

See the attached picture of this second slide, and more shots on Picasa.

http://picasaweb.google.com/Alex.Podolak/PhantomTrees090315#
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Pete_H
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Posts: 201


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #7 on: 03/16/09, 12:13 PM »

With snow levels being as low as they were the snow was suprisingly heavy and dense.
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Alex_P
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Posts: 2


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #8 on: 03/16/09, 12:46 PM »

This post was an attempt to inform the community of the instabilities in the snow we observed as well raise the concern that BC travel alone does raise your risk level.† I am not trying to slam anyone.
With a burial out of the question there are countless other injury, equipment failure, ect. which could be harder to handle by yourself.†

I raise this concern because several times this season we have come across solo skiers, and it always make me nervous.

With regards to our group dynamic. We all had healthy concern, and were careful to analyse the snow frequently, stay spread out, and stick to the dense trees to avoid the potential of exposure to larger slides.† The NWAC forcast Saturday night called for considerable danger with slight decreasing on sunday morning.† In retrospect I wish we had waited to see the Sunday 9AM forecast with the increase to HIGH avi danger and this may have changed our plans.†

I do understand that Phantom trees has steeper slopes with some larger clearings. I was not trying to say the Phantom was a safe area, but that the route we choose avoided the steeps and exposure as much as possible.
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skykilo
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Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #9 on: 03/16/09, 01:09 PM »

While your concerns seem well-intentioned and reasonable, there's also a big difference between the Phantom and the old growth on climber's left.† I've toured in there on high danger days several times.† I think experienced and conscientious people could reasonably do it solo too.† Not saying whether that's what those people were, but if the danger's high enough you can get pounded by a natural on the road below Alpental; who gets to say when where is safe for whom?†

Queue the epic old MW88888888888 solo on Snoqualmie thread....

- $0.02 from some idiot in Canada

(PS - I've seen crowns in the same places where your photos show them.  There are still lots of manageable trees.)
« Last Edit: 03/16/09, 01:37 PM by skykilo » Logged
RonL
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Posts: 398


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #10 on: 03/16/09, 03:41 PM »

Ha, that old thread of Mike's came to my mind when I read this too. But what do I know, I frequently do this tour solo - rocks in my head? Those crowns also look familiar to me although I only recall seeing them once in the trees there under similar circumstances. I believe that day we turned just below treeline and saw the fracturing on just about every steep rollover that we ski cut. In hindsight we probably should have turned around much earlier than that, but as we were first up we didn't have the evidence of others before us.
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Marcus
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Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #11 on: 03/16/09, 03:58 PM »

Thanks for the info, Kite and Alex -- everyone's risk tolerance is their own, of course.  Glad you got some turns in and got down safely.

It's those little slopes so close to the relative safety that seem most likely to catch someone off guard, especially with the powder fever.  We're all starved for it...
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MW88888888
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Posts: 442


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #12 on: 03/16/09, 04:19 PM »

It's nice to see I'm remembered (perhaps not fondly, but I'll take remembered anyday)

If the slope is too dangerous for 20, it's too dangerous for 1.† Being in groups doesn't make skiing in avy terrain any more safe, so be careful for throwing stones.

And, yes, this climb was one of my favorite solos when I lived in WA.† For many reasons.† †
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alpine-earth
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Posts: 282


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #13 on: 03/16/09, 05:43 PM »

Yeah, NWAC shouldn't use additional ways like silly poems to inform people and get their attention...lets keep it very statistical and full of technical jargon only ;-) [playful sarcasm].† Not everyone learns/understands/interprets information the same way and if this makes a person think and remember a bit better then what's the harm?

Yahoo for solo backcountry skiing...probably a third of this seasons 60 days have been solo.† It's a fine lesson in self-sufficiency, connection to a place, decision making and the ability to truly understand perceived and acceptable risk.

[0.02 rant off....sorry bored at work and dreaming about better days in snoqualmie powder stashes]
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Morgan Miller
-----------------
"Embrace the Fall Line" ~Dr Frankenstein

"I went skiing today too" ~Hansi
Mattski
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Posts: 129


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #14 on: 03/16/09, 10:24 PM »

If you are triggering avalanches, tree bomb are triggering avalanches is that the sign of the devil and the end is near? Only if you hear a voice in your head that sounds like your avalanche instructor reminding you the Avalanche Danger Scale and that detail about consequences of being caught and there you are getting caught and hitting a tree, going over a cliff or just being buried.

Skiing on Sunday was a great example of an evolving hazard no matter if you were in the trees or out in the open. Judging others may only be relevant as it pertains to the hazard they pose to you and your group, everything else is outside the realm of what you know.

Live and learn.
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CookieMonster
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Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #15 on: 03/16/09, 10:40 PM »

These are great observations. Optional questions for Kite_Heeler and Alex_P.

What was your perception of your test results while out on the tour?

   A. These test results indicate widespread instability and low triggering energy.
   B. These test results indicate less-than-isolated instability and moderate triggering energy.
   C. These test results indicate isolated instability and high triggering energy.

How do you feel your snow tests influenced your perception of instability?

   A. The test results lead us to believe the snowpack was highly unstable.
   B. The test results lead us to believe instability was present in some places.
   C. The test results lead us to believe instability was isolated but easily triggered.

What was your perception of your observations while out on the tour?

   A. These observations indicate widespread instability and low triggering energy.
   B. These observations indicate less-than-isolated instability and moderate triggering energy.
   C. These observations indicate isolated instability and high triggering energy.

What was your perception of instability while out on the tour?

   A. Widespread instability and low triggering energy.
   B. less-than-isolated instability and moderate triggering energy.
   C. Isolated instability and high triggering energy.

Would you mind providing for the community a few examples of how your observations and your perception of instability were linked to your decisions?

   A. How much vertical ( or for how many hours ) did you climb after determining stability was "questionable"?
   B. How much vertical ( or for how many hours ) did you climb *before* you observed the first slab release?
   C. How much vertical ( or for how many hours ) did you climb *after* you observed the first slab release?
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RonL
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Posts: 398


Re: March 15th Phantom Trees, 13" fresh and sketch
« Reply #16 on: 03/17/09, 08:46 AM »

Hey Michael, of course you are remembered fondly!

Cookie Monster you are one comprehensive snow evaluator. I am also interested in their response to your last set of questions about how far they continued to travel after they figured it was unstable. Not too bag on them anymore, but mainly because that is when the thinking gets interesting. It sounds from the report that they were around 5k from the description of "the opening below the summit" That is well past where I imagine those pictures of the crowns on the steep rollovers to be.
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