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Author Topic: Early season stability assessment  (Read 2216 times)
1yen
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Early season stability assessment
« on: 11/10/09, 05:20 PM »

I was just curious about evaluating stability etc. during early season snow.  Of course, I am asking because am thinking of doing a solo ski tomorrow; something I have never done in the past (have always been with buddies).

I guess I am not sure how I should mentally approach it.  I can't imagine a pit will tell me anything accept the color of the dirt under the snow.

Any tips suggestions warnings encouragements would be much appreciated!

Got to love the pre-thanksgiving snow!!!

thanks in advance
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #1 on: 11/10/09, 05:30 PM »

New forecasts are out (Thanks NWAC!):
http://www.nwac.us/forecast/avalanche_washington/current/

Avalanches happen year-round. Barely buried trees and rocks are grabby.
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Marcus
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #2 on: 11/10/09, 05:32 PM »

A pit will still give you info about how reactive the snow is within the pack, even if it's not consolidated.  It's particularly important to have an idea of what the ground surface is like.  Smooth polished rock vs. heather or short shrubs, etc...

Approach it with extra caution, especially since you're unsure how to eval the early season pack.  Bonus points for digging to ground Smiley
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toby_tortorelli
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #3 on: 11/10/09, 05:50 PM »

Sometimes in early season, underlying vegetation is not fully compacted and the weight of a person can cause that settlement, producing a release. Unrelated in terms of propagation, I have pulled an unfortunate person out of an early season slide in Table Mtn's Blueberry Chutes (the ones that reportedly slid this weekend). He slid a few hundred feet and shattered his patella on a rock. Treat early season like mid season. Pick safe ups and conservative downs when you are alone.
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1yen
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #4 on: 11/10/09, 06:15 PM »

thanks for the quick and helpful replies!

It all makes sense and I will keep my awareness level high tomorrow...most likely heading up to stevens early AM.  Can't wait!
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PNWBrit
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #5 on: 11/10/09, 06:59 PM »

Terrain selection, terrain selection terrain selection. Always number one consideration.

Consequences, consequneces, consequencess. second. Adjusted accordingly for solo travel.

Both those are completetly under your control.

Everything else you're making a hopefully somewhat educated guess at.

Befiore you even bother digging a pit exactly what are you looking to do with the answer that it might, or might not give you? Is it making it o.k. to go or do you turn around and tip toe out. Why are you diggin a pit anyway given points one and two.

Why are you going on your own? Cause you have to? That's the day you can? Or you just want to? Do you want  to go too much to make a smart decsion?

What you're doing and why is where you should look first?

Ain't ever easy. At least not for me.
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1yen
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #6 on: 11/10/09, 07:11 PM »

PNWBrit,

Agreed...this is not an easy choice for me.  All those questions you ask are things I have been thinking about all day! (instead of work...)

I am choosing steven's because I know the terrain there very well, and already have in mind safe travel routes and relatively low angle runs. 

The whats and whys...very important, and thanks for the reminder!  I have answers for all of them!

It never hurts to have TERRAIN and CONSEQUENCE pounded into my head too much...

thanks again!
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climberdave
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #7 on: 11/10/09, 07:23 PM »

My two cents, but since we've had some howling winds recently watch out for wind loaded slopes, wind slab and terrain traps!!  Plus trees/rocks can actually promote avys by allowing a fracture to propagate between weak points (a few threads and a death last season attest to this fact). 

Be safe and keep your avy eyes open!!

"Terrain selection, terrain selection terrain selection. Always number one consideration.

Consequences, consequences, consequences. second. Adjusted accordingly for solo travel."

Wise words  Smiley
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"Are we rolling down hill
like a snowball headed for hell?"
Merle Haggard
Don Heath
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #8 on: 11/10/09, 10:16 PM »

There's a few folks going up different areas tomorrow - might not be too late to connect.
This link is to the "partners wanted" section.

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=14398.0
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The best part of summer skiing is napping on a warm rock.
CookieMonster
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Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #9 on: 11/12/09, 04:20 PM »

>>Terrain selection, terrain selection terrain selection. Always number one consideration.
>>Consequences, consequneces, consequencess. second. Adjusted accordingly for solo travel.

Caveat: Good points, but by themselves, and especially without observations, these rules will eventually lead to errors.

>>Befiore you even bother digging a pit exactly what are you looking to do with the answer that it might, or might not give you?
>>Is it making it o.k. to go or do you turn around and tip toe out. Why are you diggin a pit anyway given points one and two.

Good points, another caveat.

One person may not see the usefulness of test profiles and instability test, but that does not mean that these observations are unhelpful for everyone. When performed correctly, test profiles and instability tests can provide fairly direct and very direct information ( Class II or Class I ) about the state of instability and definitely can help align your perception of instability with reality.

In any case, observations of all types ( snowpits, weather, terrain, avalanche bulletin ) all actively contribute to your perception of instability. So, in other words, you're going to end up believing something about instability and the bulletin is as likely to contribute to your perception as a test profile or the results of an instability test. It is possible to misinterpret the bulletin and develop a faulty perception of instability ( such as when you apply the information in the bulletin to the slope scale. )
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JimH
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Posts: 255


Re: Early season stability assessment
« Reply #10 on: 11/13/09, 08:41 AM »

Stability note from the Baker BC - noted some 2-4mm surface facets on shadowy N facing slopes (where the best snow was, as you might guess). The facets were pretty wide spread on all the colder NW through NE aspects, even some that got a little sun. We thought that was worth noting.

We only saw point releases during the day due to solar effects on trees, rocks, etc.. We did see a few day old 1-2ft crowns on steeper lee side NE facing slopes.

Be safe!
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