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Author Topic: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin  (Read 15848 times)
haggis
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09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« on: 04/09/10, 11:19 AM »

On split at 6am with Tyler and Rob for a quick dawn patrol.  Lots of new snow so I appologise to anyone going in today who follows my skin track, it went a bit wonky a few times trying to find the direct route.  Superb snow top to bottom with nice cold 25F temps.  Stepped off the board at transition and went right to my nipples!  Made about 5100ft and didn't want to venture out of the trees for obvious reasons.  There is a ton of snow up there right now but it seems to be right side up.  Fantastic turns on the way down but we could only manage 1 lap due to meetings etc.  After busting my ass putting that skin track in, only doing 1 lap seems such a waste.  The trek out was hard work too with postholing, 1 skin on, split skiing and riding out but felt like I was swimming most of the way.

Go get it quick before it warms up, PHENOMENAL right now.  Work by 10:25!
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tkbc
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #1 on: 04/09/10, 06:13 PM »

Great times out there this morning!  The snow was definitely the best of the year.  Wish we could've stayed for a few more laps.  Snapped a couple of pics, but I don't think they really captured how deep it was out there.


* Kendall_Peak-_Ruaraidh_and_Rob.jpg (55.58 KB, 448x336 - viewed 2335 times.)

* Ruaraidh_pow.jpg (51.23 KB, 404x336 - viewed 2341 times.)

* R_wheelie_air.jpg (59.1 KB, 336x419 - viewed 2342 times.)
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CascadeClimber
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #2 on: 04/09/10, 09:51 PM »

Stupendously poor day to be in the back country.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011571723_apwasnoqualmiesearch1stldwritethru.html?syndication=rss

Glad you got out and back okay, and this is the sort of decision that results in people calling for laws requiring us to pay for our own rescues. The trees are not safe refuge when there's 5-7 feet of new snow on a hard crust. Take a look at the Gold Creek avy pics from a few years ago if you need further evidence.
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kneel turner
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #3 on: 04/09/10, 11:21 PM »

Sounds like Haggis and friends had a good day to me.
Climber, can you elaborate on what you mean by "this sort of decision"?

BTW:  Backcountry is one word.
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haggis
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #4 on: 04/09/10, 11:37 PM »

"Remember there are avalanche safe areas in the mountains during all levels of avalanche danger."

Level 3 below 5K, ask CookieMonster about how thats not indicative.  Look at the Mt Herman slide from last weekend, how many out then?  Whose been on East Peak the past week, essentially whose been out the past week??  Personally, I thought we were in a fairly stable area and didn't cross under any avalanche paths.  Maybe highpoint we should have stopped in a different spot but there was run out space from above and a large stand of trees in the way.  It warmed up a lot late in the morning, still really cold when we were out.  After seeing the video from Komo on TV it actually looks a different site as well.  Maybe the survivor or group members are on this form and can enlighten us as to exact location.
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haggis
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #5 on: 04/09/10, 11:52 PM »

And by the way its not a hard crust under the 5-7 ft snow, my 5ft pit down past the old snow up there on Sunday showed that clearly not to be the case but of course if you're going to generalise and havn't been up there recently you wouldn't know that.  Nothing moved on the past weeks snow in my pit and a "passable" to my tolerance-o-meter on the upper 1.5 ft snowpack which was sitting on a really thin pencil sun crust.  Could also have been some windslab up higher, that was certainly a factor above treeline in that area.
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JCK
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #6 on: 04/10/10, 07:58 AM »

Haggis---obviously you made the good decisions on a day with instabilities in the snowpack and enjoy some good riding. I hadn't considered the trees below Kendall---I generally avoid the Alpental Valley / Commonwealth on days with higher dangers because I haven't scoped out safer terrain, but that is a good spot.

Thanks for the TR----
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alecapone
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #7 on: 04/10/10, 08:32 AM »

Stupendously fun day to be out in a safe area.

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scott
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #8 on: 04/10/10, 09:06 AM »

So when avy danger is 4 or higher, should people not be allowed to go into the backcountry? I'm sure there were many people out in the BC the last two days who weren't caught in a slide (one right here).

I spent the first half of each day on the lifts at Alpental before going skinning; things were/are still hella' dangerous up there in the conditions present, as well as the nature of the terrain in general, so I'm guessing people (many who have no "mountain skills" outside of being sick skiers and riders) shouldn't be allowed to ski there anymore either.

Thursday and Friday were two of the best days of the season, of which I'm massively grateful.
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If someone skis in the Cascades and doesn't post on the internet, did it even happen?
JimH
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #9 on: 04/10/10, 09:51 AM »

I think pointed criticism about safety decisions is fine. But the idea that our access to the hills will be preserved if only everyone else would make better decisions seems pretty misguided.

There was certainly some risk yesterday. I was probably in more peril at Alpy - my bad for charging Felsen for first tracks I suppose. It sluffed pretty good! And the cornices were really not to be trusted. We've got more common cause with folks who make decisions we don't agree with than we realize.

The real enemy is our societal tendency to not let folks make their own decisions if they're in a small enough 'other' group, and we all need to keep an eye on that.
« Last Edit: 04/10/10, 09:59 AM by JimH » Logged
Cornfed
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #10 on: 04/10/10, 09:29 PM »

Requiring people to pay for their rescue when they get in trouble in the back-country or similar adventures is a great idea.  I happen to agree with it.  I think judging the decisions of others without complete information, however, isn't the goal of this site or blog.  Instead, I think it is a great site to compare notes, share information, swap stories, and ask questions that challenge one another. 

Very sorry to hear about the slide and injured party -- would love to get the complete story so that we may all be better informed and knowledgeable next time we go out.  We did see another party of two with a dog heading up into the trees as we were heading out.  Not sure if this was the group as we saw them low down in the big timber on lower angle terrain, where, in my opinion the conditions were reasonably safe. 
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CookieMonster
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #11 on: 04/10/10, 11:11 PM »

Requiring people to pay for their rescue when they get in trouble in the back-country or similar adventures is a great idea.

Good, then perhaps people should be forced to escrow the money, just to ensure payment. I trust you'll be first in line with $25,000.
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haggis
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #12 on: 04/11/10, 04:56 AM »

http://lifeflight.org/membership/

There was some deal going around my paragliding club for membership of this, I never got it as my wife's cadillac insurance covers in full anyway, I made a point of calling them specifically on the subject.  However, I think insurance still required so depending on your carrier so you could be out of pocket for a chunk of change.  Not saying either way about removal topic as its covered in a plethora of other TAY threads!
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CascadeClimber
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #13 on: 04/12/10, 02:38 PM »

There was another incident on Sunday, below 5000 feet on a '3' day.

My point is that you cannot just check the NWAC report, maybe dig a pit, and declare the area safe. Someone got whacked in the Commonwealth Basin the same day as this TR. The person was swept into a tree. With 5-7 feet of new snow in the preceding week, including a good amount in the two days before this TR, I would (and did not) go into that basin, where I've been many times. With that much new snow, slides can start far above, where you cannot evaluate conditions, and take out large stands of trees (ala Gold Creek) and you along with them.

There are avalanches that are difficult to predict, but these two were not, and two people people were extremely fortunate to have survived.

You might not like me pointing it out, but that doesn't change the facts: Last weekend seemed dangerous and it turned out to be.

L
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CookieMonster
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #14 on: 04/12/10, 04:36 PM »

There was another incident on Sunday, below 5000 feet on a '3' day.

My point is that you cannot just check the NWAC report, maybe dig a pit, and declare the area safe. Someone got whacked in the Commonwealth Basin the same day as this TR. The person was swept into a tree. With 5-7 feet of new snow in the preceding week, including a good amount in the two days before this TR, I would (and did not) go into that basin, where I've been many times. With that much new snow, slides can start far above, where you cannot evaluate conditions, and take out large stands of trees (ala Gold Creek) and you along with them.

There are avalanches that are difficult to predict, but these two were not, and two people people were extremely fortunate to have survived.

You might not like me pointing it out, but that doesn't change the facts: Last weekend seemed dangerous and it turned out to be.

L

CascadeClimber, thanks for the unhelpful scolding.

You can't say that two avalanche accidents is evidence that no one should go out, especially since you are making these posts with the perfect convenience of hindsight. Would you make the same remarks if avalanche danger had been LOW or MODERATE?

Your posts make huge, and unhelpful assumptions, about the touring/observation and snow safety processes used by Haggis and co., and appear to make the same unhelpful assumptions about people in general. Some of the best powder skiing the Cascades have to offer takes place during CONSIDERABLE or HIGH avalanche danger, and whether you like it or not, there are ways to tour safely in these conditions.

Perhaps you have special information to contribute about how to stay safe during CONSIDERABLE or HIGH danger. If not, please stop lecturing because your "brilliant" and "common sense" posts are being made in HINDSIGHT. It doesn't take a genius to say "people were involved in avalanche accidents during times when avalanche danger was locally HIGH" ... uh great ... everyone here has already noticed.

If you want us tour a certain way, then tell us plebes how you, GREAT MASTER OF THE OUTDOORS, does it. Maybe you'd care to submit some of your own trip reports and let us know exactly why we should listen to you? Otherwise, this is just your opinion ... the value of which is clear.

So, CascadeClimber, fill us in on your knowledge of snow safety, tell us how to interpret the bulletin, and tell us where you think it's safe to go during high avalanche danger. Please provide very detailed answers so that we can feel comfortable taking you seriously. I'm not trying to attack your credibility, I'm just trying to figure out if you have any in the first place.
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dave_perkins
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #15 on: 04/12/10, 08:46 PM »

"I'm not trying to attack your credibility, I'm just trying to figure out if you have any in the first place."

I can vouch for his credibility if anyone cares. He is more experienced than me or the majority that post here. And for the record I decided it would be best to go rip up some trail on my mountain bike in Hood River this weekend rather that chance it in the mountains. I just had a bad feeling about the snowpack and felt is best to stay away.
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CookieMonster
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #16 on: 04/12/10, 09:54 PM »

I'm not trying to be snarky, but CascadeClimber made these posts with the convenience of hindsight. This doesn't make him look smart or experienced ... it makes him look awfully sanctimonius.

1. CascadeClimber reads about accidents that are not related to the TR here.
2. CascadeClimber feels it's appropriate to scold Haggis and Co. for other people's mistakes.

I'm simply asking CascadeClimber to explain what puts him in the position to scold anyone. Telling people that they're irresponsible for going out in the mountains during high avalanche danger, when he doesn't have all the facts ( such as Haggis and Co's snow safety procedures ) makes his posts look preachy.

IF YOU CAN PREACH, YOU CAN TEACH.

CascadeClimber:

A. Can you explain the relationship between the danger level and perception of instability?
B. Can you explain the difference between exposure and danger?
C. Can you explain five common biases that might affect decision-making?
D. Can you explain the relationship between temperature and instability?
E. Can you provide us with additional insight into Haggis and Co's decision-making?
F. CascadeClimber, fill us in on your knowledge of snow safety.
G. Tell us how to interpret the bulletin
H. Tell us where you think it's safe to go during high avalanche danger.

Again, please include detailed explanations in your own words.

Otherwise, cut the scolding.

Paging CascadeClimber.
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Hyakbc
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #17 on: 04/12/10, 10:04 PM »

This rant is boring.
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haggis
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #18 on: 04/12/10, 10:19 PM »

Jez, never thought a boring trip up the Commonwealth would provoke such responses!! After all its where lots of the TAY folk go during a storm - own up, I know you go there, after all there are always tracks in pretty much all conditions. I'm not talking Red mountain here or into the avi chutes, just the big honking timber on a moderate slope. Would anyone have posted a reply if another group had not gone into a FAR more dangerous zone than we were in FAR warmer conditions and got into trouble - of course not. Bear in mind that my group departed at 6am (long before most of you were out of bed) and that temps were around 20F. Compare that to the sun baked slopes when the avalanche happened and its a completely different animal. Comparing to Gold Creek or Hyak is not reasonable either since Hyak was essentially a mudslide given the vast amount of rain. Wasn't around for 2002 gold creek, was this a heavy snow followed by monsoon conditions or of a similar nature to Friday which I'm pretty sure was sun induced? As far as I can see there is no evidence of big slides going down the route we took. There is the huge avalanche path on the skiers left of the open area. Does that reach all the way down to the Commonwealth Creek? It would have to be a major event for that to happen of which Thursdays fairly significant snowfall was unlikely to trigger, in my opinion.
Yes, I appreciate the comments, yes I have a family, yes I have no intentions of doing something stupid, yes I want this to continue as long as I'm fit and able and by god I enjoy it too as well as other inherently dangerous activities such as riding my bike 25 miles to work which I've had more close shaves that anything else despite being very wary of any driver on the road! I don't think where we went, at the time we went was particularly stupid and this was discussed by the group. Take care, looks like the dawn patrol season is nearing a close however.
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dave_perkins
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #19 on: 04/12/10, 10:58 PM »

I do not want to make any enemies based on my opinion. I am sure they felt safe on their tour. But touring up to 5,100 feet in just about anywhere in the Commonwealth Basin will likely put you in danger from an avalanche from above. I think that was the point Cascade Climber was getting at. From the post I am not sure where they toured to but Guye Peak tops out at 5,168, Kendall at 5,784, Red at 5,890 and the slopes at the end of the valley below Snoqualmie and Lundin have no trees. If there is a low angle slope with nothing significant from above please give up the goods b/c the tour into Commonwealth Basin can be very safe depending on route selection.

Here are some pictures I took of a slide off Alta in the Gold Creek Valley in 08. It puts things into prospective. The second page shows the damage the other side of the valley got.

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/785481/1

Be safe out there!
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bscott
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #20 on: 04/13/10, 10:02 AM »

Cookie Monster:

After your condescending and smart ass remarks, I doubt anyone will enlighten you.
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haggis
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #21 on: 04/13/10, 10:23 AM »

Dave.  I must not have reset my altimeter correctly.  Upon looking at the topo, the max height was most likely around the 4800ft mark not 5100.  At 5100ft you are certainly right that it would be a lot steeper/open/exposed from above etc.  Ask Mr Trumpetsailor too, he went up the next day and that was the day of the Granite accident.  I don't see him getting scolded either and for good reason!  Cookie is just being friendly, we all know he knows his stuff and that Cascade Climber has done some mighty impressive stuff in his time - of which I may add may have required the use of a heli if a teetter the wrong way ended in a fall.  Does anyone have to have the last word, can we agree to disagree and take away that slopes exposed to the sun are the most likely culprit for these near misses.

Over.
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JasonGriffith
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #22 on: 04/13/10, 09:34 PM »

Getting a wee bit heated . . .

Just an observation from heading into the hills each year- I have often seen stands of large trees taken out by avalanches from the previous winter. I can't point to one around Snoqualmie Pass (I spent most of my time in the North Cascades), but I think it indicates the possibility.  I doubt these "once in a several hundred year" slides happen during periods of considerable danger, more likely high to extreme. 

While it is usually safe to ski in big trees, it is not too far-fetched to have a slide take the trees (and people) out during high to extreme danger- It happens every few years and people die.  To each their own, but I don't think Loren is completely off base- and he does have enough experience to be listened to.  Perhaps it is the tone of the message that has folks upset, but he isn't crazy.
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CookieMonster
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #23 on: 04/13/10, 10:26 PM »

My remarks aren't nearly as condescending as CascadeClimber's.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask for some foundation when CascadeClimber directs his carpet bomb commentary at TAYers who went out into the backcountry last week. If you remember, he characterised their decision-making as "stupendously poor" and said that their trips ultimately serve as fuel for anti-backcountry legislation. Uh... yeah.

Sorry to poke the sacred cow with a stick but I'm hungry for answers, and YES, to make my point, I used the same snarky, accusational, and nasty tone that he applied.

Oh well!

Best,

CookieMonster
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andyrew
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Re: 09 Apr 2010 - Dawn Patrol - Commonwealth Basin
« Reply #24 on: 04/14/10, 08:14 PM »

I make no claim to extensive experience, but here is what I think I've learned from people more experienced than I.

1) It takes extraordinary avalanche conditions to take out stands of old growth, ie, heavy loading with especially bad weak layers. To me, this means big, upside-down storms on slick crusts or rain on snow.

2) Avalanches can probably run through trees for a while well enough to kill a person even without totally nuking the timber, so the evident path length is unlikely to be the true runout distance. Slides will run through stands of 100-year trees more often than once every 100 years.

3) As cookie monster points out on his blog, the trees are no panacea of avalanche safety either. There are certainly roll overs in the Kendall trees that are steep enough to slide, I think, and thick trees are a very poor place to be in an avalanche. But we weren't dealing with that sort of instability during the past few storms, either, according to what I saw--below tree line I didn't feel any whoofing, or cracking, and only the top few inches were sluffing. Of course, the sun will change these things.

So let's generalize this thread. What else should we know about using trees as a safe place to recreate during elevated danger?
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