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| | |-+  Jan 14, 2012 Moonlight Bowl to PCT
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Author Topic: Jan 14, 2012 Moonlight Bowl to PCT  (Read 2215 times)
Don Heath

Posts: 834

Jan 14, 2012 Moonlight Bowl to PCT
« on: 01/14/12, 10:29 PM »

We made a few mistakes today, but came home "safely".   

     Paul (Weaver), Joe & I headed up to Heather Ridge this morning.  Partway up to the tower, Joe didn't feel well, so he decided to stay on the south side of the ridge, but encouraged us to go on up.  Mistake 1 was splitting up.  We agreed to keep in touch via cell phones.  #2, one of us forgot their cell in the car.  That played out later.

      Neither Paul nor I had been to Moonlight before, but knew roughly where it was.  The snow was promising, with anywhere from 2" to 6"  of very light powder on top of the recent rain crust (sun crust?).  Past the second tower, following a very old track, then making our own, we traversed a couple hundred yards below the ridge top for about 1/4 mile.  We worked our way through pretty dense trees till we hit the beginning of the cleared area.  Along the way, we were able to stomp the slope and get the surface snow, 6-8" by now, to slough down a few feet, where it quickly stopped. It was a fun trip down, although I hit crust on just about every turn, and we were bounced over the old bowling balls from the last avy cycle.  Bigger than chicken heads, smaller than breadboxes.  It's pretty obvious from the old debris, the multiple clearings and small stunted trees, that whole area is not always real safe.

     After the first run, to the trees, we called Joe a couple of times and got no answers, and thought he was probably napping in the car, or over at the lodge. So we began climbing back up for another run at it, angling more right, which brought us into new snow, some of the big clearings, and up to the base of some small cliffy rock outcroppings.  The wind was picking up, and some lee areas had 12" or more of mostly wind transported snow.  Visibility was decreasing.  We aimed for one more high point, and as we got there, I noticed small cracks beginning to show up on both sides of Paul's skin track - a little spooky.

     We dug a pit, which showed 12" of wind blown fluff on a thin crust, then 4" of light (4 finger) snow on top of the older crust.  Supporting the older crust was a heavier layer of snow, pretty deep, but I didn't dig but a foot below the old crust.  A compression test showed the fluff just exploded, but none of the layers below moved, even after multiple shoulder hits.  A shear test, however, had a very clean break at the older crust.  We felt green lighted to ski, since neither crust or layers between moved, and all sloughs throughout the day hadn't done anything.

     Paul skied first, then as I headed out and down, I saw that the whole slope had fractured!  There were cracks everywhere on a slope 30 yards wide by 50 yards long.  Nothing slid, and I think it was due to the gentle angle, maybe 30 deg, with occasional steeper rollover.  But I'm curious, since we heard no whoomphing, felt no settling, and yet the whole slope cracked up..  After watching it awhile, I headed on across, and nothing moved, even after I butt-planted right in the middle of it. Embarrassed  After that the trip was just fun, working our way down and finding the PCT.

     However, still no contact with Joe, and upon reaching the car he wasn't there.  That's when we found his cell phone, happily ringing away and taking increasingly worried messages from me.  We searched every lodge twice, checked with Patrol, and then reluctantly (being cold and tired) headed back to look for him.  It was a happy coincidence to meet him back at the car, saving us another hike up the hill.  After resting a bit, he had done two laps on the south side.  So except for mother hen worrying too much, it all turned out well.  As it turned out, I think the drive home was the most dangerous.  About 3 hours from Stevens to Sultan, 1 hour Sultan to Shoreline.

* 2._The_slope_that_cracked.jpg (48.83 KB, 800x449 - viewed 786 times.)

* 3.__The_high_point.jpg (69.32 KB, 800x449 - viewed 772 times.)

* 4._some_unlucky_Hwy_2_drivers.jpg (90.1 KB, 800x449 - viewed 768 times.)
« Last Edit: 01/14/12, 11:05 PM by Rusty Knees » Logged

The best part of summer skiing is napping on a warm rock.

Posts: 827

Re: Jan 14, 2012 Moonlight Bowl to PCT
« Reply #1 on: 01/15/12, 07:07 AM »

Thanks for the report Don.

I think the surface below the snow was mostly sun crust and roller balls. I went out sans board poking around Friday, and was able to walk in shoes on top of a very solid crust. This crust had a very thin layer of surface hoar, or a light dusting of snow un top of the sun crust, left out for a clear niight.r. Probably not big enough to 'whoomph, but a really good sliding surface. Mostly the only things that had slid at stevens are steeper slide path and chutes.

Most of the surface I seen was very roughed up for all size roller balls. Might be helping to hold a load in place that isn't well bonded?

For what it's worth, I've heard whoomphing and seen shooting cracks in moonlight bowl on more then one occasion.


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