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NWAC Avalanche
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|-+  2012 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  April 2012 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  April 8, 2012, Klahhane Ridge
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Author Topic: April 8, 2012, Klahhane Ridge  (Read 2320 times)
Splitboard Graham

Posts: 150

April 8, 2012, Klahhane Ridge
« on: 04/10/12, 12:43 AM »

A friend and I headed up to Hurricane Ridge area looking to ski something other than the slackcountry we'd skied there previously. Stopped at the WIC in PA to get a map. Luckily the ranger we purchased the map from had been skiing the BC up there the day before and gave us some good tips. The weather update was calling for temps warmer than we initially expected, with freezing level around 6500' and mostly cloudy skies. We decided to check out the north facing bowls on Klahhane Ridge. We were scoping the large avy chute that extends from the road up to the top of the south face of Mt. Angeles when a ranger (Bolin?) stopped and informed us that we were in a no parking zone. He offered to shuttle us from the 3rd peak parking lot a short walk down the road where a snow blower was parked. We took the offer and got a rare free ride in a law enforcement vehicle without cuffs. Excellent service up there. Free advice and free rides. Makes me want to finish my taxes. I digress...

Found a skin track (THANKS) and followed it through trees northeasterly (lookers right) up and away from the avy chute and into open meadows with views from Blue Mountain to Mt. Olympus to Mt. Appleton. cloud deck at 10K made for unlimited views, but not great light except during the periodic sun breaks in the PM. The skin track spat us out on the east shoulder of Mt. Angeles. Here the views expanded to include Baker, some sections of the central and north cascades, the straits, san juan islands, BC coast range, dungeness spit, and vancouver island, as well as more peaks in the Oly's. We were starting to regret not bringing lawn chairs and a gang of 22s to swill and watch the light play on the ranges and straits. Undeterred, we dropped a decent line below Angeles and surfed some sticky chowder. The views kept us satisfied in spite of conditions, and we looked next for a better line. Eying the varied and aesthetic couloirs eastward on Klahhane, we followed the skin track back up to the pass, and east along the ridge and dropped near the previous group's tracks into a steepening hourglass that intersected with a tilted coulior. snow at the top was absolutely acceptable - much drier and less sun affected. With a shortened schedule due to family-related externalities, we skinned back to the saddle and dropped down back towards the road.

that's when the fun really started.

a third of the way down we started triggering wet slabs. one ran 100-200' and shook some trees. it was maybe 20' at the widest? Pretty fast for a wet slab. Now it was dangerous chowder. We then skied extremely conservatively, maintaining visual contact and practically ski-cutting the whole way down. Most of the way down I triggered a pinwheel that gathered size and speed, nearing the size of ranger bolin's SUV before smashing through several groups of trees and coming to rest in several smart-car sized chunks. we thought it was going to roll to the road, but it only made it a few hundred feet. a little stunned, we skied the last bit to the road. we looked up and saw a sizable pile of debris in the bottom of the avy chute just above where we skied out. the slide had started near the summit of Angeles, at least a 1000' above. then we almost got hit by a car walking back to the 3rd peak lot.

photos and videos here:

Posts: 1689

Re: April 8, 2012, Klahhane Ridge
« Reply #1 on: 04/13/12, 06:46 PM »

I'm surprised noone replied yet!  What should have been done differently?  Head down earlier?  Another descent route?  Did you do any snow tests?  Or was it just time of day and season?  Thanks for the TR-good warning for this snow -laden spring.

There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
George Santayana
Splitboard Graham

Posts: 150

Re: April 8, 2012, Klahhane Ridge
« Reply #2 on: 04/16/12, 07:42 PM »

I'm surprised noone replied yet!  What should have been done differently?  Head down earlier?  Another descent route?  Did you do any snow tests?  Or was it just time of day and season?  Thanks for the TR-good warning for this snow -laden spring.

Telemack, I'm a little surprised no one replied either...
Obviously, staying home would have been a safer option. Skiing in the closed ski area may have been safer. We weren't going to do either of those things, and the avy forecast had been downgraded to "Moderate" from "Considerable" for South facing slopes, so we were slightly less paranoid as a result. It would have been safer to descend in the evening when things would be firmer, but we didn't have that kind of time, and we didn't expect things to be so sensitive. Not sure if leaving any earlier would have helped, but it certainly could have - but we only got in a few runs as it is! We opted to ski North facing slopes for safety and ski-ability, but still had the south slope exit. Not being familiar with the area, I don't know if there was a safer area to descend, but it looked like more of the same to the East, and we certainly avoided the large avalanche path that did slide about 1500 ft to near the road which was to our west. We descended an upper meadow that didn't slide at all, but after we had descended 500 ft or so into gladed terrain, things started sliding. At that point, all we could do was look for the lowest angle route with the densest trees, maintain visual belay and ski extremely conservatively. Having a helmet and an avalung, I descended first, turning as little as possible (not so hard in manky snow Wink, and ski-cutting a slope when I could exit to an island of safety. We skied diagonal runs so as to not get caught in initially slow-moving slides (they picked up speed quickly once they got started) - and later by giant pinwheels.

No, we did not do any snow tests, other than there was obviously ~6" softening snow over a firm base on the South face, and 2 or 3x more on the North faces, which had slid in some of the steepest areas. We didn't trigger anything but standard pinwheels on the Northside.

In retrospect we would have been well served by avoiding south facing slopes all together, considering the time of year and the time of day we would be descending on a South facing slope. 

Posts: 319

Re: April 8, 2012, Klahhane Ridge
« Reply #3 on: 04/18/12, 10:48 PM »

I enjoyed your TR, we ski this area frequently in the spring. Good decision to focus on the north facing slopes, these are the best lines.  Cheesy

During the initial consolidation phase, we have experienced conditions similar to what you found on that same descent route. We use the same techniques you describe to descend safely. Ski cutting each steep section and then skiing down the slide path has worked well. The terrain further to the east is a bit more gradual and has a more consistent slope angle. The drawback is once you leave the meadows and enter the trees, they are tight and the skiing is less enjoyable.

We skied the same area on Saturday. Our descent down the south slope was less hazardous due to slightly cooler temps and a marine layer which blocked much of the direct sun on this aspect. The turns were consistent creamy corn until just above the road. We did initiate some pretty good sized pin wheels on one short, steep section, but no wet slides. Amazing the difference a day makes............


There is no such thing as too much snow............... Doug Coombs
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