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NWAC Avalanche
+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2012 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  November 2012 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  11/24/12 Washington Pass
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Author Topic: 11/24/12 Washington Pass  (Read 2896 times)

Posts: 131

11/24/12 Washington Pass
« on: 11/25/12, 06:14 PM »

We found good ski quality around Washington Pass on Saturday.  Ski penetration was in the 20 to 30 cm range.  Average snow depth in the Hairpin Valley (6,000') was 120 cms.  Coverage is very good considering this was basically one big storm.  We found good stability but observed signs of very recent avalanches up to size 2.5 or 3 running on Friday the 23rd.  A test profile on an east aspect at approximately 6,700' revealed a few storm shears in the upper 50 cms but the quality of the shears were unremarkable.   

Word on the street is there were several close calls on Friday during the heavy snowfall.  Snowmobiling to the hairpin is pretty straightforward right now but the debris piles beyond the hairpin are pretty serious.  Only solid snowmobiling skills and a real snowmobile are going to get you past that section. 

Posts: 70

Re: 11/24/12 Washington Pass
« Reply #1 on: 11/26/12, 09:20 PM »

Team of seven retrieved one totally buried and one partially buried snowmobile today from Liberty Bell 2 & 3.  Both machines started and were driven away!  LB 1 & 2 easy to get over, 3 not so bad but big hole left that can be avoided. 
Individuals involved are physically fine and recovering from PTSD.  "He who crawls over avalanches"* even got to make some fine turns today!
Lessons learned?
-With new snow dumping, riding under these chutes is very risky!
Especially so if yours is the first group through and you are               
breaking trail.  You auger in and immediately you are in big
-Good spacing and guarding is really essential.  Avalanche cones
should be taken one at a time.  In any hazardous conditions this
means with the whole group, stopping between paths.  If conditions are hazardous, there should be a packed trail platform under the new snow or turn back!    In this incident two fully separate chutes ran at the same time.  (Along with other nearby slopes)  Keep in mind that you won't be able see each other on opposite sides of the cones so you may not
know that your buddy has augered in!
-Early season conditions contributed because of lack of options for
accessing slopes.  Always be wary when circumstances start
forcing you to go where you wouldn't normally.  Turn back!

Conditions have stabilized with cold weather, skied Hidden and Pika bowls out of hairpin last two days.  There is a shear layer within the new snow and hoar frost on the surface tho so watch it with the next snow.

"Slow down!  Let ME break trail!  Save the turns and the steep stuff for the way down.  We'll get there sooner,  ski all day and you'll still be able to stand up after dinner tonight!"  The Trail Nazi

Posts: 270

Re: 11/24/12 Washington Pass
« Reply #2 on: 11/26/12, 11:17 PM »

Wow, scary!  I've broken trail over those avy cones a few times. Never got stuck in the process, but it definitely made me nervous.  Thanks to the OP for sharing the info.  Can't wait to get out there later this season.
Heli-Free North Cascades

Posts: 613

Re: 11/24/12 Washington Pass
« Reply #3 on: 11/27/12, 02:55 PM »

One close call I heard about that happened on Friday (11-23) was the following. Two BC skiers got their snow- machines stuck, almost simultaneously, in Liberty Bell Slide Path #2 and #3 cones, while the tow behind skier was skinning behind them in order to cross the slide cones.

Due to early season low snow cover conditions, they were on the way to ski Portly Basin, which starts near 5400 feet.. It was snowing, there was about ten inches of new snow on the road, the snowmobile trail breaking was difficult and visibility was poor.† †

The skier in path #3 immediately realized he was in a bad spot, got off his machine, looked up the slide path and saw a wall of snow heading his way, and ran and jumped off the cone to a safe spot. The avalanche buried his machine, with all his gear, including his shovel.

Meanwhile, the skier in path #2 was hit by a smaller† portion of the same avalanche ( an avalanche from the face way above can slit into all three slide paths) and it flipped his machine upside down. He was able to self extricate from the debris.† (This skier was the same skier that was hosed from above while following a skin track on Dec, 28, 2008,† when a group of guides triggered an avalanche above him and then helped him get out on one ski, see BC6).

The skinning skier was near path #1 when a small portion of the same slide came down in front of him.

The decision† was made to leave the machines and not risk another hang fire or re-load slide and come back up when conditions were stable to dig out the machines. They proceeded to† ski (1), ski (2)and walk(3 gear buried) back down HWY 20 where after four miles, were met by a group of local snowmobile riders for a friendly lift out.

Yesterday (11-26)as reported above, a group of BC skiers and local snowmobile riders went back up and dug both machines out, following safety protocols with two posted lookouts in† two different locations, radio and whistle contact with the probing/digging party. .† The machine in Path #3 was buried under five and one half feet of snow and was about 25 or so feet down slope from its original position when hit. With the help of the local snowmobile mechanic on site, both machines started.

The cool thing about this story, besides the fact that no one was injured, is that of our local snowmobile riders who are always willing to help out in any way they can.† Those guys have an amazing amount of riding skills and make the balance required to negotiate difficult terrain and deep snow, look easy. People who do not understand the sport cannot understand why these guys like to high mark up into the high alpine zones. The reason is the same as why we ski there, its fun (risk vs. reward) and itís their passion.

Having been snow machine stuck in these same active slide paths in the past, along with a† friend of mine (guides big mountains), I can tell you itís no fun. We decided to take the risk and do the digging and we were lucky we did not have to try and† dodge massive amounts of snow heading our way. The paths had all slid right before we arrived to cross them. The tendency, upon safe return home after dodging a bullet, is to want to drink massive amounts of whiskey, learn from mistakes and be thankful for life.

The skier in path #3, often breaks trail in deep new snow conditions, with his snowmobile and while ski climbing up in the HWY 20 corridor and everyone who follows, greatly benefits from his trail breaking skill, including commercially guided groups, who have been following his (and others) trails for years around these parts.

After the dig out, three out of the seven continued the day by skiing Pica Bowl in wind effected powder.

BC skier luck continues to hold on in this area. I am amazed that, over the years we have had many skier triggered avalanches, machines stuck in† active slide paths, skiers hit from above by naturals or skier triggers, and even two fully loaded skier helicopter crashes and yet, thank goodness, no avalanche accident or crash related fatalities among BC skiers.

Sadly though, we have lost several snowmobile riders in avalanche accidents.

A friend of mine who guides for the heli once told me a long time ago, that you canít depend upon luck forever to guide you safety through the mountains.

Once an accident occurs however, chance mostly determines the outcome.

* path_cones_along_HWY_20__1.jpg (144.94 KB, 510x334 - viewed 1021 times.)

* pica_peak.jpg (149.98 KB, 543x351 - viewed 1016 times.)
« Last Edit: 11/27/12, 03:25 PM by freeskiguy » Logged

two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege, it will always be at the expense of truth and justice
C Hedges
T. Eastman

Posts: 440

Re: 11/24/12 Washington Pass
« Reply #4 on: 11/27/12, 04:26 PM »

Nice clinical description, but why no names???

Inquiring minds want to know...


Posts: 43

Re: 11/24/12 Washington Pass
« Reply #5 on: 11/27/12, 06:32 PM »

Liberty Bell slides 2 & 3, notice Wolverine trappers digging across slide.

* LB_2__3.jpg (142.44 KB, 800x600 - viewed 947 times.)
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