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Author Topic: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche  (Read 3043 times)
Rowan Stewart
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December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« on: 12/10/12, 06:21 PM »

    The 4:45 wake up call on Saturday was pretty rough, but nothing a few cups of coffee and thoughts of bottomless turns couldn't cope with. My dad and I caught the 5:25 ferry off of Vashon Island, made a quick pit stop at the West Seattle Starbucks, and headed for Crystal. We stopped in greenwater for a few minutes then left for the hill. Close to the turn off of SR-410 to Crystal, we saw and Cadillac in the ditch and the car in front of us spin a 180, so we pulled over to chain up our front wheel drive vehicle only to encounter pavement the whole way up to the parking lot. I had to stop in the Crystal ski shop to get a spare screw for my splitboard, and wound up getting my boots refitted as well. All of these little delays cost us a few hours, and it was approaching 10 by the time we started skinning up the cat track towards the bullion basin skin track.
    There had already been quite a few people up before us, and the track was well beaten, making for quick travel. We were at the bullion basin saddle ( I believe that is what it is called) and I was a little apprehensive about dropping off the other side into union creek, as I had never skied there before, when a big group of skiers and splitboarders came down the ridge whooping and yahooing. I started talking with them about skiing the trees below us, and they were already planning on it. Jay, Scott (stouky?), Brian, Ben, and sorry i don't remember the rest of your names, introduced themselves while we switched over. The turns were epic. Knee deep dry powder and perfectly spaced trees and glades. We all stopped about half way down at a rollover in the slope. Jay gingerly skied it first, and the rest of us followed, with no signs of instability besides a little sluffing. While skinning back up (thanks for breaking trail Jay), the slope showed itself to be less stable than we had thought. there was a hard crust about 18 inches down, and the new snow was slabbing off at our switchbacks, but showed no signs of propagating. At the top it was decided that we should stop at the rollover, and just lap the top half of the slope. No complaints. After the second lap My dad's old legs were feeling the vertical so he traversed back across bullion basin, and skied out the skin track to the bullwheel.
    On our third lap, Jay Brian and I rode through trees to skiers left of the first two runs we had taken, and down to the same elevation as the first run. We quickly switched over and began traversing over to the skin track. I noticed a small crown line above us in a glade, and we skinned through the debris of the small slide. noted. We then came to the foot of a larger glade. At the top of this maybe 100m clearing in the trees was the most pronounced part of the convexity in that slope. Scott appeared at the top and yelled down to us. Jay said to wait for him and I to get clear of the fall line, and brian waited on the other side of the glade. As soon as Scott jumped into the slope, it fractured all around him, and drug him down. He narrowly escaped getting tangled in a patch of trees in the middle of the slope, but lost a ski there. the slide ran into the trees below us, and Scott was miraculously on top top the snow. The first ski was found at the top of the slope in the trees, and the second Jay found by luck near the bottom of the slide. The crown line was approximately 50 feet wide, ranging in depth from about a foot to 18 inches. The slab ran somewhere between 200 and 300 feet. It was a Q1 shear; the bed surface was a hard crust that was present on all aspects, but in varying depths. I don't have any pictures of the slide but Scott does, and those should be posted sometime soon.
    The ski out was fun. We managed to squeeze in a few more slashes and faceshots on the way back down the skin track, then it was off to the Naches Tavern for my routine post shred bacon cheesburger. Thanks Scott brian jay etc... for the company out there. It was awesome.

photos;



« Last Edit: 12/10/12, 06:43 PM by Rowan Stewart » Logged

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Scotsman
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #1 on: 12/10/12, 08:40 PM »

Glad you are OK and had a great day with your Dad.

That slope is very avy prone and has killed at least 3 people and requires careful assessment as to stability.

A bit more spacing between people in the skintrack in that area would be something I'd think about.

Thanks for the report. If you can survive a Naches  bacon cheesburger...you can survive anything!
« Last Edit: 12/10/12, 08:45 PM by Scotsman » Logged

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JCK
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #2 on: 12/11/12, 11:22 AM »

Thanks for posting about your trip.  That is a slope that I enjoy and I would have liked to have been there on Saturday.  I'd be interest in hearing more about what happened---and am curious as to details for the "second Jay being discovered by luck", etc.

Glad you all are unscathed!
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ra33it
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #3 on: 12/11/12, 03:36 PM »

Exactly one week earlier this very same slope was being buffetted by 70mph gusts and a  very windy continuous 40mph breeze. We saw a ton of transport and in that area deposition of 6" of wind slab on a hard  crust that was not well bonded and pretty reactive. It went in my blue book as "hmmmm...". Seems it hasn't gone anywhere, and started to have more consequence with additional depth.
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Rowan Stewart
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #4 on: 12/11/12, 04:31 PM »

Thanks for posting about your trip.  That is a slope that I enjoy and I would have liked to have been there on Saturday.  I'd be interest in hearing more about what happened---and am curious as to details for the "second Jay being discovered by luck", etc.

Glad you all are unscathed!

Thanks, and sorry about the awkward phrasing there - should done an proof read. We had been probing the debris, searching for the lost ski with no luck for about 20 minutes, when jay hit something solid with his shovel. It turned out to be scott's ski!
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sprice
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #5 on: 12/11/12, 07:59 PM »

We were worried about that likely loading and choose to stay on the bullion basin side of the gap and ski the more wind facing face and rib above the lake. We dug a pit and did some low exposure runs first.

I know someone who was fully buried 25 years ago on the union creek side on a slope that had been skied right before by others.
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Don Heath
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #6 on: 12/11/12, 08:41 PM »

Stugie?  Close call, buddy!  Glad you guys had a good time, and thankful for the safe outcome.
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Joedabaker
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Re: December 8th, 2012, Union creek laps and avalanche
« Reply #7 on: 12/12/12, 10:51 AM »

Agreed with Scotsman..
Seen lots of crazy stuff happen in there over the years.
Since your shorts were probably already filled after watching Scott's run. Probably don't need reminding that The slopes are rather inviting, but are filled with a plethora of problems for the unknowing. 1st being a terrain trap once you are in, there are very limited options to get out without exposure issues. Secondly that face gets a little bit more sun exposure and cross loading. For me there have to be a lot of green lights before I delight in the powder in Union Creek.
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