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Author Topic: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass  (Read 3243 times)
Charlie Hagedorn
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February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« on: 02/22/14, 06:51 PM »

With all the new snow, Susan and I headed for the familiar, where we knew we could manage terrain. We've been hewing close to the idea of having a run list, and explicitly ruling out ski routes before we leave the trailhead, an idea that worked well today. Intuitive approaches to the snowpack would have had us (me in particular) bumping up risk exposure as we got reassurances from the snow that things were more stable than expected. Prior agreement makes toeing the safety line effortless and fun, and we live to ski another day.

We brought the fattest skis, anticipating deep trailbreaking and excellent skiing, and were surprised to find that we didn't encounter snow deeper than boot-top. Much of the trip from pass level to 5k+ was more like running-shoe top in ski penetration. Pole penetration, with a shove, was more than a meter in many places.

We were curious about the deeper snowpack structure, so we dug a pair of pits in open mellow terrain at ~4700'. We found a 1" layer of pencil/1F snow ~3-6" down (limiting ski penetration) sitting atop more than a meter of 1-4F snow, remarkable for its lack of features, just increasing density with depth and fairly consolidated, easily quarried in blocks. 120-130 cm down, there was a 1/2" pencil-hard icy crust, with more 1F snow below, no obvious faceting at the crust. Susan's probe hit something solid at 220 cm, presumably the expected burly old snow.  Informal testing did not betray any weak bond to the 130 cm crust, but a fracture at that depth, with such uniform and consolidated snow, would be bad news.

Ridgetop cornices are about as big as I've seen, and aren't quite the usual shapes (tall, rather than long and cantilevered), plenty of evidence of west-wind action along the ridgetop too. Settlement cones around trees are the biggest I've seen, with well-formed cones, and a 3-6" crack all the way around. I guess there's been more than a foot of settlement at 5k. Evidence of downhill creep is prominent on slopes over 10 degrees, with a 4"-wide meter+ deep, hole downslope of branch-free trees.

Sticking with our plan, we skied slopes below 30 degrees in true meadow-skipping fashion. Today's inch or two of light snow was light and fluffy, and billowed a bit as we skied. Good skiing at all elevations, with a little bit of a crunchy crust under the new at pass level. Aspects traveled covered only NW-SW.  Everyone we met, friends old and new, stuck to conservative lines today.


* SusanMakesMellowTurns.jpg (188.89 KB, 800x470 - viewed 1088 times.)
« Last Edit: 02/22/14, 07:32 PM by Charlie Hagedorn » Logged

kamtron
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #1 on: 02/22/14, 07:37 PM »

We toured through the Kendall lakes and can echo your observations. Topped out on the ridge to check out the chutes, but we weren't going down them today. On our second lap form lake 3, we spotted 1 or 2 people above us on the ridge, who must have climbed the steep, open south-facing slopes to get there. I think they skied down those, too, because we saw no sign of them.

Otherwise, not a soul around, although we did find a bunch more tracks on our exit.
« Last Edit: 02/22/14, 07:57 PM by kamtron » Logged
Jim Oker
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #2 on: 02/22/14, 10:44 PM »

Nice running into you guys, and the other crew. Kind of a festive ridge-top gathering. Turns out I've skied with everyone who was up there in one place or another. We also chose very mellow glade-and-meadow lines. The snow skied fast enough that this was still good clean fun. Breaking trail felt a little more tiring than the depth of ski penetration would seem to indicate - it was kind of funky how I'd sink down into the somewhat stiff upper layers. Still, easier breaking than many powder days. We have good snow depth now too!






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bfree32
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #3 on: 02/22/14, 10:52 PM »

Nothing wrong with being on the safe side of course, but we found similar pit results to yours (5ft of consistent dense snow, zero CT results and picked the whole isolated column up as a single block) and were therefore comfortable moving up onto steeper and more open slopes. Agreed about the surprising density and lower ski penetration only a couple days after the storm cycle.
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RonL
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #4 on: 02/23/14, 03:48 AM »

Wow how far down did those pits go? Did the one in the picture get reach the pre storm layer?
I am just curious and have been relying on pole tests and low angles myself.
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Jim Oker
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #5 on: 02/23/14, 08:20 AM »

I believe he was standing on the pre-storm(s) layer or thereabouts in that photo. Definitely made one think about the fact that IF a slide started, how big it could be (along with pondering spatial variation and the relevance of any one or two pits to one's decision-making for the day...). The snowpack struck our group as being fairly unusual - not a pattern that we'd seen often enough for us to feel great confidence in "green light" type indicators. Fortunately, the consequence of conservative choices yesterday was VERY fun skiing and not figure 11s down our skin track.
« Last Edit: 02/23/14, 08:39 AM by Jim Oker » Logged
Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #6 on: 02/23/14, 09:05 AM »

I don't think I was standing on the pre-storm layer. The bottom of that pit was ~150 cm down, with a thin icy crust 120 cm down. Our best guess was that the pre-storm level was the  impenetrable snow Susan found with a probe at 220 cm. There's a lot of new snow.
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RonL
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #7 on: 02/23/14, 10:07 AM »

Thanks and that all makes sense. I did a dawn patrol with another 4-6 on top of what you all described well which would put it 100 inches or so down there.

I am not as good at math as some but I have a correlation I am working on that goes something along the lines of skiing in trees the same age as me plus the the Avvy rating and new snow total.
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mattd
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Re: February 22, 2014, Snoqualmie Pass
« Reply #8 on: 02/23/14, 09:48 PM »

We had a great ski through the woods, up high below the false summit was icy and windblown though. We were a bit west of the other two groups, and the skiing in the trees and glades was fun.

It was great to see you again Jim, it has been many years since we skied together with Charles. Perhaps we'll do so again.

And it was great to meet you Charlie, you and Susan were fast on the FS road while skating!  Even with the new fishscale skis I had you still beat me. (Does this mean I'm getting old...errr....older?)

Matt
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