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11/20/17, 11:15 AM

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Author Topic: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte  (Read 1866 times)
pabloson
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January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« on: 01/18/17, 01:30 PM »

I made another trip on this beautiful butte in my backyard after the most recent storm which dropped about a foot of medium light snow. 

Way less wind affected than usual.  Much better coverage.  No ground hazards to speak of (rocks, bushes, etc).

Good powder on all aspects.  The picture shows the Columbia Hills from near the top.  Stacker Butte tops out at 3000'.  "Trailhead" is about 1500'. 

I'm confused about Avy risk in this terrain.  I mean when I dig and probe, I usually go through to ground which is very grassy.  I'm assuming the grass is a good anchor, but don't have much experience analyzing these shallow snowpacks.  Therefore we skied on slopes less than 25 degrees.  There are some big cornices and pillows.  I just stay away.



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kamtron
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #1 on: 01/18/17, 02:07 PM »

I'm confused about Avy risk in this terrain.  I mean when I dig and probe, I usually go through to ground which is very grassy.  I'm assuming the grass is a good anchor, but don't have much experience analyzing these shallow snowpacks.  Therefore we skied on slopes less than 25 degrees.  There are some big cornices and pillows.  I just stay away.

A grassy slope would be a bad anchor. Slides to the ground are a possibility
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natefred
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #2 on: 01/18/17, 02:47 PM »

What kamtron said. Grassy slope does not provide anchor, often the opposite. Observationally, it also seems pretty common for facets to persist in and around grass.
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pabloson
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #3 on: 01/18/17, 03:15 PM »

Thanks guys. 

Grass is a bad anchor - even if it is tall bunch grasses (very common here) and large wildflower remnants?  I thought it might act like a webbing through the snow.
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natefred
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #4 on: 01/18/17, 03:50 PM »

The grass I'm imagining would lay down under the weight of the snow and has blades which provide a bed surface and would be extremely slippery with a thin layer of weak snow or facets over them. I suppose there are all sorts of grass and some varieties clumpier and stronger than others. We've got some Karl Foerster in the yard that's pretty sturdy.

Got a picture of what the butte looks like late fall before first snow? I'm having a tough time picturing large wildflower remnants, do you mean scotch broom?

Sure, if the vegetation doesn't lay over and provide a slippery bed surface + surfaces & pockets for facets, it might provide anchoring instead. In any event, I'm no expert on the subject. But I have seen slopes slide to grass early season due to a weak layer of facets on the blades (can't say whether they were buried frost or matured after snowfall). Sounds like you have a pretty shallow snowpack so I'd keep an eye on air temperatures and contemplate the possibility of facets on the vegetation. It would be interesting to dig down during a cold snap. Also if clumps are spaced out slab can just break up around them if there is a bed surface between clumps to slide on, just like in the trees.

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pabloson
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #5 on: 01/18/17, 04:10 PM »

Examples are: balsam root, lupine, and big bunch grasses and super sturdy non-bunch grasses like Rye.  These plants are TOUGH in order to withstand the local windy climate. 

Here's some pix.  In the first, before the latest storm you can get an idea of how stiff the grasses and plants are by how thick they look.

In the second picture, after the latest storm, you can see how they are still sticking up through the surface - probably two feet of snow here.

Even so, I'm getting the impression I should not count on them being a good anchor. 


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runcle
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #6 on: 01/18/17, 04:34 PM »

Thanks for the post! It's rare to hear from folks down your way. I was wondering, is there normally enough snow for turns on the Butte? When I was much younger I would ski Steptoe Butte and Kamiack Butte near Pullman. I love skiing in those wide open spaces in the high desert.  It will be glorious when it clears off!
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pabloson
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #7 on: 01/18/17, 05:01 PM »

Runcle,

Yes, the wide open spaces are wonderful aren't they? 

I wouldn't say Stacker Butte is normally skiable.  It kind of goes in cycles with La Nina and El Nino.  If I had to guess I would say it is good skiing about half the time.   

This year is really exceptional!  I don't think the low altitude snowpack is going anywhere for a while. 

Unfortunately now there is a very scary 1/2 thick layer of ice from last night's ice storm.
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natefred
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #8 on: 01/18/17, 05:18 PM »

Picturesque looking terrain in the 2nd pic in your original post, fun that you get to ski it now and then! Sort of looks like it could be someplace in Japan or Australia in that pic. Glad you only got 1/2" of ice, I heard you might get up to 1-1/2" on the radio yesterday! Do you think you could ice skate on it?
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tabski
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #9 on: 01/18/17, 05:28 PM »

Cool report!

Also remember that the entire snowpack is undergoing "glide" as it constantly moves downhill, probably laying the grass layers down flatter that when they were weighted by snow in the first place.
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pabloson
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #10 on: 01/18/17, 05:48 PM »

PGlad you only got 1/2" of ice, I heard you might get up to 1-1/2" on the radio yesterday! Do you think you could ice skate on it?

Nope.  It collapses into the snow below.  I'm sure you could ice skate on the roads though!   Smiley
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pabloson
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #11 on: 01/18/17, 05:49 PM »

Cool report!

Also remember that the entire snowpack is undergoing "glide" as it constantly moves downhill, probably laying the grass layers down flatter that when they were weighted by snow in the first place.

Great tip, thanks!
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aaron_wright
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #12 on: 01/19/17, 06:20 AM »

A few years back, a guy was partially buried when he triggered and avalanche while skiing in our shrub-steppe foothills in Wenatchee. The ground cover was bunch grass and balsam root remnants.
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Chamois
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #13 on: 01/19/17, 12:34 PM »

Very good.  This might be the first report I've seen with a cattle gate in it!!
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pinnatifid
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Re: JStacker Butte and Tom McCall Point
« Reply #14 on: 01/19/17, 03:00 PM »

I was inspired by your earlier trip report for Stacker Butte, I thought about heading there on Monday (1/16), but time was limited so instead we decided to try Tom McCall Point. We parked near the Rowena Crest Viewpoint (700' elev.), skinned up close to the normal trail  up the ridge then on the new trail to the top at 1700'.  Most of the way the snow was 16-20" deep. Top layers were very light, snow near the bottom was dense enough that we weren't hitting ground most of the time. Much of the route was flat and open or through very dense oak woodland, but there were a couple of steep open slopes that gave me pause regarding their potential to slide, and we were cautious on the one we decided to traverse. Glad you brought the topic up. The ski down the north slope was short but a lot of fun, with amazingly light powder.  Also, raptors were terrific, including 7 bald eagles, 2 golden eagles, a merlin, and a prairie falcon. They love the updrafts on this ridge!
Cheers
John
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pabloson
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Re: January 15th, 2017 Stacker Butte
« Reply #15 on: 01/20/17, 06:22 PM »

That's awesome John!  I've been eyeballing Tom McCall from the Lyle side and thought it looked worthwhile.  That's some amazing bird watching too. 
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