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| | |-+  May 23, 2002, Lake Ann, Mt. Baker backcountry
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Author Topic: May 23, 2002, Lake Ann, Mt. Baker backcountry  (Read 2014 times)
Charles
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May 23, 2002, Lake Ann, Mt. Baker backcountry
« on: 09/09/02, 06:15 PM »

Theme of the day: "wet loose avalanche". The forecast got downgraded from mostly sunny to mostly cloudy, which turned out to be accurate and probably a good thing, because the slopes were pretty mushy without a full sunny day. We triggered our first wet surface slides skiing down into the Swift Creek valley from Austin Pass, and more on steeper rolls climbing up to the saddle near Lake Ann. Fog moved in as we gained the saddle, so we skied out the ridge toward Lake Ann Butte and had lunch, then did a trial run on a short E slope leading down to Lake Ann. The surface snow (top 4") was ready to slide everywhere, and did so whenever the slope was over about 30 degrees. We then climbed up the ridge toward Shuksan Arm, stopping short of the top, and did a run back down into Swift Creek valley. Andy set off a dramatic slide which entrained a lot of snow as it ran over a couple of rolls and down onto the flats; I then skied down the cleared surface, which was drastically different - firm, fast and stable large-granular snow. On the way back along Swift Creek valley we found some better snow, so climbed up to the base of Shuksan Arm cliffs and did two short runs on it - best skiing of the day. Pushing skinned skis along the flats of Swift Creek was a drag (literally), so next time I will take my waxless skis. Surprisingly, the surface snow was just beginning to refreeze when we returned to Austin Pass, and the ski down the ski area was very nice on the fast snow.

The snowpack seemed to have very recently been through a major spring avalanche cycle, with steep rock faces of many aspects having shed their entire season's snowpack, and debris everywhere below. On one N-facing slabby cliff, snowpack glide had created a 10 ft. high, 100 ft. wide pressure ridge which was very impressive. Mt. Shuksan's west-facing cliffs were similarly shedding their snowpack and put on quite an avalanche show in the early afternoon.

There are some photos from this trip here.

Charles
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