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| |-+  July-August 2003 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
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Author Topic: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge  (Read 5184 times)
markharf
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Posts: 622


August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« on: 08/03/03, 03:06 PM »

I ventured up to Heliotrope Ridge this morning, scouting crevasses and suncups for a group of teenagers I'm taking up there next weekend. I brought skis, of course; otherwise, what's the point?

Trying to get a sense of how fast the group of us might move, I walked slowly, stopped a lot, spoke at length to everyone I met, adjusted clothing and gear almost constantly, and in other ways tried to duplicate the infuriatingly slow pace of a large, heterogeneous group of novices. I even spent considerable time wandering here and there on the glacier itself, peering into crevasses, measuring snowdepths and making bad routefinding decisions. The trip took five hours and 45 minutes altogether, which must be a near-record for a tour which totaled just 3650 vertical feet and didn't even include a lunch stop.

Our annual, totally unprecedented, record-breaking drought and heat wave has been melting snow at a ferocious rate, uncovering old nevé and dirty glacial ice and, unfortunately, crevasses by the dozens. The Heliotrope lobe of the Coleman Glacier is downwasting fast, with cracks showing in all sorts of unexpected locations and weird orientations. As far as I can tell, the ice here is perilously thin, and the odd distribution of crevasses is related to otherwise-insignificant bumps and bulges in its underlying bed surface. In another decade or two, there may be only bits of remnant ice remaining on the hillside which currently looms over the tent city which appears every weekend at 6000 feet. Down in the main trough both the Coleman and the Roosevelt have retreated noticeably even within the past couple of years. We'll all grow doddering and old, telling our disbelieving grandchildren how we used to ski up here in August every year, just as my own grandmother used to describe the neighbor's farm-fresh eggs...in the untrammeled countryside which was the north Bronx in the early 1900's.  

On the other hand, the skiing was pretty good, for those not unduly bothered by the feeling of chattering across firm suncups (I had business back in town, and didn't stay long enough for these to soften properly). From above 7000 feet to just below the toe of the glacier there is still a perfectly reasonable run of about 1400 feet, with mostly minimal runneling and only small (e.g., 4 inch deep) suncups. In fact, I think the snow might have been superior to that which we encountered in the same area a month and a half ago, had I waited for it to soften further. Ema's photo in her report from Coleman Pinnacle a few days ago shows similar conditions.

The views, I almost need not point out, are great; across the Fraser Valley and up into the Coast Range; over the Sisters to saltwater and the  endless array of islands; up close to the Coleman Headwall and the Thunder Glacier tumbling spectacularly off the Black Buttes. The bugs weren't too bad either (especially compared to last weekend's fly-fest on Skyline Divide); before the sun got strong, the catabatic breeze rolling down off the glaciers kept them at bay, while upslope winds began to pick up by late morning (possibly in service to the thunderheads which were beginning to build). Overall, a very worthy half-day, mid-summer tour, just an hour's drive from home.  

Enjoy,

Mark



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Jim Oker
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Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #1 on: 08/04/03, 05:45 PM »

5:45 for 3650 with a crowd of teenagers sounds fast to me - heck, that's not too bad for some old farts either...
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Jeff Huber
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Posts: 771


Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #2 on: 08/05/03, 11:13 AM »

Mark:

Excellent tr.

One question:
Being the young, skeptical, not-smart gaper that I am, I am curious as to the factual basis supporting your statement, "Our annual, totally unprecedented, record-breaking drought and heat wave has been melting snow at a ferocious rate".

My understanding from Amar Andalkar's 2002-2003 Cascade Snowfall and Snowpack summary was that as of May 1st Mt. Baker had 100% average snowdepth:
http://www.skimountaineer.com/CascadeSki/CascadeSnow2003.html

I know it has been hot the past week, but do you have data to support the summer has been significantly hotter/drier then average? I frequently (maybe incorrectly?) observe that nostalgia seems to instigate distorted perception. Particularly mid-winter nostalgia.  Smiley

Gaper Jeffy
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ron j
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Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #3 on: 08/05/03, 11:31 AM »

Yeah.
Right On!
What about that, Mark?
Grin
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
ski_photomatt
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Posts: 361


Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #4 on: 08/05/03, 11:45 AM »

Selected climo data: (more here and many other places I'm sure if you look)

In short, both June and July were warmer and much drier than average.  I remember hearing that the dry spell we had was one of the longest recorded.


JUNE CLIMATOLOGICAL REPORT FOR SEA-TAC AIRPORT NATIONAL WEATHER
SERVICE SEATTLE WA
230 AM PST TUE JUL 1 2003

TEMPERATURE DATA......
                            (DEGREES F)
AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURE.... 62.8  DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL... 2.1  
AVERAGE MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE.... 72.4
AVERAGE MINIMUM TEMPERATURE.... 53.2
HIGHEST TEMPERATURE WAS 90 ON DAY 6,7    
LOWEST TEMPERATURE WAS 48 ON DAY 21,22      

PRECIPITATION DATA......
TOTAL FOR THE MONTH......   0.51   DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL...   -0.98
TOTAL SINCE JANUARY 1....  20.65   DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL....   1.74
GREATEST 24 HOUR RAINFALL WAS 0.22 INCHES ON DAY 21.      

..NUMBER OF DAYS..
WITH  .01 INCHES OR MORE....7      HIGHS 32 DEGREES OR COLDER....0
WITH  .10 INCHES OR MORE....2      HIGHS 90 DEGREES OR WARMER....2
WITH  .50 INCHES OR MORE....0      LOWS  32 DEGREES OR COLDER....0
WITH 1.00 INCHES OR MORE....0      LOWS   0 DEGREES OR COLDER....0

RECORDS...
MAXIMUM HIGH OF 90 DEGREES ON THE 6TH AND 7TH.

-----------------------------


JULY CLIMATOLOGICAL REPORT FOR SEA-TAC AIRPORT NATIONAL WEATHER
SERVICE SEATTLE WA
230 AM PST TUE AUG 1 2003

TEMPERATURE DATA......
                            (DEGREES F)
AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURE.... 67.9  DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL... 2.6  
AVERAGE MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE.... 79.0
AVERAGE MINIMUM TEMPERATURE.... 56.7
HIGHEST TEMPERATURE WAS 92 ON DAY 30      
LOWEST TEMPERATURE WAS 50 ON DAY 3          

PRECIPITATION DATA......
TOTAL FOR THE MONTH......   0.06   DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL...    -1.4
TOTAL SINCE JANUARY 1....  20.71   DEPARTURE FROM NORMAL....   1.01
GREATEST 24 HOUR RAINFALL WAS 0.04 INCHES ON DAY 14.      

..NUMBER OF DAYS..
WITH  .01 INCHES OR MORE....2      HIGHS 32 DEGREES OR COLDER....0
WITH  .10 INCHES OR MORE....0      HIGHS 90 DEGREES OR WARMER....2
WITH  .50 INCHES OR MORE....0      LOWS  32 DEGREES OR COLDER....0
WITH 1.00 INCHES OR MORE....0      LOWS   0 DEGREES OR COLDER....0

RECORDS...
MAXIMUM MINIMUM OF 63 DEGREES ON THE 30TH.

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markharf
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Posts: 622


Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #5 on: 08/05/03, 12:05 PM »

Ok Jeff, I'm trying to evade various pressing responsibilities at the moment, so let's deconstruct that sentence:

"Totally unprecedented" is a deliberate exaggeration for (presumed) effect.

"Record-breaking" is loosely based on the recent spate of newspaper articles featuring quotes from various experts: "Never saw it this bad before...." etc. etc. etc.

"melting snow at a ferocious rate" is a direct observation.

And "annual" is intended to convey that we read similar quotes every year around this time.  Another year, another totally unprecedented drought.  Must be August again.  This is my way of agreeing with your statement about the relationship between feelings of notalgia and distortions of memory.  

Enjoy,

Mark

FWIW, snowfall at Baker was around average, but snowfall elsewhere in the North Cascades was less than usual.  The summer has been unusually, but not unprecedentedly, hot and dry.  

Edit to add:  Ok, Ron's off the VIP list.  Photo-Matt's welcome anytime.

« Last Edit: 08/05/03, 12:09 PM by markharf » Logged
ron j
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Posts: 2602


Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #6 on: 08/07/03, 02:44 AM »

Aww... c'mon, Mark.  Not THAT.
Yer not punchin' my VIP ticket again, are ya?
Cheesy
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
Jeff Huber
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Posts: 771


Re: August 3, 2003, Heliotrope Ridge
« Reply #7 on: 08/07/03, 01:28 PM »

Mark: I'm sure you understand my comments were completely tongue-in-cheek. Keep up the great, colorful TRs!

Gaper Jeffy
whose tongue is permanently stuck in cheek
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