December 2

Location:

Started at Spruces campground ascending to the top of Reynolds. A short traverse to the east, a few cornice kicks and collapse with stress fractures and shooting cracks, prior to the descent to the flats.

Ascended and traversed to the west descending the north facing in Big Water. A snow pit on the up 8500' and north facing indicated 8 or so of damp faceted a one fingered slab and several days of new snow layering.

Ascended and traversed over to Soldier for a descent of the north facing, not off the top, but traversed west a few turns descent traverse etc to the bottom. Ascended to the east, then onto the track with a short climb of the secondary for a descent into the Wilson chutes drainage and exit to the Millcreek road.

Weather:

We had a period of dense, wet and heavy snowfall, lightening, cooling and tapering off for a period of clearing then some mid elevation clouds keeping visibility poor late in the day.

Snow:

6-8 of new snow heavy then lighter during the early portion of the day. This snow was producing a bit of surface sluffing but was fairly well bonded to the underlying snow. We had widespread and fairly frequent collapses throughout the day, both on the ridges and down in the valleys. The above linked snow pit photo illustrates the problem with the lower layer faceting and slab above. No natural or human triggered slides were observed.

Bottom Line:

Potential remains for avalanching in faceted snow layering. Would expect this to increase somewhat with the predicted continued snowfall. My guess would be a healing from any extended period without snowfall and with cooler temperatures to seize up the layers.


December 3

Location:

Starting at the lower parking for Solitude and ascended to Mill F east fork road then the common route to Willow and West Monitor bowl. Descent was Wills hill northwest facing continuing through the flats to the top of the first gully. Ascended the west Willow ridge to the top of the high cone on Dutches. Traversed east down the ridge to Owen's line and descended to the flats. Ascended the same path traversed back to the top of Dutches and descended northwest facing Beartrap continuing out Beartrap.

Weather:

Snow all day heavy at times. Windy along the ridges from the west speeds about 10-20 mph.

Snow:

I'm guessing another 6-8 during the day of a lighter density. There is some soft slab buildup along the ridges and some good sized cornices for kicking but the results were sluffing and cornices rolling down the hill. Could see some natural activity of this sort in West Monitor, with the extent unknown because of the poor visibility.

Snow pit in Dutches at about the 9500 foot elevation north facing revealed around 60 inches total snow pack. 16 inches new over some settled snow over the dense snow of around 18-24 inches over a foot or so of faceted to some degree. The facets were damp and did not produce shears. Easy shearing within the new snow on a density inversion. Moderate at the interface with the slabby snow.

Bottom Line:

I had no collapsing and cracking was limited today. Cooler temperatures and light density snow falling without strong winds seem to have eased instabilities from yesterday, however continued snowfall, poor visibility, and some wind would make this perception suspect. I would expect some hazard from both new snow windload and density changes and from deeper releases with continued loading of the buried faceted snow.


 

December 4

Location:

Started at the end of the road at Alta following the summer road for a short distance then ascending to the east past the summer homes into Grizzly Gulch, continuing up the sub ridge and traversing over to the east pass of Silver Fork. Descent to the lower bench continuing down to the main gully. We crossed the gully and ascended to the flats then up the shoulder of the west bowl of Silver to the summit. Descended to the flats.

Ascended the same trail cutting off traversing to the north and followed the ridge north to the Meadow chutes. Descended the furthest south skied chute into Silver fork and continued out to the Silver fork lodge.

Weather:

There were instability showers into the afternoon with accumulations of several inches. The winds continued from the west gusting into the 20mph range along the ridges. Partial clearing and decreasing winds as the day progressed.

Snow:

Strong overnight winds and higher density snow eliminated most of yesterday's light density face shot powder, replaced with inverted layering in the upper snow. Trail breaking was more difficult with wider skis a better option for descent. I had no collapsing and cracking only along the ridges.

A snow pit mid slope on the west bowl of Silver revealed 60 of snow with about 2' new and partially settled over the older slab over the old and now refrozen faceted snow layering. There were a couple of shears within the newer snow and on lower at a crust facet interface within the slabby snow. No shears at the lowest faceted layering.

Bottom Line:

The snow was stable in areas traveled but, because of the amount of new snow, recent avalanche activity, strong winds etc, conservative route finding was the rule. I'd expect to see a bit more human triggered activity, with teasing, and with clearing, some natural activity. I'd hope settlement with clearing would stabilize the snow pack within a short period

 

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