Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Castle Snow Pit and a big temperature gradient!

Howdy Everyone!

This week's snow pit was dug in the Tatoosh Range on the east side of The Castle. General observations: 10 cm of great powder on top of a hard, multi-layered, 10 cm crust. As you can see from the graph there are two thin ice layers with softer snow beneath both. The layer of most concern is between 17 and 20 cm deep. Small faceted crystals (i.e., angular crystals) were observed in this layer, which can be expected due to the large temperature gradient in the top part of the snow pack. (Any time the temperature gradient exceeds 1oC over 10cm, the potential exists for faceting.)

Stability tests did not show any propagation, but failures were consistent at 18 cm. The Rutschblock Test showed a failure at 10 cm (the interface between the powder and the icy crust). But I have to admit, the crust was so icy that I slipped before I could get in a good jump on the block.

In summary, the strong temperature gradient and faceted crystals are signs of instability in the snow pack. However, the near- surface crusts are very strong, and seem to be adequately supporting sun-seeking recreationists. Great skiing conditions can be found where the wind hasn't scoured off the powder. Terrain and conditions will vary, so stay alert out there! More precip is headed our way for the weekend. Get out while you can.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Route Update: Ingraham Direct

Here is a trip report and pictures from a party that climbed the Ingraham Direct route on Feb 1-2:

Climbing in a party of two, myself Joe Edmark, and my buddy Andrew Doedens. We'd been watching the weather for about a month looking for a summit window and put our climbing plans in motion when we saw our chance. Left Lynnwood for the mountain early Tuesday morning with the plan of hitting Longmire for climbing permits at 9am. We chatted with a fellow making a solo attempt of the Kautz while getting ready in the parking lot. We were a bit behind schedule but started skinning up to Camp Muir about 1130am. I was on AT gear and Andrew was carrying his climbing boots while skinning up with alpine trekkers and alpine ski gear. We carried a tent although reports said the public shelter was open. We had decided to take our time to Muir to save energy for our summit attempt and arrived at Muir about 630pm just as the sun was setting. We were met by icy and difficult skinning conditions about 1000ft below Muir which slowed us down considerably. I carried ski crampons but didn't use them (andrew had none) but it was manageable with a bit of patience and concentration. There was another party of two in the Muir shelter also planning an ascent on the ID, Harrison and his partner (don't recall his name) We cooked dinner and melted snow for water with a bit of help from our neighbors, (always bring a backup stove) thanks guys. We planned an alpine start at midnight and somehow motivated our bunkmates to start up before us. The other party left us some hot water on the stove and headed out while Andrew and I got ready and had some breakfast. We headed towards Cathedral Gap with crampons on following the other summit teams tracks about a quarter past one am. It was slow going but conditions were great and the trail was broken (thanks again guys), there were about six crevasse crossings on the whole route, easily crossed with running belays without setting any other protection. Weather was in the single digits with pretty sustained winds around 20-30mph and the sky was overcast most of the morning. Andrew started getting sick so I dug out a snow shelter at about 13,000 and he took a nap while I watched the beautiful sunrise. The other team was making their descent past our dugout as we were getting ready to continue up since Andrew was feeling better. The sun started peaking out from behind the clouds as we approached the rim. We topped out on the crater floor about 1030 am and hung out for a bit while we hydrated and fueled up for the descent. The sun really started to shine as we made our way down and we had to shed layers pretty quickly. Conditions were much looser on the way down but the snow pack was still pretty stable with minor sluffs here and there. We arrived back at Camp Muir about 230 pm. We packed up and headed to Paradise back on skis somewhere around 4pm, and were met by very difficult to ski in variable conditions. We ran out of daylight and had to stop to put headlamps back on, skins back on and figure out where we were. We had almost skiied past Paradise but were fortunate to have stopped in time and were just almost there. We packed up the rig somehow misplacing one of Andrew's plastic climbing boots and made our way down to the locked gate at Longmire. We got the combination from the hotel and fiddled with the rusted lock for a few minutes (please replace) before we got the gate open and headed back home. Awesome weather, awesome climb, awesome mountain. Looking for my next weather window! :-)



Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Route Updates for Fuhrer Finger and Kautz Headwall

Howdy Everybody!

We just had two parties return from a great day of climbing and skiing in the sunshine on Wednesday, February 2nd.

The first party was attempting to climb and then ski Fuhrer Finger. They encountered 'buttery' snow up to 9,000' which switched over to very hard snow (ie front pointing) above 10,000'. The ski descent was dust on a very hard crust and didn't sound like very much fun. However, below the finger the snow softened up and made the entire trip worthwhile.

Also, a soloist ventured up the Kautz Headwall very early this morning. He didn't have much to say other than the snow was very soft above 10,500' and he turned around because it was slow going. He also reported that it was icy between 8,500' and 10,500'.

Some precipitation is headed our way, and depending on where the snow level lands it could come as rain or snow. Hopefully, we'll see some more climbs during our next weather window!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Good Skiing and Narada Falls Face Snow Pit

Howdy Everyone!

After several days of cooler weather and some precipitation, the mountain has come back out in full sunshine with a good 6" of powder on her flanks. There is some great skiing on the south and west aspects right now; while the eastern aspects are getting crusty.

This weeks snow pit was dug at the top of Narada Falls Face, just below the Steven's Canyon Road. As you can see from the profile, the main layer of concern is between 10 to 20 cm below the surface. Some moderate failures for the stability tests indicated that point releases are possible especially on lee slopes. However, no propagation was observed during the stability testing.


CTM(14) @ 12 cm Q3
ECTN(18) @ 12 cm Q3
RB3 @ 12 cm Q2

Keep an eye out for possible point releases on south facing aspects...there's plenty of sluffs coming off all around the Paradise area; especially the face on Panorama Point and the 4th Crossing area.