Sunday, January 25, 2015

Where Has Winter Gone?
Today in Paradise, the barbecues were out, sunglasses were on, and the smell of sunscreen was in the air! Many happy skiers, snowshoers, and snowboarders were out enjoying a day that felt more like July than January. It appears as though we are in store for more of the same in the coming days, with high freezing levels, and warm temperatures.
This incoming weather pattern was quite a change from the weather of the previous few days at Mt. Rainier. The park received rain up to approximately 8,000-9,000 feet for several days, wetting down our already thin snow coverage. And since the skiing was no good, climbing rangers got out to see what all the rain was doing to the snow pack. Rangers dug an avalanche test pit on the East Face of Alta Vista and conducted a full profile. Below are the results.
The pit confirmed what avalanche forecasters were already saying. During a rain on snow event, like we were having, the snow pack gets wet, creating potential for loose wet avalanches, and maybe the possibility of a wet slab. However, the good news is, with sunshine today, the snow pack had a chance to drain. Thus alleviating the majority of this problem. However, there is still a possibility of wet loose avalanches with the warm temperatures, especially on sun baked south and southwest facing slopes in steeper terrain, or near rocky outcroppings.
Even though it feels like summer, there is still snow out there, so please still check the NWAC avalanche forecast before setting out in the back country at Mt. Rainier. And come equipped with a shovel, beacon, and probe as well as the knowledge of how to use them in the event of an avalanche. If you are out on a not so fantastic weather day, and feel like digging a snow pit, please share your findings with the rangers.
Take advantage of this amazing weather window and come on up to the high country and get some sunshine! for the NWAC avalanche forecast, check out this link.