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Spring Couloir Safety

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Spring Couloir Safety

Postby michaelgrundy » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:22 pm

Being paranoid about avalanche danger and all... I have a question for all of you winter/spring 14er guru's out there. How do you know when a couloir filled with snow is safe to ascend?? ... (like Dead Dog Coulior on Torreys peak)

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Re: Spring Couloir Safety

Postby EatinHardtack » Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:03 pm

I would say if you cannot successfully evaluate the snow pack then try and go with someone that can. If you want to go solo, then wait until later in the spring, May and June are great months to climb on snow. Get up early and down early. Have fun.

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Re: Spring Couloir Safety

Postby cheeseburglar » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:48 pm

They are never really safe to ascend. Rocks fall down them.
Couloir is a french word. It means "gulley prone to avalanches".
They can be safe from avalanches, depends on a lot of factors. I usually assume if the CAIC has given that aspect and elevation a green rating for a week and I can descend before the sun heats it up, I'm ok. That means getting up very early and moving fast for most spring snow in Colorado.
Dawson's books refer to sunhit times. I haven't completely figured out how to use that yet. Doesn't seem to really correspond to safety in my experience. Too many other variables, cloud cover, temperature, ...
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Re: Spring Couloir Safety

Postby Scott P » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:51 am

Best conditions are well before sunrise, during a cold night or cold early morning, and when it's been a while since the last snowstorm.

If there has been a recent snowstorm, a warm night where it didn't drop below freezing, the snow is not well frozen, or not long after sun hit and continuing throughout the day; these are flags for dangerous conditions. This applies to spring/early summer conditions.

In winter, few couloir routes are in safe conditions on a regular basis. You don't want to climb a couloir with powder snow either.
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.

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Re: Spring Couloir Safety

Postby michaelgrundy » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:15 am

Thanks ScottP and Cheeseburglar! I appreciate the info.

I pretty much live on the CAIC website when I am planning a hike and after several avalanche sessions, I am still too new to feel 100% safe on the snow pack, so I take the "better safe than sorry" approach and stick to ridgelines, use my slope meter to determine angles, etc.

I would love to gain some couloir experience with you guys if you dont mind me asking questions and whatnot!

thanks again!

Mike

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