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St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

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St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby scramble » Tue Nov 26, 2013 5:31 pm

Hi all,

I was hoping to take my mom for some self-arrest and snow travel practice over the holiday. I was wondering if you wise and knowledgeable folks of the internet had any suggestions. I've been to St. Mary's Glacier for this purpose a couple times and it worked out well. I hear that there can be some avalanches there, so was wondering if anyone had some recent beta or advice. We would hike up the main snowfield and then find a steeper slope on the left or right side (with relatively safe run-out) for practicing. If there are particular areas to avoid or something, that would be great to know. Or if anyone has suggestions of better/safer places to practice self-arrest, would be great to know about those too. I assume that a slope that is steep enough to do some good self-arrest practice is also going to be steep enough to slide. Since it's my mom, I'm kind of scratching my head and wanting to make everything as safe as possible, so I would really appreciate any advice. Probably would give my mom my spare beacon and then both a partner and myself would have avy gear.

Thanks,
Sara

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby GregMiller » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:20 pm

Don't know that it's really the season for self arrest practice, but if anywhere would have the right conditions, it would be St Mary's. I'd give the slope that you first see (beneath the 'glacier' proper) a go, it should get close to 30 but not exceed it. I'd stay towards climber's right or center, left gets you under the steeper slope to the left - I've seen a decent amount of avy debris beneath that in previous springs, so it's only a matter of time and snow conditions on that slope. I don't know that either slope on the sides of the 'glacier' proper would be any good - the one on the South side had snow on rocks a couple weeks ago, and the one on the north side was bare. Don't know if the snow since then will have blown in enough to do anything worthwhile, though.
Still Here
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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby SeracZack » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:22 am

I was up there on Sunday and it didn't look great for self arrest practice. There isn't a ton of snow up there right now and probably not firm enough to give a good slide for the purposes of self arrest. I have some pictures on my phone that I'll try and upload a little later.

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby scramble » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:35 am

Enough snow to get a little butt tobogganing trench going? :P Thanks for the info, guys!

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby SeracZack » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:46 am

scramble wrote:Enough snow to get a little butt tobogganing trench going? :P Thanks for the info, guys!


I bet you could get that to work.

For some reason I can't figure out how to get the pictures off my phone and on to here. Anyway, the west facing slopes (hikers right) were wind blown and rocks everywhere. The east facing stuff had quite a bit of wind deposited snow so I would think you'd sink in too much there. In the middle maybe? I also saw a sled track up there. Maybe that could pack it down enough for some self arrest practice if you brought one with you? Or do the self arrest from the sled? Could be an interesting way to do it.

There was a bit of ice in the middle down lower, covered with a dusting of snow that made travel, well, interesting.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby scramble » Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:05 pm

In case it helps anyone, there was a great slope for this purpose on the right hand side towards the beginning of the glacier. Just after the first little snow hill you climb up to get to the gentle slopes of the glacier. Pretty hard slab that would support your weight, and you could get some speed going for sure. I guess 25-30 degrees but I didn't measure it. The slope runs down to the flat area in the middle of the glacier.

Really appreciate all the detailed advice! Thanks for helping us have a great day out!

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby snowymountainsrock » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:07 pm

scramble wrote:In case it helps anyone, there was a great slope for this purpose on the right hand side towards the beginning of the glacier. Just after the first little snow hill you climb up to get to the gentle slopes of the glacier. Pretty hard slab that would support your weight, and you could get some speed going for sure. I guess 25-30 degrees but I didn't measure it. The slope runs down to the flat area in the middle of the glacier.

Really appreciate all the detailed advice! Thanks for helping us have a great day out!

Sorry if this is a really novice question, but I am interested in practicing ice axe arrest in late December at St. Mary's and don't have any avy gear, is it safe or feasible to do this without beacons and such if I stayed away from the steeper terrain?
Any feedback is appreciated

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby 3rdGenNative » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:32 pm

See what Scramble said. She's dead on about the location. But like Greg Miller said above, this may not be the best time - yet. Wait a while. Last March/April a bunch of us got together to practice self arrests, work with beacons and analyze the snow conditions by digging a pit. I learned so much and had a great time. Looking forward to possibly doing it again. Watch the forum and see if it happens.
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"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God." George Washington Carver

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby scramble » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:10 am

Well, you could trigger an avalanche remotely or a natural release could happen, and you could still be in the runout zone even if you are on low-angle terrain. I think they were not on steeper terrain when this happened: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=38530

Yeah, shrug, with the particular conditions on that particular day, given the available information and our observations, that particular slope and location seemed ok to us. We still brought avy gear just in case. I guess the question "is it safe" depends the conditions/observations/recent beta (who knows what it will be like even a few days from now), and it also depends on your personal risk tolerance, so... shrug... I'm just a newwwwwwb I dunno....

3rdGenNative, Greg, et al. - A springtime group get-together sounds like fun :)

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby Patinator » Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:28 am

My friend and I were up there 2 weekends ago to practice self arrest also and there was just too much snow. We packed down several trenches, but it still wasn't enough. If there is still a lot of unpacked snow up there, I would recommend putting on plastic bags to decrease the friction and increase your speed. I wish we had thought up that idea when we went. Obviously, you can really get cruising in a plastic bag, so make sure you pick the right spot up there that has a level slope at the bottom.

Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby goldenite » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:33 am

Here are some pictures I took when I did James Peak on Sat, Nov 30. Obviously, there'll be plenty more snow come the weekend!
Attachments
Pikes Peak (Right).jpg
Pikes Peak (Right).jpg (74.53 KiB) Viewed 342 times
Hiker going to a false summit.jpg
Hiker going to a false summit.jpg (82.32 KiB) Viewed 342 times
Towards the east (Denver).jpg
Looking East
Towards the east (Denver).jpg (61.48 KiB) Viewed 342 times

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Re: St. Mary's conditions/advice? (or alternate area?)

Postby oldschoolczar » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:49 pm

^ Did you bychance help me get me car unstuck near the St Mary's parking lot? I owe you another Upslope Christmas ale if so! I really appreciated the help. I am now looking at 4WD vehicles after this latest incident.. ](*,)
"Tonight I'll shave the mountain
I'll cut the hearts from pharoahs"
-Tom Waits

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