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Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby jmoney » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:37 am

My partner and I made an attempt to ski Mizzou's N. Face on Sat the 28th, but had to bail at 12,700 secondary to surprisingly unstable snow conditions. To add to the surprise, I skied the Lake Emma chutes on Dem just 16 hrs prior with stable conditions. There I found 8 inches of wind buffed snow that was well bonded to the underlying snowpack, which had a solid freeze. Mizzou was a whole different story! At about ~12,500ft we started punching through the frozen layers into pure sugary crud. We decided to dig in and found an acceptable location at 12,700 on an E aspect. The angle was suboptimal at ~25 degrees; however, we weren't comfortable venturing into steeper terrain without knowing what we were on top of. We found a surprisingly deep snowpack of almost 5ft. From top to bottom - 3" wind slab; 1Finger / 8" slightly wind buffed snow; 4Fingers / 7" frozen corn; Knife / ~4' of pure sugar or unfrozen corn; Fist, foot, or entire body for that matter! After completing some stability tests I believe we missed a subtle layer at about 2 ft deep.

I forgot my snow saw so our column was cut out with a ski and shovel. Getting through the frozen layer required a lot of force and probably affected our scores. When cutting out our standard column, I got a Q1 failure at the new/old snow interface. The next failure, CT5 Q2, occurred at ~2 ft. Below this the snow was completely unconsolidated. These results were consistently repeated and the same layers failed with easy shovel shear tests. Immediately, the recent discussion on 14erskiers.com came to mind, and we high tailed it out of there.

The caveat to all this is we did get a late start to the day. The forecast didn't play out as expected and the slope had been subjected to intense sun for ~2-3 hrs by time we dug in. We measured the air temp at 36F and the wind was alternating between calm and 20+mph gusts. The wind had been gusting to probably ~40-50mph up until about 2hrs prior.

I'll submit an obs to CAIC; however, considering how many folks I saw out this weekend, I wanted to make a quick note here as well. Just a quick high horse statement. I saw way too many people out this weekend with NO avy gear and an overall lack of adequate gear or training. If that might describe you then PLEASE log off the site, purchase the necessary gear, go take a class, read a few books, and PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. If you don't want to do all that then at least wait until the snow melts then log back in. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest, that sometimes the temptation from seeing all the amazing trip reports on here can trump good decision making. If not for yourself, then do it for family, friends, and the SAR members who'll be called out in the case of an accident.
Cheers,

J
"If you don't understand something then its best to be afraid." (Normally, I use this facetiously but its application is very to the point here :) )
"Extreme skiing is more like controlled falling"

Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby Nelson » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:51 am

Excellent observation, excellent comments.

Thanks for taking the time to post.

Nelson

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby Mrwaffles989 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:13 pm

jmoney wrote:"If you don't understand something then its best to be afraid." (Normally, I use this facetiously but its application is very to the point here :) )



It's more scary once you understand it.

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby Gueza » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:47 pm

The NE couloir on Huron had some isolated small wind slabs (10-15cm), but was made up of mostly facets throughout the entire snowpack. The E face had 4 inches of powder on top of a solid spring base of corn with a good night freeze the night before. Crazy how the snow stability varies over short distances and aspects.

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby rangercarl » Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:01 pm

Currently the snow pack has a little of everything. Some areas are consolidated spring isothermal snow, others have a multi-layered winter pack. Booting up couloirs has provided some interesting challenges this year so far. Even in the same line you can find very different types of snow. Each line requires its own evaluation of stability, even different aspects within the same line can require their own evaluation.
Avalanches are less common this time of year, but they still happen. People have died in avalanches during every single month of the year.

Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby BobbyFinn » Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:07 pm

We turned on Citadel yesterday as we were getting into Snoopy's Backside. Saw similar stuff - multiple layers separated by bad snow.

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby clemsonmtneer » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:40 pm

I was out on Missouri with Jay yesterday, and just wanted to add that I reread the CAIC's forecast today, which mentioned that some slopes were still warm/moist when the new snow fell on Thursday night, which insulated the underlying snowpack from receiving a sufficient freeze once the temperatures dropped... kind of what we had suspected was the case at the time on the eastern aspect of Missouri where we were.

We had planned to ascend this eastern slope to the ridgeline and ski the north couloir (we didn't have crampons and thus weren't willing to climb our intended steep ski line, which I realize would have been ideal). So it's very possible that the north-facing couloir could have been stable since it likely didn't warm as much during last week's heat wave, but after finding the scary conditions that Jay described in his original post, we certainly didn't want to blindly ski a line that "might" have been stable.

Like others have pointed out on this thread, at this time of year (especially in this terrible snow year), the snowpack varies a lot on different aspects even in very close proximities, so be careful out there.

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby jmoney » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:26 pm

It's always kinda nice to see the CAIC reaffirm the mechanism we suspected. Makes me feel all smart and junk.

Alan, might as well place the blame where it should be. As I recall, I was the space case who left their crampons on their kitchen counter, not you :lol:
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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:02 pm

jmoney,
Bummer that you didn't get to ski Missouri. What line were you climbing on the N Face when you encountered the poor snowpack?

Last Wednesday we found some avoidable, unstable snow on the E aspect of the standard route (below the saddle, which we passed around 9:30am), but the main N couloir was bonded well with some bomber layers at 11am. Sounds like the area was blasted with heat after that and then the addition of some "interesting" snow on Thursday night/Friday morning.
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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby KansasBoarder » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:07 pm

Awesome thread so far. I appreciate the information and the candid reminder. Something to add from today...

We attempted to hike a Couloir in the Sawatch and ran into a wild array of conditions. The bottom 1000 vert was refrozen, dirty, sandy, rocky, below treeline snow (complete refreeze, to an alarming extent). Then, the next 800 vert was "standard" Spring refrozen snow. It had a slight texture due to present dust and any debris, but was predictable as we are all trained and commonly experience. Solid, steep, and scary. No falling. The wild part of our day occurred once we reached the new snow (around 12k). I was leading the group and went from bulletproof to break to my thighs in the span of feet. The new snow predicted exactly as on Missouri, at a similar elevation and aspect. The rotten snow underneath was unconsolidated, immature corn (facets and granules, wet). We decided to halt (always a difficult decision) and had to wait a few hours with the hope that the bottom 2k of the line unfroze. Wild to be holed up on a tree island at 12k BENEATH wet snow, ONTOP of bulletproof. We defended at 2pm without incident, on softening surfaces (edge-able).

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby Bean » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:29 pm

Some weird, scary reports here. Makes me glad I hung up the skis almost two months ago.
gdthomas wrote:Bean, you're an idiot.

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Re: Super Scary Avy Conditions on Mizzou

Postby Elliot » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:17 pm

I saw Wet slides and Dry slides in the same day this weekend. certainly very rotton snow in spots where its thin, even up high. Def gotta keep your guard up and ski cut the new windslabs out there, which are mostly at the top of very commiting lines. Certainly no reason to hang em up!

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