BC Zone Observation Report
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Per recent advisories, bonding concerns from last snowfall may have subsided by now, but think there’s at least a couple big lessons so gonna submit in case CAIC thinks it worthy to post for those lessons (and critique). On 5/26, w a primary plan to climb and ski Apache Couloir if conditions felt safe enough when I arrived at the base (given both recent snowfall and my alpine start allergy), I came across a group of three shortly before noon (11.6K’, near Shoshoni base) having just bailed on Navajo Snowfield bc of wet slides they had triggered while climbing and also having seen an earlier solo skier trigger a slabby one on his descent of my own goal. Continued on figuring I could at least check out the slides and maybe do some lower angle laps on Isabelle Glacier if need be. Per pics, you can see that the more Easterly-facing aspect they selected to climb captures how they set off activity as they got close to the rock band (and they smartly bailed shortly thereafter). However, as the same Navajo Snowfield was a backup plan for me bc as a guidebook states “it can often be skied in the afternoon because of a northerly aspect”, I looked harder and pretty sure I saw evidence of an earlier or older bootpack trail on the more northerly aspect (ie leading up to and then climbing against Navajo itself). As well, important to note, there appears to be no activity on that side (though that could also be due to no one hiking it that day, not just bc it is more northerly and also shaded by Navajo). As for my own Apache objective, the next pics show that. As I had lunch in a spot protected from rockfall, clouds had continued to roll in and winds continued thereby seeming to cool stuff down. Knowing that the pre storm east-facing snowpack had been consolidated in the area (per caic and my own observations the prior week) and from forecast and area-ish snotels knowing that total accumulation was around 6” and wo much wind for much of the storm (to inhibit wind-loading), I could tell from the pic that the crown was likely the complete new snow. Having had good experience climbing bed surfaces previously in such spring-time situations, I decided to go check out the crown. You can see the skier’s tracks emerging from the mouth of the couloir and then setting it off shortly after getting to the apron. As compared to the Navajo activity that appeared to occur as the team approached the rocks, this slide occurred after coming AWAY from the rocks (ie the couloir). Two possible thoughts as to why that was: 1) he was much earlier than they were (um...even more so me) and/or 2) the slope slightly rolled over at the crown so maybe that tipped the balance (assuming he triggered it...that’s what the team seemed to say). As for myself, as the weather had shifted cooler thanks to cloud cover and I could leverage the already compressed new snow bootpack tracks above the crown of the earlier climber/skier and knew from the prior week on similar aspects/elevations that the pre-storm snowpack was well-consolidated (backed up by religiously reading caic postings), I decided to keep going as long as it felt safe (ie i didnt start kicking anything off, seeing new activity, dodging rock bullets or punching through layers)...which it continued to be all the way to the summit and during my slightly refrozen 5pm+ descent. Never kicked loose anything (though did punch through some crusts on a couple turns and had to be VERY selective on my descent decisions to minimize that...incl a few side-steps in one particularly problematic area). Mountain snow is (albeit scientifically) fickle, especially in light of constantly fluctuating weather, shading features given time of day, previously consolidated (or not) layering, etc. Normally I post my name. Keeping this one anonymous in part bc I want CAIC to pick apart my analysis and decision-making, if they so choose (thereby avoiding embarrasment (-:).
Sunny and light winds shifting to overcast and light winds.
6” of day old snow on top of a consolidated spring Easterly-facing snowpack
ESE-aspect, 12.5K’ at beginning of apron emerging from mouth of Apache Couloir.
Indian Peaks Wilderness
AS / u
12:00 PM (Estimated)
Indian Peaks Wilderness