12/21 Observations & 12/22 Avalanche Outlook

Saturday, December 21, 2013 Observations

Hiland Road – Lynx & 3 Bowls area

Signs of instability:

  • LOTS of collapsing (whoomphing): widespread on multiple aspects
  • LOTS of shooting cracks and collapsing slabs that would crack out but not move due to mellow terrain: widespread on multiple aspects
  • Recent small, natural wind slabs in Lynx north and west bowls


  • Clouds around 5000′ with very light snow throughout the afternoon
  • Calm wind with light gusts on the ridges, steadier down valley (South Fork) light wind on the lower slopes
  • Temps in the mid twenties

Surface conditions:

  • Soft, carve-able windboard in areas with decent coverage
  • Exposed Thanksgiving weekend drizzle/melt-freeze crust and bare tundra/rocks in areas with less than adequate coverage

Snowpack discussion:

Whoomphing: it always seems to make my heart drop no matter the terrain.  Despite being very attentive to terrain management today (keeping the angle mellow in areas that actually have a snowpack and only using steeper terrain that was snow free), which was absolutely necessary, I experienced that heart in gut feeling quite a few times.  While the snowpack is still thin enough that there don’t seem to be many areas harboring very large (>D2) and cohesive slabs, it seemed like just about every pocket with a cohesive slab would whoomph when weighted.  Some of these pockets would crack at the crown and upper flanks but due to the mellow slope angles, that were the rule for today, wouldn’t fully release.  Cornices were extra touchy today too, like the one pictured below that broke off near the top of Lynx from a safe distance away when cautiously approached.

Still thin in 3 Bowls up high:


Terrain accessed from the South Fork trailhead has been significantly wind-blasted since yesterday:


Coverage near the top of Lynx – the west facing bowl (to the right of the center ridge) slid (medium size wind slab) beneath the corniced ridge sometime Thursday or Friday removing what little coverage there was from the upper 1/4 of the bowl (HS-N-D2-R2) – the north facing bowl (to the left of the center ridge) slid (very small wind slab) beneath the cornice at the very top (HS-N-D1-R1):


Coverage in 2 Bowls and Harp bowls:


This cornice at the top of Lynx above the north facing bowl was very reactive and released, further back than the overhang, from a safe distance away when cautiously approached:


Sunday, December 22, 2013 Avalanche Outlook

Issued Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 7:30pm (information provided below expires in 24hrs):


Click here to see the complete danger scale

Primary concern:


Click here to learn more about wind slabs and management of this type of danger


Considering widespread collapsing (whoomphing) and shooting cracks Saturday, evidence of a couple recent natural wind slab avalanches, and a forecast calling for several inches of new snow through Sunday that will be accompanied by winds capable of moving new and existing snow; the avalanche danger will remain at considerable for Sunday, December 22, 2013.  Check out recent observations from the past few days to get a better idea of what you’ll be dealing with in the Front Range and Eagle River area backcountry, but keep in mind that while the danger for Saturday was also considerable it will be increasing through Sunday.  Low visibility due to snowfall and new snow hiding clues of pre-existing wind slabs will further complicate matters.

Leave a Reply