November 9, 2015

Avalanche danger in Chugach State Park (the mountains surrounding Anchorage) has again increased due to 4+ inches of new snow at the mid elevations (around 2000′, expect more higher) and strong winds from Sunday night into Monday morning.  Winds are expected to remain moderate to strong through much of Monday, with the potential for further wind loading and further increasing avalanche danger.

Avalanche danger was already heightened prior to this storm due to strong winds from the end of last week, which created reactive wind slabs in the upper elevations.

Approach snowy, mountainous terrain with caution; especially terrain steeper than 30 degrees.  Cross-loaded gully side walls and other wind-loaded terrain features will be especially dangerous.  Beware of terrain traps that could compound the danger of even a small slide.

A small, but dangerous given the terrain, wind slab avalanche was triggered by a climber in the Front Range (off O’Malley Peak) Saturday.  Click here for more info.  This sort of avalanche problem will be much more dangerous now and in the near future, due to the new snow and wind from Sunday into Monday.

Be on the lookout for the mountains’ signals of avalanche danger:

  1.  Recent avalanches
  2. Whumphing” (collapsing of the snowpack)
  3. Shooting cracks (that emanate from your feet as you travel)
  4. Snow that is becoming wet and saturated from warming
  5. Slopes being actively loaded due to wind or falling snow

Do not expose yourself to snowy, steep terrain in the mountains if you do not know the fundamentals of avalanche hazard assessment!  And even then, travel with caution.  Do not underestimate the thin, but weak, early season snowpack.

The storm that has increased avalanche danger in Chugach State Park has, in general, increased avalanche danger in the mountains throughout Southcentral AK.  For instance; the mountains of Hatcher Pass, Turnagain Pass, and Girdwood have also received significant accumulations of new snow accompanied by wind and the avalanche danger in these areas has increased as well.

Check for the most recent statewide information relevant to your area of interest, and for a listing of statewide educational opportunities to enhance your avalanche related skills.