Advisory – March 2, 2013

Bottom Line:

Low hazard (see the danger scale): while both natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely, the more inherently dangerous terrain in the Chugach Front should still be approached with a good deal of caution.  Besides the inherent danger of steep terrain with exposure and/or in the vicinity of terrain traps, less information from the week is available on conditions in this sort of terrain.

Primary Concern:

Isolated pockets of relatively small wind slab that could pose a problem in more inherently dangerous terrain.  While such avalanches won’t be able to bury or kill a person in and of themselves, combine them with the right terrain (that with exposure and/or in the vicinity of terrain traps) and a bad situation could still arise.

Secondary Concern:

There seems to be a practically advisory-zone-wide melt-freeze crust, mentioned in observations from earlier in the season, that is now well covered by more recent snow that has formed a consolidated slab.  The base of this slab, above the melt-freeze crust, is faceted/faceting due to the temperature gradient creating a weak layer upon which the slab above could fail.  This layer was found 70-90cm down between 3000-4000′ on a west aspect of Harp Mountain off Hiland Road.  It is likely more and less deeply buried throughout the advisory zones.  While it did not react at all within ECT and CT test parameters, it failed cleanly and with ECT propagation with a few harder hits beyond the standard test procedures.  While not overly concerning, it is likely more dangerous and could still possibly be reactive in areas where it’s less deeply buried but still has a consolidated slab above it.

There are also some obvious density changes within more recent layers of newer snow where tests results have shown shallower failures.  CTM and STM results were found in the Harp area between 3000-4000′ 27 and 38 cm down at density changes within newer snow.

Finally, there’s the possibility of triggering small, thin wind slabs that developed in cross-loaded catchment areas from Friday’s extremely modest deposit of new snow.

Mountain Weather:

Expect partly cloudy to partly sunny skies, light to moderate winds, and mountain temperatures in the mid to upper twenties.  Wind is expected to be below the threshold required to transport snow, but even if it increases there’s not much loose snow available for transport.

Further Discussion:

Observations from the week suggest mediocre to decent riding conditions and good stability in the Harp and Canyon Road areas and this is thought to be relatively generalizable to the other core advisory zones.  There is wind affected snow almost everywhere ranging from stout and supportable windboard, to breakable softer windboard, to pockets of preserved powder.  A light dusting of fresh snow was acquired Friday.

Observer reports, pit results, and a massive cornice drop onto one of the steepest leeward aspects of Harp Mountain all suggest good stability.

No red flags of instability or signs of recent avalanches, natural or human triggered, were observed or reported during the week.

3 thoughts on “Advisory – March 2, 2013

  1. chugachfrontsnow

    I really like the Bottom Line section right up front. The more succinct the better IMO. The more detailed snowpack analysis in the Secondary concern is good to read and prompts more experienced users to take a closer look for the layer of concern, and in doing so encourages us all to spend some time in the analysis, a good practice which is so easy to ignore on more routine outings.
    In this section, any photos or illustrations which support the narrative are most appreciated.
    Well done with the advisory in general! I appreciate what you are putting out and the focus on popular areas which haven’t received much formal analysis in the past.

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