December 28, 2013

Recent skier triggered avalanche in South Fork Eagle River area

Skier triggered avalanche reported in the South Fork area yesterday (Saturday, December 28, 2013).  Slide reported to have occurred on a NE aspect, while coming over a convexity, off North Bowl on the way back to the trailhead.  Presumably in the vicinity of “Solstice Run” – the main, long gully that faces Hiland Road and runs from near the top of Peak 1212 (North Bowl) down to the main South Fork trail.  It was reported to be HS-AS-R2-D2-G.  The flank is reported to have propagated uphill 100 yards to include much of the start zone.  However, further details were hampered by poor visibility.

This avalanche was, reportedly, large enough to “bury, injure, or kill a person” and the party also reported no obvious clues to instability prior to this incident.  If the avalanche was as large as reported, it indicates the persistent slab instability is still lingering and reactive.  At the least, if it was smaller, we can be sure of lingering wind slabs.

Since the party reported no obvious clues, be extra mindful of the terrain you travel through and pay close attention to the way the snow feels.  Stiff, dense, and deeper areas of snow, especially if they feel or sound hollow underneath (weak snow below), are suspect and should be approached with caution.  Looks for clues as to wind affect and loading.  Since the weak, early season snow pack is still quite suspect, be extra mindful of the consequences of an avalanche if it were to occur.  Do you have an escape plan, what’s the runout like, are you around terrain traps, etc?

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