January 29, 2014

Observations – Canyon Road – Peak 3

Obvious signs of instability:

  • None

Surface Conditions (most noteworthy hazard):

  • Rain dimpled (chattery), boilerplate melt-freeze crust (textbook slide-for-life) – smooth at higher elevations (above ~3700′)


  • Partly cloudy skies with temps in the mid 20s and moderate SE wind


Don’t bother bringing skins to Canyon Road – just be ready for hiking on mostly dry ground to the gullies proper then transitioning to crampons for the boot up.  Having a self arrest device in hand, like the Black Diamond Whippet, is a good idea as well.

Something along the lines of the lightweight CAMP XLC390 crampon (as in 390 grams) is the ticket: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tough skis with SHARP edges are mandatory for the descent – the Voile Vector (lightweight, bombproof durability, lean and mean for hardpack and mankiness, yet enough girth for pow playfulness) is arguably the best one-ski quiver for the Western Chugach, and has allowed me to make the most of current conditions:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The crampons from CAMP, whippet from Black Diamond, and burly skis/shovel/probe from Voile made today’s field work possible (snowpack profiled and assessed ~400′ below the top of Peak 3):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeak 3 1:29:14pk3 pit 1:19:14

While snow coverage down low is weep-inducing (I’ve never seen Canyon Road this dry in eight January’s), the glass-half-full is that there is as good or better coverage in the upper elevations (above ~3000′) than this time last year.  Considering the meltdown appears to be over, the brief melt-freeze cycle and now below freezing temperatures have stabilized the snowpack.  The avalanche danger is expected to be low-moderate until the next significant weather event.  In this case, wind won’t be much of a concern due to very little loose snow available for transport.  New snow or above freezing temperatures/rain (God forbid), will cause the danger to rise.

Looking West is depressing:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, to the east and deeper in the mountains hope remains and spirits will be lifted with fresh snow that will hopefully come sooner rather than later:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Large, deadly (if in contact with humans), presumably natural D2.5 avalanche off False Peak that likely occurred last week:falsepk

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