Eagle River – North Fork:
Obvious signs of instability (red flags):
- Isolated, very small pockets of thin, reactive (to human trigger) wind slabs
- Light northerly wind, alpine temps in the low teens to single digits (decreasing temps with increasing elevation – no inversion), sunny skies
- Variable, wind affected snow. The most sheltered areas have very nice (soft and loose) recycled (faceted) powder that sluffs fast and heavily on steep terrain. Somewhat sheltered areas range from wind-buffed powder, to powder capped with carve-able and thin wind crust, to breakable and grabby windboard. Least sheltered areas have a very firm (but edge-able) and supportable windboard. Very nice protected powder from 2000-4000′ in Eagle’s north bowl.
No noteworthy surface hoar noticed in avalanche terrain (likely dismantled by wind and sun). Snow surface is heavily faceted in sheltered areas (where it hasn’t been packed into windboard). In some areas the layer of heavily faceted surface snow is relatively thin and overlying a hard wind slab; this will be a concerning weak layer and bed surface combo when we receive new snow (that could complete the three ingredient recipe with slab).
Some steep solar aspects (south and west) have formed a thin sun crust. It’s that time of the year when new snow will be falling on sun crusts, creating typically small and predictable but very reactive avalanches.
Climbed north Eagle Peak to ~6200′. Turn around at the top of the spine, the transition above choke in lower couloir feature to upper summit face, due to insufficient snow and exposure. The bottom of the upper face (most exposed section) had less than a foot of heavily faceted “sugar” snow on rock slab (visible rock in many places). Getting through this section would require climbing unprotected fourth class rock for a couple hundred feet to get to where the angle mellows and snow depth increases. The choke itself, the egress from the lower wide couloir to the upper face, is currently un-skiable (minus a few possible turns in the mid section) and likely going at fourth class due to exposed and superficially covered rock that must be climbed. The approach is ski-able from and back to the Eagle River Nature Center, albeit with ample alder bashing for any proper Alaskan mountain adventure.
The Hurdy Gurdy ice climbs look fat at the tops of the routes, but very thin at the bottoms…