Eagle River – South Fork:
Obvious signs of instability (red flags):
- Isolated, active wind loading in the evening off some peaks in the South Fork area (namely, The Nipple)
- Isolated, very small pockets of thin, reactive (to human trigger) wind slabs
- Light to moderate NW wind, single digit alpine temps, 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.
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.
We climbed and skied Flute Peak via South Fork, Flute Glacier, and Organ Glacier. While glaciated terrain is relatively “safe” this time of year, and cracks in the ice generally well-bridged and/or obvious, glacier travel gear and skills are necessary. Exposed fourth and easy fifth class climbing is required to summit Flute. We used a few medium size cams to protect the fifth class section, and horns can be slung for pro and anchors. A couple existing anchors (slung large horns) are in place (namely, near the summit to rappel the fifth class section). Be mindful of the potential for falling rock and stuck rope when pulling the rappel. It would be difficult (tedious) to rappel all of the exposed fourth class sections due to meandering terrain, and high potential for stuck rope. A 30m rope will suffice for the climbing, although 60m is nice for a single rappel on the descent. Carrying two light 30m (we used 30m 6mm static and 30m 8mm dynamic) a party of two can split up the rope weight, be better prepared for unroped glacier travel, and have sufficient line for ascent and descent.
Wild Mountain Honey – Steve Miller