2 Feb 2012

The sun is coming out for a while, we can expect clouds and sun for a few days.
At 2280 meters the temperature is -7, the winds were 20-35 KPH from the west , at 06:00. At 1550 meters the temperature is - 5  , 97 % humidity, and the barometer is steady. In the valley it is 0. No new snow.

Last week I brought up a discussion on tree wells, here is some actual footage of a tree well rescue. Thanks to Paul Rattenbury for forwarding this:  Tree Well

The incident report from Utah on the January 28 th avalanche.

Media Reports

24-year-old Salt Lake man killed in avalanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon 
Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 9:49 p.m. MST
BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — Two days before Alecsander Barton's 25th birthday, he headed to the mountains with two friends to take advantage of Utah's backcountry in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Characterized by officials as an experienced backcountry traveler, Barton and his friends were equipped with avalanche beacons. But of the two outdoorsmen to trigger slides in the canyon Saturday, Barton would be the one who wouldn't make it out alive.
The 24-year-old man was killed after being caught in an avalanche in the Mineral Falls area of the canyon around 11:30 a.m., Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said.
Barton and his friends set out from an area halfway up the canyon near Blind Miner's Mine and made their way to the top of Kessler Peak, at the apex of Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. Barton, who was on a snowboard, accidentally triggered the slide that measured 700 feet wide at a time when the avalanche danger was classified as high, the Utah Avalanche Center reported.
Barton's two friends were not caught in the avalanche and escaped without harm. They called 911 and went to the aid of their friend.
"Rescuers were flown up to the scene by Wasatch Powderbird, and when they got there, the two witnesses up there … had actually found their friend, and he was deceased," Hoyal said.
Police reported that the men had come equipped with avalanche beacons but still were in an extremely dangerous area.
Barton's death came on the heels of a slew of avalanche warnings prompted by heavy snowfall and weak snowpack.
"The backcountry conditions are extremely dangerous," Hoyal said. "This is a sad reminder for people to know that conditions are so extreme right now that people need to stay out of the backcountry."
The Utah Avalanche Center reported Saturday that Barton was on a snowboard when he unintentionally triggered the avalanche. In its preliminary accident report, the center said the avalanche carried Barton 2,400 feet before he was caught in the bottom of the slide.
"His two companions switched their avalanche transceivers to receive, descended the slope and extricated their friend, buried under 3 feet of debris," the report states.
The center issued an advisory early Saturday classifying the danger level as "considerable," but Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center said the rating was at a level four or "high" rating on the upper, steep slopes.
"That means human-triggered avalanches are very likely," Gordon said.
There was another avalanche triggered by skiers in the Holy Toledo area of Big Cottonwood Canyon Saturday morning, he said, but everyone involved was "unscathed and safe."
Gordon said the dangerous environment is caused by "weak, sugary snow" covered by additional layers of snow from last week's storms.
"Avalanche conditions are deceptively tricky," he said. "You can get on some slopes and be good to go, whereas others all you need to do is find a weak spot in the snowpack, and you're staring down the barrel of a very dangerous avalanche."
Gordon said the three men involved in the incident all had experience in the backcountry. He said there are low-angle slopes that could be safely traversed, but everyone should avoid high, steep slopes, especially those facing north.
"There's plenty of safe, low-angle terrain that people can ride in the backcountry right now, but we can't be enticed by sunny skies and fresh snow to get on the steep slopes just yet," he said.
This was echoed in a Saturday avalanche forecast which included a warning that "very dangerous conditions exist in the backcountry," said Drew Hardesty, who issued the warning.
"Truth be told, it’s also days like these where we see avalanche accidents," Hadesty wrote. "Discipline, self-denial — these are things we not only aspire to, it's what keeps us alive in conditions like these."
In it's report, the Utah Avalanche Center said the trio was in an area on the west side of Kessler Peak known as Little Giant. It said the peak is "surrounded by radical terrain and avalanche paths on all sides" and that the trio had hiked up the peak in one of these paths.
This is the second fatal avalanche of the season in Utah. The first, on Nov. 13, 2011, claimed the life of professional skier Jamie Pierre. The 38-year-old was killed in a slide near Snowbird just a week before the ski resort was to open.
Both men were killed at times when new, heavy snowfall led to avalanche warnings.
Barton's death marks the ninth recorded avalanche death in the West this season, with four in Colorado, three along the Wyoming-Montana border and two in Utah. There were 25 fatalities recorded last winter.
Gordon said the deadliest season in Utah was 2004-05, when eight people were killed.
Barton, originally from Michigan, was living in the Salt Lake City area at the time of his death, Hoyal said.

For the updated Avalanche Advisory click here: Avalanche Advisory