20 Mar 2012

Mt Fee, untracked, a spectacular Stratovolcano, part of the Garabaldi Volcanic Belt.

At 2280 meters as of 06:00 it was -9, winds were 75-110 KPH from the South. At 1550 meters the temperature was -5, 96 % relative humidity, and the barometer is steady. In the valley it is 0. At pig alley 1650 meters the measured snowfall was 13, at catskiner weather plot 1550 meters 16 cm fell over night. The winds should remain strong for the am and the temperatures should drop also. What a day for the first day of spring 2012. Helicopter work on the Duffy yesterday produced up to size 3 avalanches, at WB a few soft slabs but nothing significant.

For the updated Avalanche Advisory click here: Avalanche Advisory

Snowboarder cuts slide out which runs into the ski area: Survived

For a clip on a 2 person involvement in New Zeland (bad words spoken) click here: Kiwi's

Avalanche control at  Mammoth Mountain: Hand Charges

Latest word on avalanche in Norway, 5 Fatalities March 19, 2012, click here: Norway

Please read from experienced ski tourer text below relating to this picture!!

With this bit of caution from local papers with the quote: "“If you are going to go out of bounds in these mountains you need to know what you are doing,”  I'd like to use this Sunday's Cowboy Ridge ski as an example.  At the outset, to my knowledge no one got hurt that day and no one triggered an avalanche.

Sunday March 18, 2012 was a busy day.  We counted possibly 15 groups in the Musical Bumps area.  We were among the first groups to ski out past Oboe and to Cowboy Ridge.   We set a good portion of the leftmost blue skin track in the picture which is in dense trees and away from downhill tracks.  We wanted to ski either one of the three middle lines of Cowboy Ridge (the lines are split by bands of trees).  A note on these lines.    They had been skied the day before so there was lots of downhill tracks on them.  There is a convex roll on a good portion of the middle lines so people skiing those lines have no way of knowing if there are other parties on those lines before dropping in.  

It was pretty much perfect skiing conditions.   Over 1m+ of storm snow had fallen.  Winds light, ski pen was about 20 - 30cms.  Temps were minus 8 to 10.  

Our party dropped in the slope where the "e" of Convex Roll starts.  As I crested the roll, I saw about 100m vertical below me two people skinning right up the slope traversing across it (I couldn't see them before I dropped in and immediately stopped).  I told them that my party was dropping in and at the same time radioed my party to stop till this group had cleared out.  I told them they were vulnerable to danger from people like me who couldn't see them and one said that they just followed the skin track.   

These two people cleared the skin track and my group dropped in on the centre of the slope.  I dropped in last and skied skiers right.  To my amazement (and horror) as I was skiing downhill (at a good rate of speed) at about the "l") in the "lemming" part of the wording on the picture there were five people on the skin track also going up the slope.  I avoided them by splitting the group and kept going downhill.   I had no opportunity to see this group and would not have skied that part of the slope if I knew there people on it.    I did not trigger any sluff release or avalanches on any of these people.

My point is that there are so many other safer ways to get to the top of Cowboy Ridge which do not expose people on the uphill to overhead hazard (ie either convexities or skiers going downhill).  For example, the skin track marked "good" on picture left is through dense trees, avoids potential downhill traffic and does not have convexities above the track.  The skin track marked "good" on picture right goes through low angle terrain.   Both the "good" tracks might add perhaps 5 to 10 minutes (at most) to time spent on the uphill over the "WTF" skin track

I've seen some stunning skin tracks in Whistler and the Duffey this year.   I urge people to think for themselves and not to simply follow tracks just because they're already there. I urge people to think about overhead hazard.  You spend the most time on the uphill and are therefore the most exposed on the uphill.  Use your head accordingly