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Sunday
Jan242016

Cave & Tech Team Training near Fish Creek, 1/23/16

The Cave & Tech Team did a winter training near Fish Creek, not far from the Vivian Creek Trailhead parking lot on 1/23/16.  We were working on our winter mountaineering skills, avy skills, snow anchors, and rescue systems as we get ready for the Snow and Ice MRA recert in March.  From the parking lot, we were able to hike on hard-packed snow for a short distance until we passed most of the cabins and residences.  Then we had to switch to snowshoes because of the amount of snow.  At the base of our slope for training, we dug a quick pit to discuss snow conditions.  I didn't thoroughly measure the pit, but some areas were less than 24" deep because a vertical snow picket would hit dirt while seeing the top of the picket if placing the picket in the configuration for a snow anchor.  At the deepest sections, snow was knee deep.  The snow had a high moisture content, and the ambient temp was fairly warm, so that makes sense.  The snowpack was fairly consolidated.  When doing a compression test, we did not get a clean break to lower layer.  It took a fair amount of force to cause failure, and the snow did consolidate more on the top during the test.  When doing a shovel shear test, we did get a break in layer with some effort.  The hardness test revealed the snow to be very soft.  You could build snowballs quite easily.  We got a sprinkling of rain during the training.  We setup and practiced our twin-tension rope system for haul and lower of a litter on snow anchors.  We used a combination of vertical mid-clip picket placements and horizontal picket placements for anchors depending on how thick the snow was in that location.  All and all, a fun and educational day.

Sunday
Jan102016

Backcountry Skiing on Baden Powell, 1/9/16

Just after the recent run of storms came through in early Jan, I decided to checkout the local mountains and see the snow conditions.  Sat, 1/9 my buddy Kevin and I went to Baden Powell.   We were able to skin up on skis straight from the parking lot at Vincent Gap.  Down low, it was beautiful.  There was 20 inches plus snow even at the trailhead.  It was parly cloudy and about 33 deg F.  Snow was fluffy.  As we ascended, we could see conditions change with wind and clouds darkening.  Someone postholed all the way to the summit...crazy.  Two skiers broke trail partway, and I broke trail the other times.  It was work on my legs since it was the first tour of the season.  Almost 3,000 feet of skinning up on skis.  Once over 8,000 feet, the snow was more consolidated, more moisture content, but still pretty good.  We stopped just before the summit because it was raining and windy at that point.  We met up with two other skiers and dug a pit.  Snowpack was 33 inches deep at that point and mostly one layer.  A slight difference about 12" down with the top layer being slightly harder but not by much.  As we descended it was warmer and we saw snow staring to pinwheel up.  It was getting sticker as I skied, and this being my first ski of the season, my legs struggled a bit, but it still fun.  We didn't pick our line very well about half way down and had to deal with a rock outcropping which was sketch but we made it around with a little down climbing.  I think we managed to find the drainage where ice climbing forms up in a good snow year.  I had read about the flow on Mountain Project.  There were sluff avalanches in a few places.  Right above the closed section of SR2, there were several sluff avalanches to the road.  It was a great day to ski, but I'm afraid all the rain probably did some damage to a good start of snow pack.  I'm expecting a rain crust that turns into surface hoar if the next few days stay warmer.