Turnagain Pass RSS

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Sat, March 8th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Sun, March 9th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Kevin Wright
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  LOW  in the forecast zone.  Avalanche activity is unlikely, with a couple possible exceptions.  

The areas where uncertainty exists and unstable snow could be found include – high elevations above 4000 feet, and overhanging cornice features.

Snow quality remains less than ideal with a dusting of soft snow from Wednesday on top of supportable crust.  For somebody wanting to cover a lot of ground in a hurry, current conditions are great due to ease of travel on the hard surface.

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Sat, March 8th, 2014
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
1 - Low
2 - Moderate
3 - Considerable
4 - High
5 - Extreme
Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk
Travel Advice Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding, and conservative decision-making essential. Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended. Extraordinarily dangerous avalanche conditions. Avoid all avalanche terrain.
Likelihood of Avalanches Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
Avalanche Size and Distribution Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain. Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas. Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas. Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas. Very large avalanches in many areas.
Avalanche Problem 1
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

“Locked in place” has been our common theme over the last week.  The snowpack has gone through many temperature swings- melting to refreezing- and now sits frozen, hard, and strong.  The strength of the snowpack without the presence of any active weak layers makes for stable conditions and unlikely avalanche activity.  

The warm temperatures that caused the melting didn’t go much higher than 4000 feet.  Consequently, we can’t say the same generalizations about the higher peaks.  You are more likely to find softer snow and possible unstable snow in these areas that escaped the rain and warm temperatures.  

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Cornice
Cornice Fall is the release of an overhanging mass of snow that forms as the wind moves snow over a sharp terrain feature, such as a ridge, and deposits snow on the downwind (leeward) side. Cornices range in size from small wind drifts of soft snow to large overhangs of hard snow that are 30 feet (10 meters) or taller. They can break off the terrain suddenly and pull back onto the ridge top and catch people by surprise even on the flat ground above the slope. Even small cornices can have enough mass to be destructive and deadly. Cornice Fall can entrain loose surface snow or trigger slab avalanches.
More info at Avalanche.org

It is March, and our sun exposure is getting to be significant.  South facing slopes are getting just enough solar heat to cause “roller balls” during the afternoon.  Overhanging cornices, which tend to be large and mature this time of year, should be approached with caution or avoided all together.  No matter how stable the general snowpack is, cornices can be the exception.

Sat, March 8th, 2014

The last shot of measureable snow (1-2″) was on Wednesday.  That storm offered significantly more to Anchorage and Hatcher pass.  Since then the weather has been mild with below freezing temperatures and light wind.  

Look for sunny skies this morning and increasing clouds towards the afternoon.  Variable wind to 10mph.  Temperatures reaching the low 30s during the day.

A  …WINTER STORM WATCH FOR HEAVY SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW IS IN EFFECT FROM  MONDAY MORNING THROUGH MONDAY EVENING NORTH OF MOOSE PASS…!  Yaaay!  Snowfall amounts are likely 6-12 inches, possibly 18 inches in some areas.  

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This is a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for Turnagain Arm with Turnagain Pass as the core advisory area. This advisory does not apply to highways, railroads or operating ski areas.