The last two days have brought warm, sunny spring-like conditions to Turnagain Pass and today will be much the same. After several human triggered avalanches on Tuesday, there were no reported slides yesterday – however, very few people were out. Although the weather is inviting, the snowpack is not. A very poor structure exists currently and is one that will likely persist for the foreseeable future. The set-up is simple: a hard slab 1-3′ thick over weak faceted (sugary) snow on top of a hard bed surface. This is textbook for human triggered slab avalanches.
The slab on top of the weak layer is quite variable due to the strong winds during Monday’s storm. There are portions of terrain that have been scoured to the point of uncovering old tracks (anti-tracks) and areas where a slab thickens from 0 to 30″ over just 10′. These are extreme examples, but my point is – sussing out trigger points and how one triggers an avalanche today. Thin areas of the slab, roughly 1′ or less, are the most likely places for a person to trigger an avalanche. The thicker areas of the slab will take a group of people near each other, such as a large party congregated on a ridgeline, something we call large triggers. Large triggers also include snowmachines – yet our unprecedented lack of snow has kept motorized use closed.
Not only is sussing out trigger points a hard thing to do and a bit too much to gamble on right now, but another thing to consider is the potential lack of obvious signs of instability. Collapsing or whoomphing was widespread two days ago, but less so yesterday. Don’t let an absence of these signs lure you into thinking the snowpack is stable until it is too late. All you have to do is dig in a couple feet and you’ll see for yourself the weak faceted snow that is plaguing the mountains.
Photo and Video – Textbook slab avalanche ingredients:
Windloaded slopes vs. scoured slopes. Avoiding steep windloaded areas is a good strategy right now.
A nice day was had in the backcountry yesterday with mostly sunny skies and light Northerly ridgetop winds. Temperatures were in the low to mid 20’s F on the ridgetops and in the low 30’s at 1,000′.
Today looks to be similar – another warm spring like day – with clear skies and light variable ridgetops winds. Ridgetop temperatures should be in the low 20’s F with valley bottoms in the low 30’s F.
Looking ahead to Friday through Sunday, another juicy North Pacific storm is on tap. Once again this low pressure will pump very warm air from the South along with the moisture. Models are showing a rain/snow line around 2,000-2,500′ at this point with accumulated precipitation in the 1-1.5″ range beginning Friday afternoon through Sunday.
*There is no wind information for both Sunburst and Seattle Ridge. The next closest stations near Turnagain Pass are Max’s Mountain (Alyeska) and Penguin Peak (above Bird) and Fresno Ridge down near Summit Lake. We will be fixing these as soon as possible!
|Temp Avg (F)||Snow (in)||Water (in)||Snow Depth (in)|
|Center Ridge (1880′)||29||0||0||43|
|Summit Lake (1400′)||24||0||0||8|
|Alyeska Mid (1700′)||29||0||0||26|
|Temp Avg (F)||Wind Dir||Wind Avg (mph)||Wind Gust (mph)|
|Seattle Ridge (2400′)||25||Wind||sensor is||rimed|
|05/06/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Pastoral Peak, north face||Andy Duenow|
|04/10/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Wolverine||Mike Records|
|04/10/20||Turnagain||Observation: Eddies lookers right shoulder||Matt Yoder|
|04/09/20||Turnagain||Observation: Bench Peak||Mike Records|
|04/04/20||Turnagain||Observation: Pete’s North||Anonymous|
|03/26/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Tincan – Proper (SW facing)||CNFAIC Staff|
|03/26/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Seattle Ridge||W Wagner Forecaster|
|03/25/20||Turnagain||Avalanche: Sunburst Uptrack @ 2000′||J. Boisvert|
|03/24/20||Turnagain||Observation: Turnagain – Road Observations||W Wagner Forecaster|
Status of riding areas across the Chugach NF is managed by the Glacier and Seward Ranger Districts, not avalanche center staff. Riding area information is posted as a public service to our users and updated based on snow depth and snow density to prevent resource damage at trailhead locations. Riding area questions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Area||Status||Weather & Riding Conditions|
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.