Observation: Hatcher Pass

Location: Fairangel Valley

Route & General Observations

On Sunday, 2/14/2016, we toured up the Independence Mine Valley, past the Rock Garden, under the Pinnacle, up to Fairangel. Then we skied a lap in Fairangel (attached) before retracing our steps back to the Independence Mine parking lot.

Upon reaching the pass above the Pinnacle Valley towards Fairangel, surface conditions deteriorated from dust on crust to exposed rain crust and hard slab. Snow conditions at the top of Fairangel were so bad that we downclimbed a bit. This was a trying experience. Once well within the chute, and below the exposed raincrust we dug a pit which is described below.

Snow conditions in Fairangel were variable, but always bad. They included rain crust, hard slab, wind pockets, and breakable crust. The wind pockets would have been a major problem if they had been continuous. Notably, just below the upper chute, and into the apron, a ski cut produced a very noticeable settlement and shooting crack in a wind pillow. It did not move, but this is exactly where Billy Finley triggered a slide two years ago.

Climbing out of Fairangel we observed shooting cracks, failure of small wind pockets, breaking of switchbacks and other red flags of wind deposited instability. These pockets were spatially discontinuous.

Overall, these are the worst snow conditions I have skied in a couple of years.

Red Flags
Red flags are simple visual clues that are a sign of potential avalanche danger. Please record any sign of red flags below.
Obvious signs of instability
Recent Avalanches?No
Collapsing (Whumphing)?Yes
Cracking (Shooting cracks)?Yes
Observer Comments

Shooting cracks, settling, corners of skin track switchback breaking off. Picture of skin track switchback attached.

Weather & Snow Characteristics
Please provide details to help us determine the weather and snowpack during the time this observation took place.


Snow surface

Wind crust, rain crust, dust on crust, wind pillows.


Pit at 5,200' ASL on N aspect in Fairangel, HS 135 cm, ECTX. We were able to pry the the column out at the transition from hard slab to rounding facets about 75 cm below the snow surface where it failed cleanly. Picture of pit attached, hard slab overlying rounding facets visible.

Photos & Video
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