Avalanche: Chugach State Park

Location: South Fork of Eagle River

Route & General Observations

We took the standard up the track to Hunter Pass. Our original plan was to dig two pits- a high-elevation pit and a lower-elevation pit. Because of the strong winds, we decided to stick to lower-angle terrain in more sheltered areas and dug a pit at the Hunter Pass.

Avalanche Details
If this is an avalanche observation, click yes below and fill in the form as best as you can. If people were involved, please provide details.
Trigger NaturalRemote Trigger No
Avalanche Type Hard SlabAspect West
Elevation 3700ftSlope Angle 40deg
Crown DepthunknownWidth 200ft
Vertical Run 1500ft  
Avalanche Details

Drove to the end of Highland Road around ~10:20 am. Did not see any debris at that point and the Hiland road was clear, we continued to the South Fork Valley Trailhead for a field day.

At 2 pm (on our drive home) we noticed a natural avalanche had occurred that deposited several feet of snow onto the Hiland road. We met with several folks in the area. There were no reports of any people, vehicles, or structures impacted. The avalanche crown was blown in by the strong winds and it was difficult to see much of the upper slope. The blocks in the debris were hard and up to the size of a mini fridge, indicating it was a hard slab avalanche. The weak layer is unknown.

During our field day visibility was in and out. It was difficult to see the other side of the valley with the flat light and wind transport. However, if you watch the video, at the beginning, during the panning of the area, the avalanche can be seen in the distance.

We checked the Harp Mountain parking lot and did not see any cars. We were also the only vehicle parked in the parking lot at the South Fork Valley Trailhead.

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?Yes
Collapsing (Whumphing)?No
Cracking (Shooting cracks)?No
Observer Comments

Sustained strong winds were coming from the southeast during our field day.

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

10:30 am- Overcast, light winds from the southeast, no precip
11:20 am- Broken clouds, moderate winds from the southeast, no precip
1:00 pm- Overcast, strong winds from the southeast and the north, no precip

Snow surface

Below Hunter Pass snow quality was a pretty nice soft powder. At the pass and along the ridge to North Bowl the snow was wind scoured. Sastrugi was visible and a wind crust had formed.


We dug one snowpit at Hunter Pass, info is below:

Location: Hunter Pass
Elevation: 2,867'
Aspect: SE
Slope: 20 degrees
Test results: ECTX (no results showing snowpack instability)

We are still seeing poor structure in the snowpack. The Thanksgiving crust was still present in this location and we were able to find some near-surface facets from the last cold-clear event.

Today illustrated how a snowpit can not be an end-all decision-making tool when traveling in avalanche terrain. While we had no reactive snowpit test results- the major loading event from the wind caused a natural avalanche to be triggered during our field day across the valley from us.

A good reminder that a holistic approach to backcountry travel- looking for red flags, checking weather stations and weather forecasts- useing snowpits to help with the decision-making process are all important.

Also, trust your stomach butterflies! Our original plan was to get a higher elevation pit but felt uncomfortable with the conditions and stuck to low-angle slopes on less exposed ridges. Sometimes you get feedback for those decisions, and sometimes you don't.

Photos & Video
Please upload photos below. Maximum of 5 megabytes per image. Click here for help on resizing images. If you are having trouble uploading please email images separately to staff.