Observation: Turnagain

Location: Sunburst

Route & General Observations

Toured up to 2500′ on Sunburst and dug a couple pits along the way. We found a weak layer of facets about 1′ deep at our pit at 1500′. Compared to the snowpack conditions we saw in Summit yesterday the weak layer looked a little less concerning. However, this type of weak layer is notorious for being unpredictable and could still produce large avalanches. At our upper pit at 2500′ we did not find the weak layer, but the area we dug was just above treeline adjacent to the Sunburst ridge, so it gets a lot of wind.

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

Mostly sunny to partly sunny skies. Light winds at low elevations and moderate winds at and above treeline. Temps in the mid 30s.

Snow surface

Breakable ice crust from 1000-1500'. Above there it was a mix of firm, breakable, and soft wind transported snow. There was lots of wind transport moving snow around on the surface above treeline.


We dug two snowpits. At 1500' we found a weak layer of facets buried about 1' (35 cm) deep from the January cold spell. We performed an extended column test and got a failure on the last tap from the shoulder which propagated about 1/2 way across the column (ECTN 30). When I pried the layer off with my shovel it fractured easily and cleanly at the interface with the January facets. Even though the test result was not very exciting I am still concerned about the potential for large avalanches to fail on this layer. We stuck to low angle terrain and tried to avoid common runout areas due the active wind loading going on.

At 2500' we did not find the layer of facets in the upper 1m of the snowpack. The area we dug was only a few hundred feet from the ridgeline and it probably sees a fair bit of wind. We did not get any interesting results in our snowpit tests at this location and the snowpack structure looked pretty strong.

Photos & Video
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