I spent the morning and early afternoon hours in front of the computer working on Administrative work for Mammut. By 2pm i was ready to get away. I ran up to the ski hill and took lift 2 to the top, put my skins on, and headed out of bounds.
It was a wonderland of fog and rime covered trees across the top and at times i kept thinking to myself… “i should be there by now… i hope I’m not going in circles up here…”. To my surprise and theirs, i stumbled across 3 snow boarders hungry for adventure and fresh tracks; snowboards on their feet and snowshoes strapped to their packs! We chatted for a few minutes and then parted ways. They disappeared into the fog and i headed toward the Baugher Special.
I had fresh tracks and couldn’t resist doing two laps before heading back to the base of the ski hill to ski inbounds with my patrol buddy, SKIEDmore.
Snow Pack Observations:
85cm – 95cm (approx elevation 6,300′)
I dug two pits and conducted three stability tests. My first pit was on a northwest aspect (32 degree slope angle) and the second pit was on a northeast aspect (39 degree slope angle) both at the same approx elevation. Both pit sites had a nearly identical snow pack containing two very distinct layers of buried surface hoar sandwiching a very dense layer. The bottom of the snow pack is about 6″ of large grain facets. Needless to say there were several very interesting and distinct layers of weakness to view in my pits.
Pit 1, NW 32 degree:
CT 13, Q 2 The column propagated on the deeper layer of buried surface hoar. CT 14 failed with a Q 2 on top of the faceted base; essentially on the ground. YIKES!
Pit 2, NE 39 degree:
CT 2, Q 3. The top three inches did collapse on the upper layer of buried surface hoar. CT 15, Q 2 on the deeper layer of buried surface hoar. AND finally CT 21, Q 2 on top of the faceted base.
**I conducted a third test in this same pit with the result of a CT 1. However, i accidentally leveraged the column while cutting the back to isolate the column and is likely the reason i had the CT 1 result.
In the photo i have boldly identified the two layers of buried surface hoar on the left of the pit. You can see the noticeable layers in their natural state on the right side of the pit. Also the very obvious 6″ of junk the entire snow pack is resting on! The facets fell out from underneath the dense slab all on their own…
Tracks from my two laps are visible on the middle section of the Baugher Special. Ahh, soft untracked snow a stones throw from the ski area boundary!
I was surprised at the current condition of our low elevation snow pack and feel there is very strong evidence to merit realistic CAUTION and be vigilant about safe backcountry travel habits when recreating in the western Big Hole’s. Just my two cents.
– Dean Lords