Technical information, news, research, and opinion on avalanches, snow safety, and winter backcountry travel.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Be Fucking Careful!

If you live in Washington State, now is a very good time to be very fucking careful. There have been a rash of incidents over the last week, and there are signs of deep instability lurking below the winter snowpack in some areas. Deep instabilities are not typically found in the maritime snowpack we have here Washington State; this means that terrain that is usually safe might be very dangerous. Now is a good time for snowpack observations. To this point, the report from Crystal Mountain cited a Q1 shear at 48" below surface. The fracture was described as "like a filing cabinet", which implies a clean, rapid failure.

This is a crystal clear sign of snowpack instability.

It is not possible to manage the risk associated with deep instabilities due to wide variances in snowpack structure and the associated fluctuations in the energy required for avalanche formation. Deep avalanches are always large and unsurvivable.

As always, make decisions that strike a balance between awareness and uncertainty.