MAR 24 - Hanging around with a polar bear tied up with 7mm cord
Just finished 6 days snowcat supported ski touring in the Western side of the Monashees, north of the Trans Canada Highway. As I am sure everyone on the planet has heard, conditions are still tricky there and triggering large avalanches on surface hoar down approximately 1 meter is still a grave concern.
Conditions seem slightly better in this neighbourhood than elsewhere in the Columbias. LOTS of observations of the snowpack have kept us comfortable skiing on some moderately steep south facing terrain where we know there are some sun crusts up to 8 cms thick above the surface hoar layers. We are only skiing this terrain one at a time after cold clear nights and before the full heat of the day and the sun is on them. This may change if the forecast for snow is correct.
North and east facing terrain still has us spooked, especially during the recent warm spells. The weak layers are still there above 1400m but in all our observations are buried by a sufficiently strong and widespread slab. That is why we have stopped getting whumphs and cracking. This only means that the slab is harder to trigger but the consequences remain catastrophic. On these aspects in our neighbourhood, the alpine is generally less of a concern than treeline. I believe I have never so consistently and continuously used safety measures to spread out my load on the terrain.
It is a bit like hanging around with a polar bear tied up with 7mm cord. You want to see it cut loose from far away and it is definitely uncool to poke at it.
Having said all this we have been having some excellent skiing and been cautiously exploring some big new terrain on the cold days and pulling in on the reins during the warmth.
ACMG/IFMGA Mountain Guide