Thursday, November 17, 2011

Big Wind AK

The winds over the weekend were certainly a nuisance. They made for sensitive wind slabs with whomphing and shooting cracks. Fortunately we managed the terrain well. Since the weekend the winds have picked up dramatically with insane gusts recorded at local weather stations. The winds have finally died down, but I expect people to find an entire new level of wind hammered.

Thompson Pass recorded a wind gust of 152 mph on November 16th at 1:21 AM. This weather station is on the road (not a ridge) and is 26 miles out of Valdez at 2,800'.
DOT Data

Not to be outdone, the Site Summit weather station above Arctic Valley just north of Anchorage had some impressive gusts of their own. This station sits on a ridge/mini summit at 3,924'.

  • November 15 2:53PM Wind Speed: 109 mph Max gust: 157 mph

  • November 15 10:53 PM Wind Speed: 108 mph Max gust: 153 mph

  • November 15 11:53 PM Wind Speed: 103 mph Max gust: 188 mph!!

Soon after the 11:53 PM reading the weather station ceased data transmission. Link

Other max gusts from around South Central Alaska:

  • Independence Mine, 3,450', Hatcher Pass, Max gust of 41 mph on 11/16 at 4:00 PM

  • Fresno Ridge, 3,440', Summit Lake Area, Max gust of 24 mph on 11/16 at 7:00 PM

  • Seattle Ridge, 2,400', Turnagain Pass Area, Max gust of 57 on 11/16 at 6:00 PM

Data from CNFAIC.

Have fun out there!!

- U.K.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cornbiscuit & Hatcher Pass: November 12 & 13

Clear skies and tales of stability and aggressive skiing dominated the week. As Friday approached, I grew restless. It was my turn to get after it. The pieces were all falling into place on Saturday morning: The Noodler was in, the avi forecast was encouraging, and there was snow aplenty. But it was not to be sender-fest; it was a weekend of tiptoeing through storms.

We headed south to Turnagain. The roads were snow covered and spirits were high as we parked at the Cornbiscuit trail head. It was a Class V skinner through the alders and forest, but who doesn't love a being slapped in the face for 60 minutes? We finally were through the worst of it and began to climb in earnest.

The Noodler on the Prowl

There was evidence of about 6 large glide avalanches. We opted to pull a move from my Utah bag of tricks: CTR (choose the ridge). As we climbed, the storm intensified: wind and plenty of snow available for transport. Today would not be the day for going after big objectives. New snow slabs were building and were extremely sensitive: whoomphs and cracking, but only on the new snow. We kept the angles low. The Noodler did pop out a small slab on a steep rollover whilst performing a ski cut. The low angle love was low density powder and definitely more fun than the sketchiness higher up.

Time to Back Off

There were big winds forecast for Sunday in the Turnagain area. The nice thing about Anchorage, is it's proximity to several different snow packs and weather patterns. Instead of South, we went North to Hatcher Pass. Unfortunately, it was more of the same. Wind with snow available for transport creating sensitive slabs. Sigh....

I didn't feel comfortable exposing the large group to questionable terrain. So we had an avalanche safety refresher day. Pits were dug and analyzed. Beacons were buried and located. Talk focused on looking for signs of instability, other quick tests that can be done on the skinner, picking pit locations, and so on.

Hatch Peak Getting Blasted

The instability this weekend seemed limited to recent wind loading. There weren't any problems in the meat of the snow pack. So hopefully the wind slabs heal quick. And in other good news, there is more snow at Hatcher right now then at any point last year.

Alpenglow and the Pinnacle

I didn't get the big line I was hoping for, but it was a super productive weekend and I will never complain about spending the day outdoors with fun people.

- Martha Macy Mae Marlene