Aspect: All aspects, but especially steep sunny E-SE-S-SW-W aspects
Elevation: This danger is mainly below 4,500ft for now, but will rise over the next few weeks.
Bottom Line: Keep a close eye on the temperatures! With springtime comes warming weather and strong solar radiation. Our spring shed has been slow to start this year, but we are already seeing scattered small wet slabs and occasional glide avalanches release on south aspects. Steep, sun affected slopes, especially those with rocks/cliffs will be most prone to slide whenever the sun is shining. Plan to avoid these sun-affected aspects, only venturing onto them if the snow is still frozen hard in early morning. If we don’t get a solid overnight freeze, these aspects will be a dangerous place to be! Remember that warming temperatures will also exacerbate the cornice and persistent slab concerns below.
Aspect: All aspects, on ridgelines and summits
Elevation: Near and Above Treeline
With a long winter of various loading directions, cornices have built on all aspects. This unique avalanche problem is less predictable than most and does not have solid tests and observations to better understand likelihood of release. Major factors that do contribute to cornice fall are strong solar radiation, increasing temperatures and recent wind events. Those three have been present recently and as the angle of the sun increases, fragile and sensitive cornices that have hung on all winter may finally begin to break down and fail. Cornice failure can also result in a heavy trigger for slopes below, especially with a persistent slab problem. Any strong solar radiation, or warming could play a big role in cornice failure.
Elevation: Near and Above treeline
Bottom Line: On sheltered W-NW-N-NE aspects we may still have a lurking buried surface hoar layer 45-55cm deep. This layer contributed to a natural avalanche cycle in early April, with several reports of human triggered slides on slopes greater than 35 degrees. Human triggered slides are are still possible on this lingering weak layer. Expect this danger to be slow to improve… it will take a good crush-and-flush or a big wet slide cycle to put this one to bed. Deeper weak layers from early March, 1 meter deep or more, still have potential to step down especially around shallow trigger points, or from heavy triggers. As temperatures continue to warm throughout the spring, expect these deeper weak layers to begin waking up again, which could lead to very large avalanches.
Last week, some small natural wet slides were reported on solar aspects. Also cornice falls. This persistent slab avalanche from the Lutak zone this week was caused by cornice failure, the resulting slide stepped down to deeper weak layers, showing they are still lurking and waiting to wake up. Photo by Jeff Moskowitz.
April 13-15: Size 1-2 natural wind slab avalanches were observed in steep cross-loaded terrain from the Transitional Zone to the Pass.
April 3-5: Numerous natural and human-triggered slides were reported from multiple aspects. Crowns were 30-150cm deep, running in fresh storm snow, loose, wind slabs, and a few deeper persistent slabs and cornice drops. The main concern appears to be a surface hoar layer that formed 3/27. This layer is about 35-45cm deep on average.
A human triggered D2-R3 slide at 5200′ on a N-NE aspect 3/4 at the Haines Pass. Crown depth was 35cm. Photo credit: Carver Colbek
3/21-26/2022 – A variety of natural slides were observed 3/26 with the majority of them D1-D2 slabs, 15-30cm deep, mostly within the new wind-loaded snow on N-NW-W aspects. These avalanches mostly occurred below rocks, ridgelines, or cornices. Some stepped down to deeper layers from early March.
A fresh slide below rock features on a solar aspect, from 3/26, Transitional Zone near 4600ft, NW aspect. Photo credit: John Upton
3/5-7/2022 – Numerous D1-D2 natural and human triggered activity 2-12″+ deep were reported on multiple aspects above treeline.
1/29/2022 – Deep slab natural avalanche that occurred roughly in the Lutak Zone. This slide may have run on a buried facet layer from late December’s outflow event, or even a deeper rain crust near the ground (it went all the way to ground in spots).
1/29 to 2/1/2022 – Several reports came in of recent avalanches in the alpine of the Transitional Zone. The common characteristics of these slides were wide propagation, and failing 2-5ft deep at the interface below the wind slabs from last week’s atmospheric river. We have strong reason to suspect these slides occurred on a buried surface hoar layer from 1/20. They happened on all aspects, at elevations from 3000 – 5000ft, and all were in wind sheltered areas below ridges, features, and starting zones. Slide were observed in the Transitional and Lutak zones, but the Lutak slides appear to be on different layers.
4Winds zone. SW. 4000-5000′
Near Mt. Krause
Freezing levels during the daytime are reaching up to 4000ft, with light freezes at night. We can expect nice weather through Saturday April 30th, followed by a storm on Sunday, which is expected to bring about 0.5″ of precipitation and snow levels near 3000ft.
( *star means meteorological estimate )
** The Ripinsky weather station is in need of repair, and will likely be down until Summer. Make a donation to the Haines Avalanche Center for next season here.
Safe backcountry travel requires training and experience. You control your own risk by choosing where, when and how you travel. Ride rescue ready. Be prepared for an emergency. Prevent hypothermia. Carry bear spray. Winter is a high consequence environment.
Become a sustaining Haines Avalanche Center Member by clicking the poster or visiting dev.alaskasnow.org/joinHAC. Support local forecasts, observations, education and weather stations. Join a community of winter recreationalists. Benefit from collective knowledge and skills. Help keep your friends and family safe in the backcountry. Get a free limited edition mountain buff, or neck gaiter with a $50 membership (first 20 members!).
Practice like you play. Make sure all your rescue gear is fully functional and your beacon has NEW batteries. Make sure 1) everyone in the group has a functioning beacon, shovel and probe 2) knows how to use them and 3) has trained in companion rescue in the last year. Keep your skills fresh. If you head into the hills, watch out for red flag avalanche conditions, natural avalanches, whoomphing or collapsing, and shooting cracks.
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This will be our last update of the season. Thanks so much to all our sponsors, members, contributors, and supporters for keeping HAC strong and keeping Haines safe! See you here in November. Click the + Full Forecast button to read more details about current Spring hazards.
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