2-13-2019 Deep Slabs at Galena Pass

Snowpack in Central Idaho

New snow is coming to Idaho and as a result the Sawtooth Avalanche Center is forecasting deep slabs as the primary concern. They are cautioning to “build a healthy safety margin into your travel plans”. This happens here unfortunately, especially on years like this one. Idaho’s snowpack has been relatively shallow to date and is slowly rotting. Snow enthusiasts are being gripped by powder fever and with a high avalanche danger we will likely see some close calls in the coming weeks.

Lyte + Deep Slabs

We had the opportunity to get some local observations and Lyte probe measurements of the conditions. Two things right away jumped out at us. 1. The extended column test show propagation at the interface to the basal depth hoar (the rotting snow mentioned above). It also aligns with what the avalanche center is forecasting as the primary layer of concern. 2. We noticed the faceted layer in the middle of the snowpack. While its not reactive it likely will become so as get more snow. Since we know the Lyte probe can observe faceted layers, we can continue to monitor this layer as it become loaded.

Detailed Look

One of the things the Lyte probe does is lower the cost of curiosity. How many times have you wished another pit would open up and you could just jump in and take a quick look? Curiosity about stbaility is a very healthy trait while traveling in avalanche terrain. Unfortunately, my curiosity only takes me so far. So I (and others) usually supress the thought of spending another hour digging and assessing another location unless its really important to our mission that day. As I meander to different nearby slopes this same curiosity crops up and I can quickly take a measurement with the Lyte Probe. If the snow doesn’t look like the snow where I did my first assessment, I now know there is new snowpack information that I haven’t assessed. I can either dig a new pit or go back to a more representative slope. Its 30 seconds to enable this type of decision making and it will be some of most valuable time you spend on the snow…next to ripping the blower powder of course.

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Elevation: 8945'
Precipitation: 8"
Snow: 36"
Temperature: 16°