Taos Region

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Taos Region

Postby JBella » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:47 am

Dusting last night above about 10.5k in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, a bit higher on the western front of the range. Jet stream flow and a stationary low pressure system between Hawaii and Mexico are fueling another low pressure system spinning above the 4 Corners region, storm dynamics look good for a few inches by Wednesday morning. As the low above the Pacific evolves it may create some potential for significant snowfall again this weekend.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:07 pm

Light snow continued today and is still precipitating tonight, a few hours ago it looked like a couple inches had accumulated above treeline.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:57 am

Decent snowfall here, about 5" around the Williams Lake trailhead. Not nearly as exciting as the 14-18" pre-storm predictions but it's another layer atop last week's modest accumulations. Not enough to get into most areas but it looked like there's some deeper crossloaded drifts and small cornices hanging on the ridgelines I could see. Bottom of the trail was pretty rocky and hiked-out by yesterday afternoon as the storm fizzled out.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:40 pm

Windy and lightly stormy tonight. Maybe a couple inches by tomorrow afternoon. Hiked up to the Peace Chute earlier today, in the sunny areas the fresh snow had melted/settled to a few inches along the trail, looked deeper and colder on the east facing slopes on Kachina. Shaded areas in the trees were holding colder and dryer snow. Pics from early afternoon;

William's Lake Trail October 16.jpg
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Natural terrain features like this are holding enough snow for avalanches to occur;

West Simpson Crossloaded Drift October 16.jpg
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:01 am

After very little light precipitation yesterday, the current storm has set in today. Temps are warm, it's snowing pretty good at and above treeline, below about 11k snow is mixed with rain and melting as it hits the ground. I expect the snowline to gradual lower throughout the day and into the night, could be some decent accumulation this afternoon through tomorrow morning.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Oct 27, 2018 9:35 am

Storm totals ended up being 1-3 inches of heavy glop. Looked like the mountains around Santa Fe had much higher amounts, up to a foot reported by the ski area.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Oct 31, 2018 8:43 am

It's hammering today. At midnight 5-6" had accumulated around 10k, been snowing steady since then. Lots of wind and drifting.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:53 am

Storm totals range from 12 to 24+ inches with the deepest snow accumulated in sheltered meadows and valleys between about 10,200 and 11,500', and on leeward sides of ridges near and above treeline. The shallowest snow is on open southeast through westerly slopes below treeline, and most areas below 9,500'. Yesterday afternoon the storm was starting to clear out, we climbed an ESE line to treeline.

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On that side the pre-storm snow had transitioned to a Spring-like layer 5-7 inches deep, the bottom few inches was in the beginning stages of the faceting process, with a denser slab/crust above it, bonding well with the storm snow. A group of 3, we each felt a few collapses within the old snow on ESE aspects while skinning up to the bottom of the chute, thence while bootpacking up the chute a small R1D1 sluff which we'd anticipated and incorporated into our route decision was initiated within the cliffs above and quietly ran down the gully adjacent to the route we were climbing, about 400' vertical as the slope transitioned from 38 to 30 degrees. We don't know the trigger, it may have been sympathetic from vibrations caused by the lead climber in our group or snow falling from the trees above.

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On more south facing terrain there was less old snow, more rocks and ground beneath the storm snow. The few north through east aspects we encountered were typically colder, where I dug some small hand pits there were deeper buried layers already faceting with well defined interfaces.

Riding down a lower angle NE aspect below treeline the snow was great, waist deep turns in places and plenty of face shots. Enough snow to cover most of the downed trees and rocks, I scraped a few in thinner areas and opened the throttle a few times with confidence, as much as the deep snow would allow.

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As far as avalanche potential it's not in the green and won't be for some time, open slopes above treeline especially leeward aspects and below cornices should be approached with caution and assessed carefully. Slab development was noticeable yesterday afternoon and will continue, after a cold and drier night with light snow showers the clouds are clearing this morning letting some sun hit the snow. With storm fronts lined up across the Pacific and plenty of moisture in the atmosphere it looks like intermittent unsettled weather will be common during the near future. Now there's enough snow in many areas for avalanches to occur, which means there's deep enough snow to ride. A lot of areas with lots of downfall will still be challenging to travel through, west facing terrain like the fingers and Peace Chute didn't look ready and Kachina's north and east sides still looked pretty rocky.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:12 am

Some observations from William's Lake yesterday. Temps have been staying cool, there was a bit of slush on the open sunny ground by the boulder fields. In the shaded and north - east slopes the snowpack was colder and showing signs of faceting within the upper layers. My main concern now is the pesky layer of pre-Halloween snow which has become a mix of facets and crusts within the 3-10 inches directly above the ground. The Halloween storm snow has bonded well in many areas but is showing reactive tendencies on the colder aspects. Much settling has occurred and the snowpack is thin below treeline. Above treeline on all aspects windslabs have been developing as snow has been moved off convex slopes leaving rocks and scree exposed. Gullies and valleys are filled in and winds were moving what loose and dry snow is still available for transport. Look for hard slabs as you travel above treeline and be cautious on any open exposed slopes especially beneath cornices and crossloaded terrain features.

West facing terrain along Wheeler's north ridge is still questionable at best, starting zones are filled in with hard windslabs affected by the afternoon sun and the runouts aren't very deep.

November 7 Peace Chute.jpg
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November 7 Ring Finger.jpg
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November 7 Boulder Field.jpg
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November 7 Windloading.jpg
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November 7 Sin Nombre.jpg
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November 7 Sin Nombre North Route.jpg
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:15 am

FYI for anyone planning a tour in this area, the ski area terrain is effectively closed to access as mountain operations are underway. Clearly visible and obvious signs are posted on tower 2 on Lift #4 and also where the William's Lake trail branches off from the service road. Despite the terrible grammar on some of the signs they should meet the legal requirements under New Mexico law.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Nov 10, 2018 3:02 pm

November 8 afternoon ~ Long Canyon, Avalanche Ridge, East through northeast aspects

Snow was much thinner in the Columbine-Hondo than the Wheeler Peak Wilderness. The line we'd intended to ride wasn't holding enough snow, so we climbed it instead and descended a more east facing path further north along the ridge. Snowpack along the Bull of the Woods and first mile and a half of the Long Canyon trails was Springlike, thin and rocky areas required hiking until about a quarter mile before the trail junction, ice was present in the usual spots. The chute we climbed is a northeast facing avalanche path, recognizable despite the density of trees in the starting zone. After climbing through thin snow then bootpacking up about 400' of downfall, where we approached the starting zone (38-40 degree angle) the snowpack consisted of 4-7 inches of settled powder atop another 4-7 inch thick, solid layer of semi-frozen crust which allowed strong bootpack holds. The amount of anchors including trees, stumps and rocks, mitigated any reasonable avalanche potential. There were a few deeper drifted areas along the ridge and as we skinned up towards the higher terrain the snowpack became drier and slightly deeper, but only a few isolated areas on northeast slopes were holding deep enough snow to ride. We found a shaded gully and rode it down into an open runout where the snowpack became thinner, cautiously crossed some rocky sections then across low-angled forested slopes until the snow became too thin to ride and we hiked down the lower steep pitch to the stream, then down to the trail. This is one of my go-to areas for the early season, but with the current conditions it's going to take a few more storms to fill in. Seems like snowfall totals with the Halloween storm cycle were about half of what accumulated south of the Rio Hondo.

November 8 Climbing Top of the Asteroid Belt.jpg
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November 8 Taos Mountains.jpg
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November 8 North Vallecito.jpg
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Nov 15, 2018 9:35 pm

Report from Tuesday November 13.

Toured the lower elevations of Kachina's east side, to the pond. Travelling through the forest above the trail was difficult due to the amount of deadfall, we found openings over and around the downed trees, through the forest up to the sub ridge on the far southeast side then across the lower east face to the pond, dense windslab from the November 11-12 storm above unconsolidated snow and caverns around the rocks. With the amount of anchors and alpha angle, and observations of where the storm activity ran we were confident we could safely cross towards the pond. Lots of collapses all across that side between the rocks, the snowpack is still thin enough the boulders aren't covered and are keeping the slabs discontinuous. Could be a reactive layer after a few more storms. Riding down was difficult due to exposed rocks and the amount of deadfall in that zone, we managed a few good turns then worked our way down the drainage back to the trail.

During the recent storm Sunday night the Peace Chute, Ring Finger and several chutes on Kachina's east side ran, R1D2 slides deposited 3-4 deep debris piles on the upper sections of runouts where slope angles lessen.

West facing terrain looked more filled in, from the atypical north and east wind directions during the storm Sunday night. There were some nice looking tracks in the Pinky runout.

November 13 Kachina East.jpg
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November 13 Kachina East Side.jpg
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November 13 West Facing Chutes.jpg
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November 13 Slope Angle Measurement.jpg
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:07 am

Thursday top of the Peace chute across the starting zones, snowpack depth varied between 2 and 4 feet, top layer was a dense + heavy windslab shearing clean at three sites I checked, above another less dense slab above 4-6 inch loose 1-2mm facets and the second shearing point in two of the three tests. Slab felt like standing on a drum, made some interesting sounds as I crossed it, no settling or glide as I traversed up to the middle of the starting zone, still lots of rocks exposed and the slab is discontinuous except in the middle of the drainages where the chutes begin. In the upper half of the slide paths wouldn't want to stress it with too much weight within a short time span. On my route up, the south facing terrain in the adjacent chute had some good bootpacking suncrust, deeper powder near treeline and the surface layers of anything on open sunny slopes was melting. Middle of the Peace chute was washed out by the moderate sized slide during the Sunday-Monday storm, debris piles made it to the top of the runout and were up to 4.5' deep. Still thin and rocky the few hundred feet above the trail to Tim's cross and too flat to ride, walked down that section.

The wind slab above treeline is something to think about when more snow accumulates.

Widespread surface hoar had started growing in the valley and open meadows up to a couple hundred feet up.


November 15 top Peace Chute.jpg
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November 15 top Peace Chute Base.jpg
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Wildy bowl and Kachina still look rocky.

November 15 Wildy.jpg
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Last edited by JBella on Wed Nov 21, 2018 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Nov 21, 2018 8:37 pm

Peace Chute yesterday, similar route as where I went last Thursday up the Bong Chute and traversing across above treeline. On southwest through southeast facing slopes lots of snow had melted since the most recent storm event. Near and above treeline a lot of water has been pulled out of the snowpack leaving loose sugary snow where denser and deeper soft slabs were present last week, and interesting alterations in the wind drifted snow around the starting zones have developed as winds shifted to a more typical west-east flow this week. Lots more rocks were exposed thanks to the solar gain on the west side of that ridge. In the starting zones the windslab from the November 11-12th storm was still present, it has strengthened a bit but was still not bonded well to the layer below, a classic example of how a slab becomes harder to trigger but if it's triggered it'll move with a lot of energy, could be a persistent issue for some time. I was with one partner and we rode the chute cautiously, staggering the top half so only one of us was exposed to the obvious path at any time. We got some really good turns in soft wind-moved snow to the choke in the middle which was rough, exposed rocks from the 11-12th slide cycle had melted out a bit more, below the choke was a slick bed surface then the debris piles softened by the afternoon sun and from Tim's cross down the snow had settled and was dense enough we could ride out to the trail.

Overall the snowpack is thin after settling for a week. Specific lines are filled in enough to ride but it's becoming difficult to find preferable conditions. The Peace Chute and some of the adjacent paths are filled in but still thin along the edges, and knowing what I know about the slab that exists atop those chutes I've had an ever present unsettled feeling on each tour. It's always a potentially risky line and worth the risk any time I've ridden it, other times it's felt reasonably stable but currently I wouldn't want to stress that slab at the top too much especially if the approaching storm cycle adds significant weight to the snowpack.

November 20 Peace Chute.jpg
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November 20 Peace Chute 2.jpg
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November 20 Peace Chute 3.jpg
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November 20 Peace Chute 4.jpg
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Dec 01, 2018 11:09 pm

3-5 inches in the upper elevations last night, another 8-12 is forecasted for tomorrow and tomorrow night.

Screenshot crop of a small release on Highline Ridge from the ski area's webcam earlier today.

December 1 Screenshot Highline Webcam.jpg
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