Taos Region

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:47 pm

The avalanche on the east side of Kachina ran between January 17th and 19th. The local ski patrol was aware of it over the weekend. It is possible that it was a natural release, or possibly sympathetically triggered by mitigation work on the inbounds side of Kachina. After further investigation today I'd rate it an R3D2, wide propagation across several starting zones, crown between 1 and 4.5?' deep, ran maybe 500' vertical as it crossed a flat bench then rolled over onto the pitch above the pond. I'd consider the size R3 because as it didn't run far and the historic runout is several hundred feet below the lowest debris, and the width of the crown is much wider from where the slide initiated than this chute has released during a few observed past events. The destructive force is debatable, the deepest debris at the lowest deposit point is pretty deep with large chunks, we were't able to safely approach that area to check it out. It appears to have ran on surface hoar which developed a few weeks ago before the January 1st-2nd storm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTKmkLB ... e=youtu.be

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:15 am

Earlier today NE aspect 10,750'.

Snowpack depth 90-100cm, weak failing layer in various tests was the bottom of the upper slab 40cm down, within a 1.5-2cm layer of faceted old surface hoar 1.5-3mm across, above a crumbly 4f 14-20cm layer of irregular .5-2mm facet crystals, atop several more faceting layers sandwiched between two more old faceting surface hoar layers, and a 6-10cm knife hard crust on the ground. The numbers may not accurately reflect the dynamics of the tests we performed which indicated upper-level moderate to considerable avalanche potential, results were CT17 SP Q2, CT18 SP Q2, ECTN20 SC Q3, almost moderate strength shear test, propagation test approximately 44% on a 20 degree slope. This is the pre-January 1st-2nd layer which appears to be the weak layer that the slide in the chutes on the east side of Kachina ran on. Similar and consistent conditions were widespread across the zone, while skinning up from the Williams Lake trail into the forest the snowpack had a very unsettling and loose feel to it, very uncohesive snow around rocks, trees and stumps. Tree wells are an issue now, as are holes around and beneath any fallen trees. We made it to the high bench on the east side of the pond, that was as close as we deemed safe enough to get to check out the recent slide. The chutes adjacent to the one that slid looked loaded and primed, and would not allow safe travel any higher. Atop that high bench we triggered several sudden, deep collapses. I hit more bull's eyes during this 1 and a half minutes than I ever did throwing darts;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ITVn1u ... e=youtu.be

***

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This is a fun area which we considered riding, our pit site was just a bit lower and to the right. After seeing the results of our tests we determined the risk was too high to enter this slope or any similar, despite it's relatively short length it drops onto a small gully then a flat area. It doesn't appear as steep in the picture as it is, alpha angle is about 38 degrees from the top to the gully;

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Dirty Pillows
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The starting zones in the Peace Chute, Fingers and others along that ridge looked ripe;

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Peace Chute
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Peace Chute
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Wheeler has been hit hard by the recent winds;

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Wheeler NW face
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By the time we reached the Bav it was calm in the valley and winds were moving snow across the top of Kachina;

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Our discoveries on this side show a new persistent slab issue has developed atop the older, deeper instabilities closer to the ground. While all of our tests were failing at the same layer, the bottom half of the snowpack was also consistently easily separated at the interface with the lower depth hoar layer and the thick crust on the ground. This crust seemed to be isolated to specific pockets, it has been noted on some west aspects across the valley also and may have developed due to residual heat in rocky areas causing this level of the snowpack to heat up, almost melt and then freeze together. Other areas it is not present and basal depth hoar is sitting above the ground.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Laptopia » Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:31 pm

JBella wrote:Avalanche spotted on the east side of Kachina Peak, first chute south of the ski area. It's unkown when it happened, earliest observation we've heard about was a second-hand report from yesterday. Looks like an R3D2, culprit being a recent storm layer (windslab?) that stepped down into a pocket of looser snow around a vertical line of trees, which ran down through the trees and propogated across the slope where it opens up. Report was that debris didn't run to the pond. Pics taken from the Bavarian parking lot this afternoon

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Is that Big Al's that slid? Or further south?
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:12 pm

Laptopia wrote:Is that Big Al's that slid? Or further south?


That's the one. I don't know if that name's caught on yet, I've heard it called that by a few people over the years. Also known as Wildy 1 as it's the first chute from the ski area's boundary.

Wildy 2 and 3 look primed, just waiting for a trigger. We'd hoped to get to the debris to measure depths, but climbing further would have required entering the potential debris path in the second chute, or climbing up to the north would have put us on 35-40+ degree slopes that had not slid yet.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:27 am

Slopes that haven't slid and are adjacent to others that have are extremely questionable at best, even with slight variations in aspect these particular chutes are holding a very similar snowpack. Most of these chutes on Kachina's east side ran during November and some during December also which seems to have alleviated the deeper instabilities to some extent, leading to the current persistent slab issues which we discovered at the layer about 40cm down in our tests a few days ago. While futher investigating the slide in Wildy 1, I spoke with the person who first observed this avalanche - it occurred on January 19th. Then on January 20th much of the west wall of Long Canyon, known locally as Avalanche Ridge, released HUGE. The person who contributed this info has been observing these mountains for several decades. We will try to get out and get some obs in that area tomorrow. Other large slides were also reported between Wheeler and Lake Fork, possibly on Sin Nombre.

This is the sketchiest snowpack I've seen in this area for several years, I haven't had a similar sense of unease since the the last few days of February and first week of March 2015 when just about every slide path in Long Canyon and across the William's Lake basin slid, culminating with a widespread multiple-avalanche event at about 11pm on March 2nd, followed by a wet slide cycle when that anomalous warm air mass set in across the region on March 25th.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Mon Jan 28, 2019 3:48 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVoZ-XF ... e=youtu.be

We call this Avalanche Ridge for good reason. This massive slide in Long Canyon on what is known as the West Wall released sometime between the evening of January 19th and the morning of January 20th when it was first observed. Over the years I've seen several smaller slides on this ridge, some occurring at the same time on different sections, never seen this entire slope slide at once. From a geographic perspective it is the entire length of this wall up to where it begins turning to the east.

The video really doesn't portray the size of this avalanche accurately. The crown is at least 8' deep in places, where I probed the debris my 9'1" probe was not hitting ground and that was one of the easy-to-get-to piles at the far north side of the runout. The general aspect is approximately S87°E, alpha slope angle unknown but steepness appears to be up 40 degrees near the ridge, not including the overhanging cornice. Estimates measuring the terrain on a map are between 2,200' and 2,500' across, 400-500' vertical.

It appears to have been a natural release initiated by a cornice collapse triggering the slab which propagated across the entire slope, across various starting zones and independant paths which have run on their own in the past. There are places where the initial crown is visible on an old layer and it almost immediately stepped down to the ground, most of the slab ran to the ground. Another possibility is that it was triggered by an animal, there are tracks either descending or climbing the slope north of the north flank of the avalanche, seeing them yesterday it appeared they were more recent but it's hard to tell. There's a lot of bighorn sheep and at least one mountain lion that hangs out in this area.

Based on observations of historic flagging on old growth trees below the furthest debris piles, depth of debris deposits at least 9', and size of solid chunks in the debris this is an R4D3.5 although destructive force may be higher, it's tough to determine having not seen it happen, it appears it would have been able to destroy a small building or railway car if any had been placed in the middle of the slope.

This is yet another indicator of the deep slab instabilities that are widespread across this area. Other avalanches have been reported above William's Lake, and I wouldn't be surprised if some similar releases have occurred on the east sides of Wheeler Peak, Frazer Mountain, Gold Hill and any other slopes that are rarely seen. Vallecito is facing the ski ski area and I haven't seen or heard of any slides on that mountain, it is worth checking out if you are hiking Highline Ridge anytime in the near future.

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This was my first visual while skiing up the Long Canyon trail, it's the far south side of the slide

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I first considered staying on the trail and climbing the east ridge of the canyon to get a view from across the valley, however due to time constraints and questionable stability on that side I stayed in the basin and traversed across through the trees to the open flats where I had an amazing view of the slide

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I took a glance at a smaller slide on the more southerly facing series of wave-like gullies to the northeast before heading towards the debris, when I spotted a set of tracks on the slope a little ways north of the flanks of the avalanche

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When I reached the debris I got my probe out and checked one of the piles near the edge, don't know how far away it was from striking the ground so the debris was at least 9' deep

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Mon Jan 28, 2019 3:57 pm

The crown is absolutely massive, at least 8' and probably closer to 10' in a lot of places, with various storm layers visible

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A look back to the north as I worked my way across the debris field

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Then some views up at the wall, to ponder the dynamics of these terrain features and this event before dropping into a gully and skiing down through gradually rolling forests, meadows and ancient streambeds towards the trail.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby Dorman » Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:36 am

Amazing report. Thank you.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Bob » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:16 pm

That picture of the crown - IMG_1501.jpg - is just so amazing. I can’t ever recall seeing anything like that in this country.

Fine reporting J, just great.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Jasper » Tue Jan 29, 2019 8:23 pm

That is one fierce mofo. Nice report Jared.

Can you drop us a map of the location, caltopo or otherwise?

Thanks!
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:07 pm

Yesterday I met a couple of the local skiers who were up on Wheeler a few days ago, they showed me some pics a slide on the Southwest side that ran about the same time as the one in Long Canyon. Looked like it started a little ways down from the summit and ran almost to the lake. They thought the trigger may have been a ram or it was a natural release. Looked like it ran on old snow, about and R3D3.

Skied a short route to the pond on Kachina, widespread surface hoar was starting to grow in any open areas, lots of pockets of loose, unconsolidated facets 135-150cm from the surface to ground, some isolated NW-N-NE sides of terrain features had in interesting thin windslab atop the looser snow, with about 2 inches of faceting, soft snow on top.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:35 am

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:39 pm

Controlled slide in Cabin Chute, looks like it was a persistent slab on old snow, probably R2.5D2

Can't downsize the pic from my phone, will upload a better version when I can. Looked like they got a lot of hangfire to move in K3, also some smaller activity in K4 and 5, and an R2D2 controlled slide in Hunziker.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby Bob » Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:11 pm

Check out that crown up high along the ridge!
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Re: Taos Region

Postby danshorb » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:49 pm

Following, wonder what sunday will do.
The only two things you can truly depend on are Gravity and Greed. -Jack Palance
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