Taos Region

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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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Re: Taos Region

Postby mdkuli » Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:07 pm

Thanks to JBella for documenting the sketchy nature of the snowpack this year.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Tue Feb 05, 2019 1:58 pm

danshorb wrote:Following, wonder what sunday will do.


Hey Dan, Sunday did some interesting things! Got a head start on the river season, Rio Hondo headwaters were flowing pretty good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XV6LoFhErkc

When we climbed to the top of this line our assessment was that any slab issues were non-existent based on snow depth and consistency, and how the three noticeable layers were reacting in our tests. Average across the zone was 12-15 inches of wet and heavy but not soaking Spring-like snow at the top, the middle 15-20" layer was dense, wet and packed granules composing a 1F soft slab, lower 5-6 inches very dense and heavy but drier soft slab on the ground. Each layer was well bonded. After reaching the top of the chute below a cliff and checking the looseness of the surface layer I expected my sluff to run, and was prepared to hit some rocks knowing this line is a geologically active rockslide beneath decomposing precambrian outcrops. When I stopped and watched the sluff catch up with me I thought it would run around my board to the side, most of it did but it also got the small section I was standing on to move. Took me for a ride for a few dozen feet to the willows. Looking back up afterwards I was able to gather the dynamics of this small slide ~ R1.5D2, unintentional and somewhat expected wet slide initiated from a few turns kicking the loose snow outwards, 15-20" of wet surface snow moving on an old layer, about 40' across and 175' vertical. Debris mostly sluffed itself out as some made it to the stream and left small piles up to 14" deep. This was on a north aspect below 9k, alpha angle approx 42 degrees. Temps were hovering in the mid 30s during our entire climb and descent, about 2 hours total.

Temps are warming quickly as the Earth is shifting it's angle relative to our Sun. Snow in the lowest elevations in the mountains is melting, and it has been raining off and on today along the Rio Grande gorge. Below 10k the snowpack is shallow, wet slides including sluffs and widening point releases are possible. I don't know how temps are affecting the middle to upper layers of the snowpack, today, it still seems pretty cold up high and wet slabs are likely not an issue above about 10k, although there may be some isolated areas where mid-season slabs are present in the warmer mid to lower elevations, areas that come to mind are the slopes along any of the trails leading from Hondo Canyon towards Lobo and Gavilan peaks.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:03 am

Yesterday's storm was windy, by 3pm there was 8 inches at the Bavarian. Visibility decreased throughout the day to a point where we couldn't see more than 20 feet in front while cruising down the open groomers by Lift 7. There's probably some deep drifts today. and areas scoured clean on certain open, westerly terrain features.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:35 pm

Storm totals up to 10", moderate drifting especially on exposed terrain features with open northwest slopes and pockets. West Basin activity from this morning, I don't know if these were naturals or kicked down by control work

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:47 pm

Winds were blowing steady from the west today, not real strong but sustained which made it seem stronger. Yesterday's 3-5 inches provided ample snow to move around on Kachina, starting zones on leeward sides of the ridge were filled in and the slopes in the K Chutes were holding a variable mix of blower pow up to a foot deep, 3'+ deep drifts and areas of deceptively thin fresh snow covering solid hardpack and oddly shaped moguls. A couple deep storm slabs on the skier's left side of K4 broke and the cracks propagated several meters to either side but the slabs didn't move far. Wildy Bowl and beyond looked like the high ridges were getting hammered, lots of snow blowing off the high points and turning into clouds along with swirling masses of snow travelling across the slopes. Winds are forecasted to increase tonight and tomorrow, a good sign that the developing storm cycle could be a good one.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby mschlumpf » Wed Feb 13, 2019 12:19 am

Skied pinky chute and some runs below Sin Nombre on Sunday. The strong S-SW winds from last week left very little terrain untouched at TL and above. Even many well sheltered terrain features around pinky contain dense drifts up to a foot. Skiing was variable at best.

Storm snow from last week sits on a MFc (melt-freeze crust) on all aspects to at least 3600m. On solar aspects this interface seems to be bonding well. As we transitioned to more polar aspects the situation became a bit more tricky. On the east facing portion of the basin to at least 3600m, a reactive thin layer of facets lay below this crust interface. On specific wind-loaded terrain, this interface will likely be sensitive to human triggering. A CT test performed on this layer yielded CT 13 (SP) down 40cm on Fc sz 1-2 on an open east-facing slope at 3500m.

There was evidence of small wind slabs to sz D1.5 coming out of the immediate lee of specific wind loaded terrain features above tree line. Didn't see any new activity on deeper instabilities despite the heavy wind loading in certain areas.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:16 am

Woohoo full sail tonight

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https://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/goes/abi/ ... and13.html
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:25 pm

Very heavy and dense snow today, totals between 7 and 10 inches, deeper in some isolated areas. Temps were warm throughout the night, in the mid to upper 20s above the snow/rain line which was about 8,200'. Moderate winds up to 40mph from the west and northwest persisted from about 8pm till 6am on the high ridgelines. Above 11k Visibility is very limited at times due to fog and continuing snowfall.

Below about 8,200' and across the Rio Grande valley moderate rain fell through much of the night
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:08 am

Dynamics with this storm look good tonight, it's snowing at all elevations above at least 6500', relative humidity is between 90 and 100% across the region, light winds from the west and northwest. Temps are low, between 0 and 15 but with the relatively calm atmosphere there isn't a biting cold.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:58 am

Yesterday on easterly aspects between 11,000 and 11,400' on Kachina's east side we found a snowpack between 125 and 140cm, comprised of several dozens of layers composing three isolatable slabs beneath a 20-30cm soft storm slab, stiffness changing from fist to 1f from top to bottom. Tests showed easy breaks but low chance of propagation within the storm snow, CT9 Q2 and CT4 Q2, relatively clean shears at a layer of early stage faceting grains. Roughly 65cm down was a thin layer of old faceting grains up to a mm atop a 25-45cm stack of a few faceting storm layers in the middle, the third slab-ish type layer was a few layers of old snow, very unconsolidated and faceted increasing in size deeper in the snowpack, grains in the 10-15cm layer above the ground were up to 5mm across, advanced in their growth they've developed into interesting diamond shapes with full and half cups hanging on the sides of some of the crystals. Of the four distinct slabs, the weakeast interface besides the new storm snow layer was at the bottom-middle, this was collapsing with ease in every test, failing at various depths from the top of that layer to the ground, and propagation results were a 23 and 25. Sudden collapses within the upper third of this layer to the ground were causing interesting parts of slabs to break and drop while cutting upwards during prop tests. What was really interesting is the interface between the middle and upper slabs was weak, failing at 25 in a prop test, but not failing in any column or ect's, this is another indicator leading to the most energetic instability being within the basal depth hoar and that lower slab structure, while failures of the upper layers in prop tests and visibility indicate these layers could fail and step down. Step downs or failures could also occur at layers that weren't reacting to our tests, as indicated after one column test while I was shearing the remaining column apart and we observed a clean shear at a visible but otherwise non-reactive interface between two layers within the apparent lower slab stack, these factors are all considerable. The upper third layer of the snowpack seemed to be strong in appearance as we were travelling up through the forest, until we reached the bench by the pond where we set off several rumbling collapses on convex rolls around buried boulders, and also within depressions between such features and scattered tree islands.

Descent video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvNi8uMl6SM

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Re: Taos Region

Postby Jasper » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:24 pm

To sum up the above post, it appears a variety of tests produced a variety of results. These results may, or may not, give an indication of the snowpack's strength and energy, yet it appears that the snowpack's structure is poor, largely, due to basal facets.

Strength, structure, and energy all contribute to the snowpack's stability. If just one of these is out of line it indicates that avalanches can occur. If you choose to travel in New Mexico's avalanche terrain know that avalanches can occur on slopes between approximately 30° and 45°. Give these slopes respect and be cautious traveling on them, underneath them, and even adjacent to them.

Here is a good, short, paper.

INTEGRATING STRENGTH, ENERGY, AND STRUCTURE
INTO STABILITY DECISIONS
“So you dig a pit and then what?”
By Ian McCammon and Don Sharaf

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=2ahUKEwic_JOa1MvgAhWGFHwKHZTkCa0QFjAAegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcoloradomtn.instructure.com%2Ffiles%2F56042837%2Fdownload%3Fdownload_frd%3D1%26verifier%3DM6efb2lKrdP3Yw0TmCWan5Gp51JuJaoGs1LXtaVG&usg=AOvVaw27XLTkl4XHHoUdZtZIJQs2
Go when the going is good.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Kerry » Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:59 pm

On 2/17, skied the E facing trees N of BOW yurt. The 2/15 storm was not bonding well to older snow (CT 21 SP down 25cm) but also didn't propagate (ECTN 21 down 25cm). HS 150cm. Continued hits on the CT produced a Break at the top of the DH layer (CT29 Brk, down 130). Observed an old D2 slide on 35-degree pitch in the E facing trees, about 1/4 mi NW of yurt. Appeared to slide prior to or during the 2/15 storm.

On 2/18, skied the Williams and evaluated a SW slope at treeline in consideration of skiing Bong. The weak interface was within the 2/15 storm and didn't show propensity for propagation (CT11 SP down 29cm; also ECTN 11 down 29cm). Below the 2/15 storm layer, there were three Knife hard MFcrusts with F to F- between them. A slide on Wheeler's SW slope from moraine down into trees was reported by others, not visible to us due to WX. Skipped Bong because of overhead hazard.
On 2/18, skied the trees SW of Williams Lake from TL to the lake, lapped it a few times. Observed a R3D2.5 slide on Sin Nombre's NW flank that looked similar in age to avalanche reported above in trees N of yurt, prior to or perhaps during the 2/15 storm. Slide began just below low col between Sin Nombre and Ohio chute, at least 3' crown (had already reloaded with unknown amount), and ran almost to TL. The debris field covered about 200-250' of the drainage leading to TL.

On 2/21, returned to the good tree skiing experienced on 2/18 between Williams Lake/Sin Nombre/Ohio/Talus Field. Pit in trees at 11,500', NE aspect, found 145cm of soft slab reactive with propagation on the depth hoar (CT13 SC, down 100cm on 4mm DH; ECTP 25 down 100--stretching depth limits for ECT tests). Ski cut quite a few isolated small 35-degree pitches without results. Small loose dry observed on a 40-degree E slope. WX prevented seeing much terrain. About 10 cm snowfall between 0900-1500. Five laps...implication is, you won't find an untracked run there until after tonight's snow :lol:

Overall, I'd say there are lots of ways to trigger a large persistent slab running on DH/ground in these areas...hit a thin spot, fall, jump on unsupported slopes, get new snow sluff moving with you on steeper slopes, to name a few. Be careful around the S end of the Talus Field...the overhead hazard (NE aspect) doesn't look like it's slid yet this year and is a habitual offender. Also the similar aspect just E of Ohio chute. Both look fat.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Feb 23, 2019 12:02 am

This storm tonight is the real deal, already 9+ inches of heavy snow has accumulated since about 5:30pm, on top of a few during the day. Looks like it's the last storm with this cycle before high pressure sets in for a few days beginning Monday or Tuesday.

My thoughts about the snowpack mirror what Kerry said about those slopes, and any that haven't slid yet - If you haven't read his post previous to this one, please do. There's a lot of great terrain that can be skied with confidence, but many areas and specific slopes should be considered to be high-hazard zones.

With the weight tonight's storm snow is adding I won't be surprised if some naturals are spotted during the next few days.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Feb 27, 2019 8:54 pm

Spring-like temps the past three days are helping the upper levels of the snowpack stabilize a bit, especially on west, south and southwest aspects. By 3pm today a thin melt/freeze crust was developing on these slopes. Middle and lower levels of the snowpack are still quite cold.

A large avalanche in Wildy 3, aka Eastern Philosophy, on Kachina's east side likely came down sometime Saturday morning. I've heard descriptions from two different people, one of whom has been observing these slopes for a few decades and said it's the biggest he's ever seen it slide. Sounds like it was about an R4d2.5 with a crown several feet deep.

I spotted this monker on Vallecito's southeast side today from Kachina, looks like it was a cornice collapse that fell onto the upper slope, slab released and ran over the cliff then hit the lower slope which propagated across a few different chutes, and onto the adjacent slope to the south;

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