Taos Region

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Re: Taos Region

Postby Kerry » Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:40 pm

On 2/25, skied via the Wheeler approach to Bong, down Bong, up the skin path S of Pinky until snow got gloppy, down lower half of Pinky. Pit on NW aspect about 11,200' found increasing stability compared to all my previous obs...just one pit though. The depth (175 cm) and bridging of the dense 2/15 storm appeared stabilizing factors in this pit. (CT9 RP @160cm up, CT23 SC @60cm up, ECTN) Repeated pole pokes on W-N aspect through the day felt similar construct, except near rock bulges (such as is apparent in JBella's pic of Vallecitos slide). Vertical treeline along the S side of Red Rocks slope (S of Bong) had large firm cross-loaded windslabs, 30-35-degrees, which we climbed just inside the trees for about 200' of elevation gain without a collapse or crack. Skiing up to about 35-deg produced no fractures through the day. Warmed up enough to produce glop at 11,600 on W-SW aspects early afternoon.
Earlier in day we watched TSV bomb the $hit out of Kachina--nice show Patrol! Looked like they got numerous windslabs along ridgeline to run large. Saw very limited step-downs to what appeared from distance to be new/old snow interface. Didn't notice anything step down to basal depth hoar layer.
I think human triggered large persistent slabs, like the natural in JBella's Vallecito pic, are certainly possible, but less so than earlier in season. Skiiing thinner snowpack increases chance of fracturing the persistent weak bond to depth hoar, which recently has shown propensity for propagation.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Marc » Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:39 pm

The same junkyard dog is still laying around. A growing weak depth hoar layer that has plagued the region for a while is still lurking, and when enough moderate winds persist, there's obviously enough in the fetch, even after the wind event after the previous storm, to make a substantial contribution to form heavier wind slabs on lee and cross loaded aspects. This shot of the East Face of Kachina demonstrates how this natural R4D2+ went to the ground on the depth hoar layer as most previous slides have, but also initiated multiple slabs on the way down on the last day of Feb, 2019. Red arrows show separate crowns ~ I had to bring down the brights in this iphone shot to bring out the crowns. Pit tests remain consistent with the DH problem and although the probability of triggering a slab on non-wind loaded aspects may be low, the consequence could be problematic. Punching through to the supportive midpack isn't as easy as it's been since the SWE that came in with the previous storm helped to build the cohesive layer of support. This is the same junkyard dog that Kerry and I watched the patrol bomb with great success the previous days before all along the K chutes. This event shouldn't surprise anyone, but I thought it would be good to post just in case someone isn't looking up as they roam the valley floors.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Mon Mar 04, 2019 10:32 am

Went to further investigate the Wildy 3 slide yesterday. As thick fog rolled in along with scattered graupel showers, low visibility and unstable faceted snow on the northern side of the chute prevented us from reaching the crown. We were able to ascend the middle of the path where the slide had ripped out to the ground, the fresh storm snow built a 5-10" layer of windblown, dense soft slab with 1 - 4mm graupel mixed in. Isolated pockets were filled in with windblown graupel and snow up to a couple feet deep. The storm snow is dense but loose, filled in the slide area enough to ride cautiously amidst the rocks and frozen chunks of debris. Hangfire is present above the north side of the chute also, would recommend avoiding that area as avalanche danger still exists. Also we avoided exposure to the potential runout of the Wildy 4 chute which has not slid yet this year.

The storm snow was loose but well bonded to the old snow, up to 8" by the pond on Kachina's lower east side. Some sluffs may be possible on steep terrain but we weren't on anything steeper than about 35° so couldn't test that theory. Saw some slab-like development in the trees on a NE aspect while ascending, no propagation beyond ski length. Snow continues to fall and avalanche potential will rise as this storm continues. Attention should be payed to how this storm slab continues to evolve, and how the added weight is affecting the buried instabilities, both known and unknown.

Riding conditions were great, the snow was kind of slow but everything was filled in. Good midseason snowpack to ride on, most of the downfall is covered.

Another couple inches accumulated overnight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw17Dphi6h0&feature=youtu.be

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 06, 2019 8:05 am

This avalanche was reported on March 3rd, it's on the lower slope of the rock slide/glacial moraine beneath Lake Fork and above Williams Lake. It appears to have been triggered by another slide that released below the cliff band on Fairview's southeast slopes that ran onto the far northeast side of the bench.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BumA1F4HHOS/

Yet another example of the deeply buried, unstable and energetic layer near the ground that has been persistently reactive for several months.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:11 am

Spring has started with a bang, this storm has brought very wet and heavy snow along with moderate to strong winds. 5-9" Monday, 5-7" Monday night, 2-3" yesterday, and 8-10" overnight with reports of higher totals near the Bull of the Woods meadow. Yesterday morning was wet, it was raining up to about 9,500' and when we got to the William's Lake trailhead by the Bav at 8:45 it looked like it had rained there before transitioning to snow. Rollerballs were visible in the Bavarian Chute that had come down several hundred feet. We skied up to the ridge leading to the pond below Kachina's east chutes, snow was dense and heavy, the kind that sticks to your skins if they're not waxed. We kicked down lots of rollers working our way to some pillow drops on a 37° slope and hung out at that area for while, bootpacking up a few times to ride some natural features. At the bottom of the 200' slope rollers were picking up snow and growing to about 30" across. Overall it seems like the snowpack has stabilized significantly below treeline, the weight of the new snow is helping compress the entire pack and warm temps are creating a nice transition to Spring conditions. Winds were calm below treeline yesterday but the weather stations on TSV's ridges were showing periodic bouts of stronger winds during the morning and early afternoon, moderate winds are expected to continue throughout today and tonight. Above treeline, heavy snow with this storm is adding significant weight, I would avoid any steep open slopes and obvious avalanche paths knowing that deep slab instabilities are lurking and these slopes will be extremely unpredictable. Storm slabs will certainly be an issue today and tomorrow, knowing what we know about this season's snowpack structure it's reasonable to say step downs are possible and could lead to some very large avalanches. With typical route-finding and observational assessments there is some really good riding and skiing to be had, most of the downfall scattered throughout the forests is covered and we have a solid base for mid-March.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:05 pm

I just heard that two snowboarders were riding the Mine Slide and triggered a large avalanche a little while ago, it hit a house on Coyote Lane, the roof collapsed and a resident was found unconscious. She is apparently awake and talking. A search is ongoing at 2pm ...

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:14 pm

Update from a friend who is on scene, approx. 2:45pm said debris was about 150cm on Kachina Road and up to 260 at Coyote Lane, storm snow at the top of the slide was up to a meter and the crown was a meter deep. It was reported that there appeared to be two sets of tracks visible leaving the slide. Members of the ski patrol were searching with their dogs and may have had a hit on the skier's right side of the slide above Kachina Road. Earlier in the day a witness had spoken with two individuals who said they were planning to hike up to and ride the Mine Slide.

The person whom I spoke with is reliable, keep in mind I am relaying information from a somewhat chaotic scene. High winds and avalanche danger prevented the ski area from opening any on-mountain lifts today, and Highway 150 had been closed for a good part of the morning due to crashes.

Also heard from another person that live power lines were down, Kit Carson was sending a crew to address that hazard.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:20 pm

The house that was hit, I heard a bunch of employees live there. The woman who was found first was being transported via ambulance. One person said all the residents had been accounted for, but some ski instructors shared the bottom level and it's unkown if anyone was in there. Probe lines are ongoing ....
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:31 pm

The most recent update was that two houses were hit, one was a private residence which the woman who was found lived in, she is ok. The other house was rented to several ski instructors and other employees and believed to be vacant at the time. As the slide crossed three roads two of which are active during the Winter and used by pedestrians as well as vehicles, an intense search was performed and the area cleared. A few medium sized trees were felled by the slide.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:42 pm

Note about the snowpack ~ between 24 and 30" has accumulated with this storm cycle since Sunday night, with several inches of water. The Mine Slide slide shows the propensity of this new storm slab to propagate. With the rain yesterday evening reaching elevations up to at least 10,000', and many known deeper instabilities lurking, avalanche danger is worth considering before travelling on or beneath any steep slopes anytime soon. Lower elevations below 10k are very touchy after the rain, higher slopes are holding a very heavy, dense slab above a structured layer cake of various types of snow. While it has seemed on some slopes the snowpack was stabilizing recently, which it has been, this transition period from Winter to Spring is considerably unpredictable. Anything that hasn't slid this year which in some zones is impossible to know could rip huge. Other slopes that have slid, and refilled, are going to have different instabilities and layers depending where any avalanches have released and at which layer interafaces. The Mine Slide incident is a prime example that every area should be treated with respect and assessed carefully, much like the ongoing natural cycle in Colorado we could see areas that haven't been affected by avalanche activity for several years or decades come into the red zone now. Even low angled and forested terrain should be approached cautiously and treated as potential avalanche terrain, especially if it is near any known steeper terrain above or adjacent.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:57 am

Temps dropped significantly last night, to more typical seasonal teens and low 20s. 3-4 inches overnight and it's snowing lightly today, much lighter density snow than what we got earlier this week. Looks like we may see a break in unsettled weather tomorrow before another series of storms starts flowing across the region starting Sunday or Monday.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:29 pm

Peace Chute and Bong Chute ran yesterday, sounds like each was an R4D3. Peace Chute slide cleared the Williams Lake trail and deposited debris on the historic runout field. If I can get up there to get some more info this weekend I'll post what I find.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sun Mar 17, 2019 7:10 am

Mine Slide avalanche, pics from March 15th. The Phoenix Switchback road is closed indefinitely, 3-10' of debris covers about 250' of the road. Lots of small to medium size trees in the debris, large chunks of frozen snow up to 4 feet across are scattered on and below the road. The slide ran within the rain-soaked snow from the 12th and included all the storm snow from the 11th through 13th and the upper foot or so of the old snow. 4" accumulated the night before I took these pics. Crown approximately 25-45", 175' across, ran approximately 500' vertical and 1245' linear.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Mon Mar 18, 2019 6:56 pm

Got a good look at the Peace Chute yesterday. Warm temps the previous two days and a hard freeze two nights ago created stable enough conditions to climb the chute. Neither of the wings slid when the main chute ran Thursday. Thursday night's storm produced about 6 inches, which had settled to 4 covering the debris. Below the narrow choke in the middle and closer to the top winds had loaded the chute with pockets up to a couple feet. Bomber snow down low allowed us to skin up to the choke, then bootpack up along the northern flank of the slide, crossing to the southern side to minimize exposure to the north wing then back across when we got to the bottom of the south wing, then again ascending along the northern flank. Several crowns 35-45" and deeper are present at the sides of the main path. The debris runout was deep, if you know this area it'll look a bit different. Where the William's Lake trail enters the wilderness and crosses the chute, what is usually a rather flat entrance onto the runout from the forest is now roughly a 10' rise from where the wilderness sign is. All the small trees that have grown since Tim's slide during February '96 were either leveled or broken, that entire area is now clear, covered with debris piles over 9' deep. Similar scene at the bottom of the Bong Chute, which slid pretty big but not as the Peace Chute did, debris hit and passed the trail and deposited up to six feet deep where we checked. The Bong slide was an R3 D2.5, Peace was an R3.5 D3.5. Weak layer was a slick, in places as smooth as glass crust that developed sometime during February. All of March's snow and probably the last big storm during February went. Near the bottom of the Peace sign several R1D2 wet slides had ran out of the trees above the north flank of the chute Friday and frozen overnight.

Overall the snowpack has settled and stabilized significantly during the past few days. There are still pockets of considerable danger, such as the Peace Chute's south wing with it's more northerly exposure the snow is still dryer and softer. It didn't run when the main chute did and a deep crown crosses the bottom of that chute. A couple sections on our climb were precarious, near treeline when we were ascending towards the open slopes adjacent to the main path's starting zone there were some deep pockets of windslab mentioned above which turned me off of trying to hike up the main path, so I continued setting a track up and over a rollover that we couldn't see above till we reached it. Snow felt good but I think it was a mental thing until we were above that section, knowing what was above us and that there could be hangfire we moved as quick as possible through that zone. We worked our way from there to a few isolated tree islands, not islands of safety but islands of "maybe not as likely to get caught if it slides since there's a tree that's withstood several avalanches", and once at the highest tree we had a relatively unnerving climb past the crown, following lines of exposed rocks and grass and flank crowns, then one more steep climb up a 100' hanging slope to the rocks at the top of the chute.

A quick look at the Bong Chute yesterday on our way to Tim's chute;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B68AKAm ... e=youtu.be

A look at the Peace Chute runout a few minutes later;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5HBaSfHudA

Got a bunch of pics I need to edit to proper clarity and some more videos, will post them soon.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:33 am

Pics from the Peace Chute March 17th

Video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XTRdAez2Q&t=7s

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Peace Chute runout after a clean shave
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23 or so year old trees snapped near the top of the apron
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R1D2 wet slides from March 16th
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Crown flank near the choke
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Climbing and discussing our assessments. Maintaining proper and clear communication is always necessary while traveling with a partner in avalanche terrain
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Flank crown below the south wing
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Deep crown between the wings and upper starting zone in the main path
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After clearing the rollover discussed in my previous post we got a good view of the upper crowns
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A nice view on a nice day
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Recent R2D2+ storm slab spotted on Wildy 4's lower reaches, aka Enter the Dragon
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