Taos Region

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Re: Taos Region

Postby Bob » Wed Mar 20, 2019 6:16 pm

JBella, since you’re not getting a lot of replies, I just want to to say your reports are excellent and greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work, I know lots of folks follow them.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:12 pm

Bob wrote:JBella, since you’re not getting a lot of replies, I just want to to say your reports are excellent and greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work, I know lots of folks follow them.


Thanks Bob! We've noticed the local wilderness hasn't had as much ski traffic this season as recent years, seen some other groups out and a few tracks on the high mountains, seems that word of avalanches and a sketch snowpack has been getting out. This week has been great, the most stable snow we've seen all season.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Kerry » Thu Mar 21, 2019 6:36 am

Jared, I second Bob's comment...your reporting is much appreciated. I'm in the Taos area very intermittently. Nice to see what's happening when away. If you have any information about the Bong Chute slide start zone, I'd appreciate hearing it. I'm in town through the weekend. Would like enjoy buying you a burger a beer for your efforts tracking the seasons snow pack. PM me on FB if you don't have my #.
On 3/20, I noticed 5 large-very large slab avalanches that occurred within past few days on NE slopes at and above TL. They're on Vallecitos, No Name and Fairview.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:52 pm

Kerry wrote:Jared, I second Bob's comment...your reporting is much appreciated. I'm in the Taos area very intermittently. Nice to see what's happening when away. If you have any information about the Bong Chute slide start zone, I'd appreciate hearing it. I'm in town through the weekend. Would like enjoy buying you a burger a beer for your efforts tracking the seasons snow pack. PM me on FB if you don't have my #.
On 3/20, I noticed 5 large-very large slab avalanches that occurred within past few days on NE slopes at and above TL. They're on Vallecitos, No Name and Fairview.


Hi Kerry, sent you a message on here with some pics from the Bong Chute, some are posted here. We climbed it yesterday and found great conditions to ride, a bit thin near the middle where last week's slide washed out most of the snowpack, and lots of small rocks and chunks of debris on the apron. The top was filled in from the snow the night of the 14th-15th, with monster crowns left along the south flank and some smaller crowns along the north side of the chute, one of which right by a large curved Spruce tree that may be a couple hundred years old. It was an R3, although the slab was incredibly deep in places I believe this chute could produce much larger avalanches. Where it released it seemed to have been everything down to the windloaded slab from January 2nd, which is interesting because the Peace Chute slide seemed to be at a layer much higher in the snowpack from mid-February, and by all the info we have it's probable they released at the same time or within a short timeframe. It's perplexing though, because while studying layers in some of the crown pics it appears each of these slides could have released on an older layer, possibly the November 11-12th storm snow which had a smooth and reactive layer sandwiched between two stiffer windslabs on this westerly terrain, it's been on my mind since a few days after that storm when I first got up to the starting zones of these chutes and found that layer to be reactive. Both the Peace and Bong chute slides left deeper crowns on the south sides of the chutes than the north sides, indicative that a deep and heavy windslab from the crossloading events during January and February played an important role in these events... The way the snowpack has melted and settled it would require a more thorough evaluation to determine where the exact instability was. Much of the slab that dropped from the top of the Bong was hung up in the trees along the top few hundred feet of the chute, some chunky piles of debris up to about 20' deep were caught on the uphill sides of and within groups of old-growth trees.

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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Sat Mar 23, 2019 1:55 pm

A few more pics from Wednesday of monster crowns left after last week's natural avalanche cycle. It has since snowed again, between 4 and 8 inches yesterday. The first pic is on Sin Nombre's lower north side, second is Avalanche Ridge which is Long Canyon's west ridge. Much of that slide ripped to the ground and included a lot of the chutes south of the large slide in that area during January. The third pic is a treed outcrop between Wildy 2 and 3 on Kachina's east side, there were other slides and crowns scattered across that face also. Each of the slides in these pictures were different layers, Sin Nombre appeared to be similar to the Peace and Bong and included much of the slab built during February and maybe January's storm. The Long Canyon slide was the entire season's snowpack in the main chute, that deep slab instability that was the culprit of the larger slides earlier during the Winter, and the Kachina slides appeared to be storm slabs from the recent wet storm cycle, some of those slides were in chutes that had already ran multiple times this season. This indicates there are different persistent and deep slab instabilities currently, this is one of the most interesting snowpacks I've observed during the past two decades. While the past week and a half since the recent cycle has allowed the snowpack to stabilize to some degree, overall conditions are very unpredictable and no slopes should be considered to be safe or in the green, this will likely continue well into the Spring.

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March 20 Kachina East Wildy 2 - 3 from Bong.jpg
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Marc » Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:50 am

A large majority of the above slides have recently filled in with with the recent storm cycles with near critical SWE snow.This is one of the better links to use for monitoring SWE:
https://wcc.sc.egov.usda.gov/reportGenerator/view/customChartReport/daily/1168:NM:SNTL%7Cid=%22%22%7Cname/CurrentWY,CurrentWYEnd/WTEQ::value,WTEQ::median_1981,PREC::value,PREC::average_1981?fitToScreen=false

Between the recent rain event up to around 10,000' and the dense layers that appear to have bonded nicely to the older snow, rising confidence in stability is evident, except on lee and cross loaded slopes where wind slabs continue to build. Certainly, erroneous snow tests and pit results can occur, so keep looking around in and above the snow, as well as look at some of the previous history posted to get a better overall picture.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Marc » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:52 am

Checking out the Lower North Face slide from Sin Nombre, we wanted to see how far the actual run out went. Still slightly inside the alpha angle at 18-20 degrees, and 0.6 miles from the crown, this is a good example of how far the debris traveled. The run out went the full distance (R4+D3) across the bog. The upper face is still hanging as is the NW Flank.
We didn't see any instabilities when traveling over the past few days, but were still able to resurrect the deep slab instabilities (DCT = 0, SC, HS=185cm; with repeatable results @TL and ATL) underneath a quite supportive midpack. Warming trends and Spring weather coming. Lots of rounds are in the pack which came in on the warmer side, so it might not take much warming to create a quick shed.
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DCT = ZERO on 185cm
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NF Sin Nombre March 2019.png
R4+D3 across the bog
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at the end of the runout zone 0.6 miles from the start zone
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looking up at the lower north face slide of Sin Nombre from 0.6 miles away
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Kerry » Sun Mar 31, 2019 7:09 pm

Anyone interested in a morning tour, 1 April, up the Williams drainage?
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Re: Taos Region

Postby brock » Mon Apr 08, 2019 12:20 pm

I took a little solo trip up the Williams Lake Trail to the Lake Fork Primitive trail. I did not go into any terrain over 30 degrees, so I stopped short of the last part up to the peak and stayed clear of the pathways out of the chutes. The snow was pretty firm in the morning and was working up to a nice mashed potato softness by the time I descended. My probe measured between 95 and 140cm in the bowl between Cerberus Couloir and Prospector Chute, I think the 95 hit a rock because the probe right next to it was 140.

I heard some off-duty TSV ski patrollers including I think Dave Hahn saying hi to their buddies in the lift shack from Lake Fork on the radio, it looked like they came down the Lake Fork North face, then headed up the Lake Fork East Ridge ascent.

It was kind of surreal for me, seeing so much untouched snow and seeing these guys come skiing toward me out of nowhere. For a first real backcountry tour I had a blast.

The descent was nice until I got back to the Williams Lake trail, snow was still pretty hard in most of that area around 11:45 and I can see I need to learn the best way through there.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Kerry » Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:55 am

I found a FRS/GMRS radio in the upper north end of Wildy Bowl. Appears to be in good shape. PM me or call me, 505-463-8434, with description and I'll get it to you.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby Kerry » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:17 am

Last couple of days 4/28-29, I poked in the alpine snowpack across Wildy, NE and SE side of LFP and NW side of Sin Nombre. I noticed with probing that we still have about 30-50 cm of a basal weak layer on N and E aspects. Didn't probe any W aspects. A hasty pit on NE aspect near the saddle between TSV and N end of Wildy saw isothermic snow down at least 80-cm from the top in a 200 cm snowpack. CT did not produce a fracture. Shovel shear produced a break 70 cm down on melt-freeze polycrystals. Sin Nombe's NW flank was too deep to reach either a basal weak layer or the ground with my probe. Other slopes generally have 170-270 cm of snow in the 11,200'-12,000' elevation range.
The implication, from the isothermic snowpack and the melt-freeze polycrystals 70cm down, is that liquid water is moving deep in the snowpack. There is a potential for wet slabs when the liquid water reaches old weak interfaces, such as basal depth hoar, or along the numerous crusts also apparent with widespread probing. The small drop in temps last night and for next couple of days will mitigate the wet slab hazard. The next prolonged (i.e. days-to-weeks) solar exposure with weak overnight freezes could trigger a spring avy cycle, especially on northerly slopes that have harbored faceted crystals longer and are now being exposed to direct sun.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby brock » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:40 pm

I would really like to get back up the Williams Lake basin area again before the season is out, though Kerry's last report definitely has me nervous. Anyone planning to head up there again in the next week or two?
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu May 02, 2019 11:26 pm

Thanks Kerry that's some very good info. Going to be an interesting spring after an interesting season to date. I haven't been up on the snow for a while but have been observing a different aspect - water levels in the rivers and streams - noticed somewhat of a pattern the past several weeks of high water surges over a few days then it drops, then rises again, each time the freeze line and snow line is a bit higher. Around Taos the rivers have already reached levels higher than they have going into May for several years, some like the Rio Pueblo haven't been this high since 2004 or 2008. And it's just starting - with exceptional snow depths in the higher elevations we could see some dynamic events unfold. If a wet slide cycle occurs, this month or during June, it could precede some flood events by a couple, few or more days. When temps warm up again rivers will be flowing within and beneath the snowpack. Listen and look for things that may seem different, and pay attention to how the snowpack feels. This could be one of those years we see wet slides on slopes that typically wouldn't avalanche, lower-angled slopes where water percolates to the ground or deeply buried layers. The snowpack has been energetically reactive in atypical ways all season, a trend that may continue through the spring. Especially interesting if we have a couple more precipitation events that bring deep wet snow to the higher elevations that melts quickly and adds a lot of water. The long-range forecast shows above-average precipitation is likely through the Summer and some models predict a strengthening El Nino going into early Winter. Last year's historic drought was an anomaly, though similar dry spells have occurred and most were followed by a few years of decent precipitation and high water. If that trend continues this is a good time to be in the southwest.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby MarkM » Fri May 03, 2019 7:27 am

Brock:

I am thinking about Saturday around Taos. Look at my post under hookups for my info.
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Re: Taos Region

Postby JBella » Thu May 09, 2019 10:30 am

Snow line dropped below 7k this morning, over a foot in the mountains with another 1 - 2 feet forecasted by tomorrow night. This is one of the better spring storms during the past several years

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