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mountainmandoug

[TR] Heliotrope-Mt. Baker - Crowded hazardous area 11/18/2012

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Trip: Heliotrope-Mt. Baker - Crowded hazardous area

 

Date: 11/18/2012

 

Trip Report:

A friend and I decided to seek some first turns of the season on Heliotrope today and found sketchy snow conditions and very high winds. The hike in showed that roughly 4-6in had accumulated overnight, and I was speculating good bonding to the previous two layers due to the cooling trend. We took the climber's rout up to the top of the rib, mostly on bare crust, only to trigger a very small wind slab just climbers right of the top.

 

The soft slab was 6-8in deep and around 30' across by 30' feet high. The slope was facing NW by N at about 5200 feet. I'd guess the slope angle at 40-45%. The cracks propagated across the entire slab instantly and it sagged down the hill onto a level spot. No one was hurt but we were both spooked a bit and decided to descend, as did the party. I did dig around a bit with my shovel but did not do a complete pit. It was fairly easy to see the windslab on top of a mild rain-crust. My first impression was that the bottom of the wind slab was acting as the sliding layer, since the rain-crust was barely feel able and soft. In any case sheer quality was high, 1+.

 

We started down on the windward side of the rib and a skier from another party kicked off another slab on a slope of similar aspect about 100' below. We than cautiously make our way down the windblown ridge-crest into the trees. We skied a little bit of knee-deep powder right in the top of the trees and decided to call it a day.

 

Gear Notes:

Caution, humility.

 

Approach Notes:

4'' of slush at the trailhead. Trail not ski-able yet. Bridge over the first creek is nice.

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We were the other party, and certainly had a similar experience. Luckily we had some beer back at the truck so all was not lost. That was one of the more unpleasant wind/snow combos I've experienced in some time. Rowdy!

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