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COL._Von_Spanker

Muir snowfield question

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Lately i've gotten super paranoid about avvys, so I trying to collect some info for my own knowledge. Is the Muir snowfield prone to avalanche (in conditions like we are seeing now)? I guess I don't know enough about the orientation and other factors relating to the area to make a good cross analysis with the avalanche forecast.

 

 

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getting there is the problem in these conditions, terrain below/near pan point is more apt to sliding than the snow field.

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yeah the snowfield itself is benign, but the slopes below panorama point are fairly av prone

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On December 31, 1978, 17-year old Mike McNerthney was tragically killed in a large slide off Pan Point. It came down mid face, just about where the switch back makes its turn. Mike was a strong and upcoming climber from the local family with the same name. The entire face, just about to the winter route, ended up sliding that day.

 

There were several of us at Muir the night before…looking forward to climbing the Nisqually Ice Cliff or Gib Ledge. There was a strong E wind that set up some wind slab that eventually scared us all off…lots snow sounds and some slides in the dark. Everyone turned around, but several folks let their guard when descending Pan. Others have been hurt/killed in the same area.

 

The W slopes (climbers left) ON the snowfield have been known to slide. With cohesive snow conditions, the “pull” from the lower slopes that drop into the Nisqually can reach into some of the gradual slopes of the western part of the snowfield. Most would guess these slopes, which are low angle and only 30-50 yards from the Nisqually drop off, could never slide. Three to four foot crowns have been observed, but it doesn’t happen often.

 

When in doubt on the snowfield, I stick to the line between the Sugarloaf and Moon Rocks. There is a “winter route” up Pan, which is on the very right side on the face (climbers right). Check with the Rangers about the route and current conditions. At times, even the winter route is questionable. The whole Pan area can be disorienting in the clouds, so some wands and/or using a GPS can be helpful. (Be wary of stray wands too, since they can mistrack the route.) Several folks have been lost in this area.

 

It amazes me how often I’ve seen folks just plodding up the face of Pan after some fresh snowfall—on skis or snowshoes…in the general area where Mike was killed…without even digging a pit to check the slope or taking other safety precautions. Call me chicken, but most of the time I’ll default to the winter route, even while others are gliding up the easier and more open slopes of Pan…

 

A round trip to Muir can’t be beat!

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