During the past two days, we have had some very large avalanches at Crystal. Yesterday Rock Face slid to the ground. Center Chute went naturally and the rest was shot with explosives. The debris went well into Kelly’s Gap Road, ripping up 100 year old timber and redefining the path. A 150cm crown now extends along the top of the face, around the chutes and all the way across Upper and Lower Eagles. Thankfully, no one was caught or injured in these slides. But the destructive nature of avalanches are quite a force to behold. The sound of trees snapping below Rock Face (in the Berry Patch area and below) could be heard throughout the base area yesterday.Kelly’s Gap will, most likely, remain closed for the remainder of the season, as the piles of debris and broken trees are nearly fifty feet high in places.
Today we saw a similar result in Bear Pits, where huge, old trees lay scattered amongst the thirty foot piles of debris at the bottom. The trees that were left standing show evidence of the massive force. Notice in this photo how high up in the tree the
limbs were pulled off. The cedars pictured on the right have been completely denuded of branches.
These slides are a result of persistent weak layers, such as the rain crust from MLK weekend. Regardless of the snow at the surface (today we have four inches of fresh over the rain-soaked pack), the snowpack is moving. Much like a glacier, a heavy spring snowpack, like ours, can creep and glide down the hill, often times causing massive climax avalanches. Today, if you were to poke your ski pole into the snow, you might even think it was stable–just a few inches of new over the still-unfrozen slush. No big deal, you might think.
We are currently experiencing very unusual conditions in the snowpack, and until it stabilizes, we will continue to monitor it and try to mitigate the hazard with explosives and closures. Please be cautious out there, and save the backcountry tours until the snowpack settles out.
Check out this video of one of the Rock Face slides yesterday.