January 6, 2012 Avalanche Advisory
There is a MODERATE avalanche danger in the west central Montana backcountry. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. There are pockets of CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger found on wind-loaded slopes steeper than 35 degrees in the Bitterroot Mountains. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely.
The avalanche danger below the elevation of 5000 feet is LOW.
Good Morning! This is Tim Laroche at the West Central Montana Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche advisory for Friday, January 6th, 2012.
Weather and Snowpack Analysis
Yesterday’s storm was a quick hitter that brought more wind than snow. Most snotel sites picked up 1” of new snow, but Hoodoo Pass was the lucky recipient of 6” of fresh snow. The wind has been howling out of the west and southwest the past 2 days in the high 20’s with gusts to 60mph throughout our advisory area. Most snotel sites recorded high temperatures in the low 40’s this past week. Currently winds have calmed and are blowing 8-10mph with gusts to 15 out of the west and northwest. Temperatures are hovering in the high teens and low 20’s and there are bands of snow showers tracking quickly across our area.
After our holiday avalanche cycle that we experienced last weekend, the warm temperatures this past week have helped to consolidate and strengthen our snowpack. The two buried surface hoar layers we have been talking about are still visible in our snow pits, but we are not getting them to propogate in our stability tests in most places. We received a report yesterday of a natural avalanche on a wind-loaded slope near Lolo Pass. So, although the snowpack is settling and strengthening there are still places where you may find a weak spot to trigger a slide.
There are two places you will want to pay attention when you are out in the mountains this weekend. First, you will want to look for fresh wind drifts that have developed over the past 48 hours near ridge tops on leeward aspects and terrain features. Second, there are still reports of weak faceted snow that Steve talked about in Monday’s advisory (video), near the bottom of our snowpack in some areas. One such area was identified near Lost Trail Pass. This pit profile tells the story. Here you will want to pay attention to any slope that is wind-loaded, steep, and rocky. The potential exists to trigger a slide from a shallow spot that could produce a fracture well above you on the slope.
The snowpack is settling and stability tests are showing improvement (video). There are places where you will find good skiing and riding. Remember to follow avalanche safety protocol, riding one at a time on a slope while carrying a beacon, probe, and shovel.
Weather Forecast and Avalanche Outlook
There is a chance of snow showers through the weekend but only light accumulations are expected as weak high pressure tries to develop. Daytime temperatures will be in the high twenties to low thirties and winds should be fairly light out of the west and southwest.
I expect the avalanche danger to slowly decrease as the weak layers continue to gain strength and until we get our next snow storm.
I will issue the next advisory on Monday, January 9th.
If you get out and have the time to send us some information about what you are seeing, please use our “submit observation” link on our website or send us a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org. This information is invaluable to us and in turn comes back to you in the form of a better forecast.
Avalanche Accident in Flint Creek Range
Submitted By: West Central Montana Avalanche Center
Place: Red Lion Area, Flint Creek Range
Summary: 2 snowmobilers caught, 1 buried and killed
Avalanche Classification: SS-AM-D2-R3-0
*** Preliminary Information – Full Report Will Be Posted at a Later Date ***
View report and photos online at: mslaavalanche2.wpengine.com
On Sunday January 1, 2012, 20 year old Jasen Donald Kellogg from Butte, Montana died in an avalanche accident 7 air miles southeast of Philipsburg, Mt on the Pintlar Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The location known locally as Redlions is a popular snowmobile play area located in the Flint Creek range roughly halfway between Philipsburg and Anaconda, MT.
Jasen was riding with a group of friends and family on benchy terrain below Towers Mountain when 2 riders in the group were caught by a large soft-slab avalanche that released on much steeper terrain above them. One of the riders was able to escape the avalanche but Jason was caught and carried an estimated 150-200 feet. He was strained through trees and completely buried (about 2 feet deep) with a foot sticking out of the snow against a small diameter whitebark pine tree. Jason’s father and a third individual who were not caught quickly located Jason and dug him up. He was not breathing and died from his injuries shortly thereafter. CPR efforts were initiated and continued after first responders and Life Flight helicopter personnel arrived on scene.
The second rider was knocked off his sled, partially buried and was able to quickly extricate himself with no injuries.