Observation Date: 12/15/2013
Up over the South shoulder of St. Mary’s peak, down to the col behind St. mary’s, and north towards Kootenai Creek. Reversed the route back to the car.
Wind gusting to 40+ mph on the ridgetops. Wind loading in pockets down to 6,500 feet.
New Snow: 0-3″
I was out exploring terrain behind St. Mary’s peak and made a few observations. I saw several old debris piles, probably from the Dec 2-3 natural avalanche cycle. I also saw some big (3’+) old crowns on steep, heavily wind loaded north facing terrain.
I did not hear any collapsing during the entire tour, and since I covered a lot of ground, there is mounting evidence that widespread surface facets didn’t develop in the central bitterroot during late November like they did further north and south. However, I found a lot of faceted snow in thin areas deep in the snowpack, and would expect to see some climax avalanches if the mountains get a big snowstorm. Surface slabs were surprisingly stubborn, with fewer shooting cracks and general sensitivity than I was anticipating.
I dug a pit on a representative low to mid-elevation site (7,000′, east, 25 degrees, sheltered). New wind slabs were sensitive (CT 10 Q2, ECT 12N), and the rest of the snow column was nonreactive. 6″ of unconsolidated facets were on the ground.
Observed Danger Rating:
Driving beta – It is possible to drive a Subaru to a good turn around at the 4th switchback below the trailhead, at 5500 feet, and the road is in good shape, aside from seasonal icy conditions. From there, a 40-minute skin track leads straight up the ridge to the summer trailhead.
Observer: Brian Story