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By Andrew Shoemaker
From Garden Valley, ID
Jun 6, 2011
Me on Mt. Evans
Thinking about doing the Tyndall Couloir up to the summit of Hallett's next weekend. Does anyone know what the snow stability is like in this area? I heard someone talking about reports of avalanches in RMNP but can't find anything about it.

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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
Jun 6, 2011
At Dragon's Tail yesterday, there was a weak layer about 18" deep, but with the daytime warmth, that should be consolidating. However, the snow was REALLY soft up to about 11,000 feet, to the point that we bailed before really low around 7:00am as postholing on the lower angle stuff was really slowing us down. Reportedly it was better higher, but I can't really comment on that.

Definitely pack beacons, dig pits, and be careful. We saw a lot of evidence of point releases from the last week or so, and debris from one big slide, probably from a cornice collapse.

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By Andrew Shoemaker
From Garden Valley, ID
Jun 6, 2011
Me on Mt. Evans
Brian Scoggins wrote:
At Dragon's Tail yesterday, there was a weak layer about 18" deep, but with the daytime warmth, that should be consolidating. However, the snow was REALLY soft up to about 11,000 feet, to the point that we bailed before really low around 7:00am as postholing on the lower angle stuff was really slowing us down. Reportedly it was better higher, but I can't really comment on that. Definitely pack beacons, dig pits, and be careful. We saw a lot of evidence of point releases from the last week or so, and debris from one big slide, probably from a cornice collapse.



Thanks for the info!! I may just wait a bit longer for things to consolidate since I don't have much alpine experience.

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By Carl Dixon
From Boulder
Jun 6, 2011
Skiing on belay.
FWIW, on Saturday skied the Dragon Egg couloir on Meeker. We hiked in shoes to basin just below Chasm Lake, skinned across firm snow up towards the Flying Buttress, and booted up the Loft route in great climbing conditions. We arrived at the Loft around 7-30-8am.

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By Andrew Shoemaker
From Garden Valley, ID
Jun 6, 2011
Me on Mt. Evans
Carl Dixon wrote:
FWIW, on Saturday skied the Dragon Egg couloir on Meeker. We hiked in shoes to basin just below Chasm Lake, skinned across firm snow up towards the Flying Buttress, and booted up the Loft route in great climbing conditions. We arrived at the Loft around 7-30-8am.


Thanks for the report...hopefully people keep chiming in as the week rolls on and I can make a more thorough decision on what to do for the weekend.

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By Eli Helmuth
From Estes Park, CO
Jun 6, 2011
Eli on the FA of Grizzly (M9) at the Den.
Brian Scoggins wrote:
Definitely pack beacons, dig pits, and be careful. We saw a lot of evidence of point releases from the last week or so, and debris from one big slide, probably from a cornice collapse.

no offense Brian, but the idea of "digging pits" is mostly irrelevant in overall snow decision-making (due to spatial variability) and especially in relation to the type of avalanche cycle and conditions present in the high country at the moment. The current avi cycle is a heat-related phenomenon and thus more dependent on clear nights (clouds prohibit cooling) with sloughs(D1-2) peaking from 11am-3pm in the heat of the day. Cornices are bigger than usual and dropping in most cirques- beware!

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By Eli Helmuth
From Estes Park, CO
Jun 6, 2011
Eli on the FA of Grizzly (M9) at the Den.
Skied Dragontail yesterday, dropping in from above at 9am- perfect corn on the top half but a bit sloppy on the bottom half. Those cliffs throw-off a lot of stored heat which keeps the snow in there a bit warmer than other slopes at those elevations.

Ed making some turns in the DT- June 5, 2011.
Ed making some turns in the DT- June 5, 2011.

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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
Jun 6, 2011
Eli Helmuth wrote:
no offense Brian, but the idea of "digging pits" is mostly irrelevant in overall snow decision-making (due to spatial variability) and especially in relation to the type of avalanche cycle and conditions present in the high country at the moment. The current avi cycle is a heat-related phenomenon and thus more dependent on clear nights (clouds prohibit cooling) with sloughs(D1-2) peaking from 11am-3pm in the heat of the day. Cornices are bigger than usual and dropping in most cirques- beware!


Understood. The point is if you don't know the habits of the snowpack you're visiting, (as is the case if you're asking about it on mountain project), then taking the time to check the conditions yourself as opposed to taking our word for it might be prudent. Can you suggest even a battery of tests that would give you the sort of season-long experience that you're bringing to bear? Or do you just suggest listening to locals and staying off the slopes?

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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Jun 6, 2011
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I thi...
Another problem with snow pits in general is that you really need to be on a similar aspect to what you will climb, especially this time of year when 24 hour melting temps at the bottom create different snow than some periodic freezing at the top. You can't really get the info you need from the pits unless you put yourself in some very dangerous situations.

You are correct that these snow packs are difficult to analyze so often you do have to rely on locals observations and sometimes just stay off. That's just the way it is. Avalanche prediction is difficult.

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By Francis Kelsey
Jun 6, 2011
Rick Blair wrote:
Another problem with snow pits in general is that you really need to be on a similar aspect to what you will climb, especially this time of year when 24 hour melting temps at the bottom create different snow than some periodic freezing at the top. You can't really get the info you need from the pits unless you put yourself in some very dangerous situations. You are correct that these snow packs are difficult to analyze so often you do have to rely on locals observations and sometimes just stay off. That's just the way it is. Avalanche prediction is difficult.



See Eli's previous post and agreed pits for 90% of the folks out there are pointless. Avalanche prediction is far from an exact science. Having avalanche awareness is much more important.

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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Jun 6, 2011
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I thi...
Hah, you are right, I guess I kind of repeated what Eli said, I guess the "spatial variability" comment went right over my head.

Put another way, I have an Uncle that lives in probably the snowiest place in Colorado, in the winter he has to go to house via snow mobile past avy terrain every day. He has lived and played in those mountains his whole life but zero avy training. If I was going to ski something and someone well trained in avy dug pits, analyzed snow crystals did block tests, etc and said everything was good, and the CAIC showed green for the day... if my uncle said not to go I wouldn't go.

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By Eli Helmuth
From Estes Park, CO
Jun 6, 2011
Eli on the FA of Grizzly (M9) at the Den.
As it's an important topic, I'll speak more to this question in my next RMNP conditions update at ClimbingLife.com

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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
Jun 6, 2011
Sorry to press the point, but if the best approach to making good decisions as it pertains to avalanche risk is to just listen to the locals, no wonder so many climbers get buried in the Himalaya.

For the record, I'm not saying to just dig a pit, or to just do any one test (our pit didn't tell us anything, naturally, it was the column test that set off alarm bells, coupled with some isolated whoomphing, that was probably just the suncrust) and if they're all in the same spot, naturally you won't get a full picture. I'm saying do your diligence out there, check the conditions yourself, and make decisions based on what's in front of you, rather than based on something somebody else told you, hours, days, or even weeks before. The uncle without proper training is a good example of finding a good resource but sometimes that just isn't an option.

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By goatboy
From Nederland, CO
Jun 6, 2011
Tyndall should be okay by next weekend; itís the big open faces and bowls you have to watch out for over the next few weeks.
There is still a lot of hanging snow weight up there ready to rip wide and all the way down to the ground.

Southeast ridge of Pawnee Peak - 6.4.11

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By Eli Helmuth
From Estes Park, CO
Jun 6, 2011
Eli on the FA of Grizzly (M9) at the Den.
"Sorry to press the point, but if the best approach to making good decisions as it pertains to avalanche risk is to just listen to the locals, no wonder so many climbers get buried in the Himalaya. For the record, I'm not saying to just dig a pit, or to just do any one test (our pit didn't tell us anything, naturally, it was the column test that set off alarm bells, coupled with some isolated whoomphing, that was probably just the suncrust) and if they're all in the same spot, naturally you won't get a full picture."

I wouldn't listen to most locals and especially not in the Himalaya when it comes to snow conditions so I agree with you on that point.

The fact is that pits are not currently considered decision-making tools among professionals and unless you dig dozens a day and are a skilled snow scientist (very few around), they mean little to nothing in respect to understanding the avalanche potential. There's a general misunderstanding among snow travelers that somehow we can divine the truth from digging holes in the ground, when for most folks this is akin to sticking your head in the ground and ignoring what is truly relevant in decision-making: the human element and how we rationalize our screw-up making sounds decisions based on dozens of describable phenomenon.

The most important observable phenomenon in the mountains in regard to avi potential is current avalanche activity and when heat-related sloughing and cornice releases are everywhere on warm aspects, which is generally the trend for this time of year, then most of your homework is done. Along with what the sky is doing at night (clear nights being key to long-wave radiation loss and thus snowpack cooling), and the time of day you are traveling in avi terrain and you've done most of your homework this time of year.

For most folks, looking at a snowpit or any information gleaned from within to make a life and death decision is no better or smarter than flipping a coin - but perhaps the coin is better because at least you won't be rationalizing your decision with an inaccurate sampling of a highly variable material.

Since few folks bother to understand the basics (avi activity, wx, structural engineering, and heuristics), and most try to make sense of "tests" with little background and poor science, it seems that most of these so-called "tests" are inaccurate, misleading, and mostly just a waste of time so we can claim to have done "due diligence" or some other misinterpretation of how to stay alive in the peaks. Hopefully this forum is a more useful waste of time.

P.S. Nice photo of an old slab on Pawnee there goatboy, likely from the last avi cycle two weeks ago. Tyndall is a wide open bowl with peak avi angles and usually some of the higher avi potential in RMNP, so not someplace to fool around with slabs and it's been skied many times by skilled avi decision-makers in the last week as there is likely no slab issue present (one can never be 100% accurate in this regard).

It's true that there is lots of snow in the mountains but it would be naive at best to say it's "ready to rip wide and all the way to the ground" and mostly a ridiculous assumption. Send me the photos when it happens. Cornices will blow (and big) and slopes will slough, but unlikely we'll see any significant slab activity on the Front Range again until November.

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By Jeff Mekolites
From HOTlanta, GA
Jun 7, 2011
East Buttress Direct, SEWS, WA Pass.
Anyone care to share any conditions reports for Glacier Gorge. Planning on being in the park the end of the month and was planning on heading back that way to do Spearhead and Pagoda. And I am open to suggestions on other things to do in the park based on heavy snow conditions. Prefer alpine rock. Thanks!

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By goatboy
From Nederland, CO
Jun 7, 2011
I don't know Eli, my observations and notes count a few wide rippers around Climax, Rabbit Ears, Berthoud, and East Portal in the past two weeks, however I haven't been in the park in over 6 weeks so maybe you're seeing more stability at this point.

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By Tits McGee
From Boulder, CO
Jun 7, 2011
How I Send
Jeff Mekolites wrote:
Anyone care to share any conditions reports for Glacier Gorge. Planning on being in the park the end of the month and was planning on heading back that way to do Spearhead and Pagoda. And I am open to suggestions on other things to do in the park based on heavy snow conditions. Prefer alpine rock. Thanks!



Jeff, sent you a PM.

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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Jun 7, 2011
Stairway to Heaven
Jeff Mekolites wrote:
Anyone care to share any conditions reports for Glacier Gorge. Planning on being in the park the end of the month and was planning on heading back that way to do Spearhead and Pagoda. And I am open to suggestions on other things to do in the park based on heavy snow conditions. Prefer alpine rock. Thanks!


As of last weekend the trail beyond Mills Lake was in ugly shape. Lots of deep, soft snow and occasional holes where torrents of meltwater were running underneath. It may get worse before it gets better. The bridge to Mills Lake is washed out, and the snow bridge that we crossed on will soon be gone.

The rock's drying out, but ledges and shaded corners are still caked in snow.

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By J. Fox
From Black Hawk, CO
Jun 10, 2011
Me too!
I was in The Park yesterday (6/9/11). On the way in we didn't really need floatation, but the trails are a mess. We couldn't find the proper shortcut in the dark and fog/rain so we took the main trail around past Alberta Falls...got lost there too!

We originally intended to climb Arrowhead up Glacier Gorge, but as noted elsewhere, the Mills Lake bridge is still out. There is one remaining snow bridge a bit upstream from this, but it's really thin, very undercut and hanging over deep fast moving water...we opted not to risk it, turned around and headed up into Loch Vale.

There is a lot of snow up there, and it was really warm, wet, soft and mushy. Higher up near the gash and below Andrews Glacier it firmed up a bit, but we lost a lot of time with our poor route finding and decision to go somewhere else.

We ended up climbing a couloir on the south face of Otis. The snow in there was a mix of soft, to hard, almost ice but the very top last 100+ feet had been in the sun for over an hour and was very soft and wet. We hustled to get up off of it. A couple of times small wet sluffs hit us but nothing big. However, we wanted off that slope fast!

We glissaded down Andrews Glacier with no problem...that was actually really good gllissading! Saw a couple big cornice collapses and there are still some hanging out up there on Taylor and Hallet.

On the way out we did use our floatation and were really happy we had it! The sun/heat really made the walk out difficult without it. Before we got to where we stashed our snowshoes, we post-holed and broke through the snow several times to our waist. My partner broke through in a stream and got wet and a snow ledge near another stream broke on me. It's wet and warm up there!

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Jun 12, 2011
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
Are there any alpine rock routes that are reasonable right now?

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By Jim Amidon
Jun 12, 2011
J TREE
Dragonstail was still in beautiful shape yesterday when I strolled up it........be on it early though I started from the base @5 am, and was on top before 7.....and when that sun warms up it gets to slop fast......

The left top fork still has a cornice on it....

Trail in was good, and I skied out on sweet corn.......

BUT you need to be at it EARLY.........

I was back to my car @8am.........

Funny thing I was the only person on it......maybe some one came in later but I had perfect conditions for going up.....

CHEERS...........

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By John Maguire
From Boulder, CO
Jun 12, 2011
Bastille Crack Final Pitch
Phil Lauffen wrote:
Are there any alpine rock routes that are reasonable right now?


Chad and I walked past the Petit to play around on Taylor Peak on Saturday. The Petit looks awesome - totally dry and sunny, but I'd bring waterproof boots for the approach. There is still lots of snow on the approach but it is crunchy if you walk through it early in the morning after a cold night. When we passed through, you could easily stay on top of it without flotation.

I really wanna do that climb but I think its going to be a while before I forget how miserable that approach is...

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By Eli Helmuth
From Estes Park, CO
Jun 12, 2011
Eli on the FA of Grizzly (M9) at the Den.
Dropping down the NE face of Mt. Nimbus (12.7k) fr...
Dropping down the NE face of Mt. Nimbus (12.7k) from the summit on 6/10/11.

Left the Phantom Valley Ranch trailhead at 8am- skied up just south of "Hells Hip Pocket" and due west below Red Mountain and up the NE slopes on Nimbus to reach the N. Ridge which was skiable to the summit. Reached the top at 11:30 and started down at noon when the corn was peaking. Stability is high/avi danger low in this perfect, clear night weather regime which is keeping the corn cycle pretty perfect and should continue for another 4 weeks or more. Cornice collapses are the primary danger along with spots that are too hot at lower elevation and especially on rocky, south-facing stuff after noon.
Carried the skis 30 minutes each at the start and finish of the tour.

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By KevinCO
From Loveland, CO
Jun 12, 2011
Eli,

Nice photo! Looks like perfect corn!

I was skiing at Hidden Valley that day.

Which trailhead did you use? How much skinning and how much ski packing? What time did you start?

Thanks!

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Jun 19, 2011
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
Nobody really cares I'm sure, but took these photos this morning.


The Diamond.
The Diamond.




The cirque is still socked full with snow, but you...
The cirque is still socked full with snow, but you may be able to get away without flotation.

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