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Updated Mountain Conditions in the San Juans

Ecuador Volacnoes Dispatch #4
December 13, 2010
Ice Climbing in Colorado
January 3, 2011

It’s been awhile since we last updated the Blog, but that’s only because we’ve been incredibly busy in the last few weeks with mountaineering courses, ice climbing trips, and avalanche courses!  It’s been a great start to the season here in the San Juans, and despite a somewhat slow beginning in terms of snowfall for the range, we’ve certainly caught up to and surpassed the average snowfall for this point in the season.


Graphical Representation of current snow levels in the San Juan Basin compared to previous years.

The most recent storm dropped another 2+ feet of snow in the range.  The storm was characterized by very light density snow with low moisture content.  Translation: cold smoke powder snow.

Unfortunately, given the delay between the previous storm and the weather that typified that time delay, there has been widespread surface hoar formation on many aspects and at a wide variety of elevations both above and below treeline.

Here is a field observations report from Mark Allen on our most recent Level 1 Avalanche Course, 12/28/10:

Little Molas Lake
Molas Pass Obs 20101228
Observers: Mark Allen & Katy Laveck: SWAG Level 1

Aspect: NE
el. 10970′
Angle:   22 degree slope.
HS 133cm
Surf Form: 1-3mm  V

Snow Pack Summary:
Upper: 50 cm comprised mostly of F-4F DF (the Dec 22/23 interface still reactive to CTH(21) SC @38cm on .5mmDF

Midd: 50-60cm 4F-1F+ cohesive slab small grained .3-.5mm DF with a non reactive
zipper melt melt Freeze Crust integrated @80cm.

Lower: 35cm of Depth Hoar in two distinct layers. The ground layer being reactive to DCTM(19) @130cm on 1.5.mmFC

4 xCTH(21) SC  Q2@38cm on .5mmDF
2X CTH(22) SC Q1@38cm on .5mmDF
1 X DCTM(19)@130cm on FC

Roughly 30-40cm of basal facets in two distinct layers (1-1.5mm) still persist, however, they appear to be beginning to round!  We had hard to initiate results within the basal facet layer during a DCT. The mid pack is defiantly insulating the stress and is bound to increase the confidence of users. The wide spread 1-3mm Surface Hoar is going to be interesting to see how it deals with the 20″ of maritime snow that will arrive in the coming front. This is a classic BC and AK problem…are CO users used to this equation? I’m gonna get mine tomorrow and drink a beer this weekend as my terrain choice.

As always, have fun with all the new snow but stay safe out there…….Happy 2011!!