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Olympics

Issued: 6:00 PM PST Tuesday, January 2, 2018
by Dennis D'Amico

NWAC avalanche forecasts apply to backcountry avalanche terrain in the Olympics, Washington Cascades and Mt Hood area. These forecasts do not apply to developed ski areas, avalanche terrain affecting highways and higher terrain on the volcanic peaks above the Cascade crest level.

Shallow wind slabs may linger in wind exposed terrain above treeline while small loose wet avalanches are possible on steep solar slopes. In some areas, firm surface crusts will make for difficult travel conditions so be prepared to self-arrest and think about the sliding hazard before crossing steeper slopes.  

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Avalanche Problems for Wednesday

Wind Slabi

Wind slabs can take up to a week to stabilize. They are confined to lee and cross-loaded terrain features and can be avoided by sticking to sheltered or wind scoured areas.

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Loose Weti

Loose wet avalanches occur where water is running through the snowpack, and release at or below the trigger point. Avoid terrain traps such as cliffs, gullies, or tree wells. Exit avalanche terrain when you see pinwheels, roller balls, a slushy surface, or during rain-on-snow events.

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Forecast for Wednesday:

After a cloudy start, partly to mostly sunny skies are expected Wednesday afternoon with continued mild temperatures. 

Lingering wind slabs should be far less sensitive to triggering on Wednesday and confined to higher terrain. Continue to watch for areas of recently wind transported snow such as fresh cornices, snow drifts, and uneven snow surfaces. Identify and avoid locations where recent wind loading occurred.

Wind slabs can be deceptively difficult to manage in the terrain. Take a moment and read our recent blog post by NWAC Pro Observer Jeremy Allyn on wind slabs.

Small loose wet avalanches are possible on steep solar slopes in areas that experience warm temperatures and afternoon sunshine on Wednesday. Be aware of the consequence of even a small loose wet avalanche around terrain traps.  

In some areas, firm surface crusts will make for difficult travel conditions so be prepared to self-arrest and think about the sliding hazard before crossing steep slopes.  

Despite all this new snow, early season hazards still exist. Many creek beds have still not filled in for the winter.

Avalanche Summary:

Mild weather seen Sunday through Tuesday has allowed lingering wind slabs to gain strength.

SW winds Friday night redistributed new snow forming shallow wind slabs on lee slopes at higher elevations. This resulted in a variety of snow surfaces including soft unconsolidated snow, wind scoured slopes, rain crust, and firm wind slabs.

The 12/16 mid-December crust can still be found 2-3 feet down within the snowpack.

Observations

NWAC pro observer, Matt Schonwald visited Hurricane Ridge on Friday, 12/29 and stressed that this is a different snowpack than the Cascades! He visited W-NW-N-NE aspects and found the 12/16 crust and 1-2 mm facets down 2.5 feet. Several PST tests failures, self-arrested, but propagated through most of the column along the 12/16 layer. This PWL will mostly likely be found below ridgelines and will have to be watched moving forward. 

No Corresponding Mountain Weather Forecast Available

USE AT YOUR OWN RISK

This Backcountry Avalanche Forecast is provided in conjunction with the US Forest Service, and is intended for personal and recreational purposes only. Safe backcountry travel requires preparation and planning, and this information may be used for planning purposes but does not provide all the information necessary for backcountry travel. Advanced avalanche education is strongly encouraged.

The user acknowledges that it is impossible to accurately predict natural events such as avalanches in every instance, and the accuracy or reliability of the data provided here is not guaranteed in any way. This forecast describes general avalanche conditions and local variations will always occur. This forecast expires 24 hours after the posted time unless noted otherwise.