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West Slopes North - Canadian Border to Skagit River

Issued: 6:00 PM PST Friday, February 2, 2018
by Dallas Glass

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. 

Warm weather will create dangerous avalanche conditions throughout the area Saturday. Avoid steep open slopes at all elevations where you are likely to trigger avalanches. Natural large avalanches have occurred recently in the Baker area. Travel on lower angle terrain and use extra caution if traveling in areas where avalanches may run or stop.

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Avalanche Problems for Saturday

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 Saturday:

Warm weather and early morning rain/snow will maintain dangerous avalanche conditions in the Mt Baker area Saturday. Avalanche conditions will largely depend on precipitation type.

At elevations receiving snow, moderate winds combined with additional snow will continue to form Wind Slabs on a variety of aspects. Avoid slopes where winds are depositing snow such as below cornices, on snow drifts, or near uneven snow surfaces.

In areas where rain has fallen, stay off of steep slopes with wet surface snow. New roller balls and pinwheels are signs you are likely to trigger a Loose Wet avalanche. While Wet Slab avalanches are becoming less likely on Saturday, avoid steep open slopes during periods of intense precipitation when these slides are more likely to occur.

Large Cornices exists along ridgelines. Warming air temperatures and rain will make these massive blocks of snow more likely to fail. It is very difficult to predict when and where Cornices will fall. Avoid traveling on or below Cornices during this warm weekend.

Significant amounts of new snow have fallen in the Baker area this week. Recent large natural avalanches deserves respect. This is a time to keep terrain choices very conservative. Large terrain will produce large avalanches. Extra caution should be taken if traveling below large avalanche paths.

Avalanche Summary:

Mild wet weather changed snow surface conditions in the Mt Baker backcountry Friday. Below 5000 feet, above freezing temperatures and rain created moist to wet avalanche conditions. This was highlighted by a natural Loose Wet avalanche cycle on all aspects.

Above 5000 feet, warming temperatures stiffened surface snow causing Wind Slabs to become easier to trigger.

A few large natural Wet Slab and Wind Slab avalanches occurred during peak warming and precipitation Friday.

Across the area 2-3 feet of settle storm snow accumulated over the past week.

Observations

Mt Baker Ski Patrol reported rain to 5000 feet Friday with a natural loose wet avalanche cycle occurring in the adjacent backcountry terrain. They observed debris from larger slab avalanches on the Shuksan Arm and Mt Herman.

NWAC pro-observer Lee Lazzara traveled in the Canyon Creek area Thursday. Lee found 15-24 inches of recent snow over the 1/29 crust. Wind Slabs were noted in terrain near ridgeline but poor visibility limited observations near treeline.

An avalanche professional traveling in the Mt Baker backcountry Thursday reported up-side-down surface snow conditions. More than 3 feet of snow was observed over the 1/29 crust. Poor visibility limited observations in the area.

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.