West Slopes North - Canadian Border to Skagit River

Issued: 6:00 PM PST Monday, March 18, 2019
by Dallas Glass

Hot spring-like weather will continue to drive changes in the mountain snowpack as it impacts higher and higher elevations and more shades slopes. Give the mountains some space to make this transition. Steer away from steep open slopes and avoid traveling in areas where avalanches can run and stop.

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Snow and Avalanche Discussion

On Tuesday we’ll be experiencing our fourth day of above freezing temperatures in the West-North zone. The mountain snowpack is struggling as it makes this transition and adjusts to the hot weather. NWAC staff in the Mt Baker area Monday observed several large loose wet avalanches on a variety of aspects in the near treeline band. Avalanches on steep southerly aspects near the Canadian border ran long distances and entrained significant amounts of snow.

During spring periods like this, plan for changing conditions. Slopes you travel on in the morning can be very different by mid-day. Be leery of traveling near or under cornices. They are experiencing the stress of this heat too and may fail without warning.

Avalanche Problems for Tuesday

Loose Weti

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Natural Loose Wet Avalanches in the Baker Backcountry (3/18/2019)

It won’t take long for the sun and warm temperatures to overcome another poor overnight refreeze. As soon as the thin surface crust melts, conditions will rapidly deteriorate. Unless it’s frozen, you should consider any steep slope suspect. Avoid traveling on steep open slopes with wet surface snow, and be leery of traveling in areas where avalanches can run and stop. Loose wet avalanche activity may increase with daytime warming and change aspects as the sun crosses the sky.


Wet Slabi

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A Wet Slab Avalanche Triggered by a Loose Wet. (3/16/2019)

So far we’ve only had one report of a wet slab avalanche in the West North zone. As more water moves through the snowpack Tuesday, will that change? Tough to say. A cold layered snowpack combined with several days of above freezing temperatures have us wondering if we’re nearing the breaking point. Wet slabs are notoriously hard to predict. However, the solution can be simple, give the mountains time to adjust. Be suspicious of any open slope greater than 30 degrees and don’t linger in large avalanche terrain.


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