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West Slopes North - Canadian Border to Skagit River

Issued: 7:11 PM PST Sunday, February 4, 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. 

Dangerous avalanche conditions exist on slopes 35 degrees and steeper at upper elevations. Avalanches and cornice falls could be big enough to bury you where recent snow and wind have drifted fresh slabs and where rain has saturated old snow. Avoid wind drifted pillows, terrain with open cracks in the snow, and overhung cornices near ridge lines.

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Avalanche Problems for Monday

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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Glidei

Glide avalanches occur when water lubricates the interface between the snowpack and the ground. These avalanches are difficult to predict and best managed by avoiding terrain below glide cracks.

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Avalanche Summary:

Mild wet weather changed snow surface conditions in the Mt Baker backcountry over the weekend. Below 5500 feet, 1.3” of rain fell on Sunday during daylight hours creating wet snow surfaces. This fell on 2-3 feet of settled storm snow that accumulated last week.

Low visibility and difficult travel conditions limited observations over the weekend. Observers reported a natural Loose Wet avalanche cycle on all aspects and some cornice fall. A few large natural Wet Slab and Wind Slab avalanches occurred during peak warming and precipitation on Friday.

Observations

Mt Baker Ski Patrol reported rain to 5000 feet Friday and Saturday 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 as well as cornice fall near Table Mountain.

NWAC Forecaster, Dallas Glass, was greeting backcountry travelers at the Heather Meadows trail head on Saturday and reported snow lines wavering between Heather Meadows (4,200ft) and ridge tops. Dallas observed numerous wet loose avalanches in the Bagley Lakes area.

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.

Forecast for Monday:

Expect dangerous avalanche conditions today due recent and snow and wind forming Wind Slabs on leeward slopes near and above treeline. Pay attention to local wind directions and drifting patterns. Avoid drifts or pillowed features where the wind has deposited snow in terrain 35 degrees and steeper. Recent strong winds may have drifted snow into unusual places. Watch for crossloading and Wind Slabs lower on slopes than where they typically form.

Cornice fall and Glide avalanches are possible due to rain and rising temperatures this past weekend. Both could be very large and dangerous. While the likelihood of these avalanches is low, the consequences are severe. Avoid areas with visible glide cracks or where known rock slabs underlie the seasons snowpack. Give yourself an extra wide margin of safety near ridges that could hold cornices, and avoid slopes with cornices overhead. Without more rain, cooling temperatures will put an end to wet avalanche activity by mid-week.

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.