Wet snow, cornice falls, and stability tests

CB Avalanche Center 2019-20 Observations

Location: Paradise Divide Area
Date of Observation: 03/31/2020
Name: Eric Murrow
Subject: Wet snow, cornice falls, and stability tests
Aspect: North East, East, South East, South, South West, West
Elevation: 9600′ – 12000′

Avalanches: Lots of loose snow avalanches on east through south slopes at most elevation bands often from rocky areas. Loose snow avalanches observed remained D1.5 or less. One cross-loaded southerly feature on Mineral Point produced a D2 slab. Viewed several recent cornice-falls that failed to trigger large slab avalanches, looked to just entrain surface snow.

Weather: Mostly clear skies with warm air temperatures. Westerly winds near and above treeline were brisk and continuous. Observed modest amounts of snow transport onto northeast, east, and southeast slopes but loading was fairly light as lots of snow was being blown into the atmosphere or lower on to slopes.

Snowpack: Dug a test profile on a north-northeast facing slope at 11,600′ checking on the mid-March interface. No result in ECT at the mid-March interface (hammering until my hand hurt got it to propagate). Careful grain ID showed rounding of the thin facet layer (no crust was present at 3/18 interface at this location).

On south-facing slopes below treeline in the afternoon I found an HS 130 cm at 10,600 feet. This site had a few inches of wet surface snow with a soft crust below and dense moist snow below that resting on a very thick melt form layer. Wet concerns on this terrain remained near the surface with little chance of gouging. Closer to the trailhead at 9,600′ I found a shallow, wet snowpack that appeared capable of producing wet loose avalanches that could entrain much of the shallow snowpack. See photos.

West aspects near treeline became moist even with the wind, but did not produce loose avalanches.