Forums Trip Reports 3/07/14 Matterhorn area-Sawtooth Range-Eastern Sierra
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  • #579806
    BGnight
    1382 Posts

    Sadly, this was only my second day on my splitboard this season due to this being the worst winter I’ve seen since I moved to the Sierra in ’93 (this also being the worst of the worst last 3 years in a row I’ve seen) . I decided to go to one of my favorite areas for a day trip from Reno. I knew it had snowed a few inches the day before so I hoped to find some good snow up high. I didn’t know what to expect as far as avy concerns up high. I’ve been keeping up on ESAC but the observations are few and far between to go off. I knew I’d play it conservative and dig before I commited to anything steep. Being out of splitting shape and not having my mountain wits tuned in yet, I definitely had some anxiety going solo even though that’s my preferred way to do backcountry.

    I arrived to Twin Lakes at the perfect time:

    My plan was to go up and tentatively climb and ride “ski dreams” or some lines near it. It’s a great line to start off the Eastside season and makes for a great tour up Horse Creek Canyon. After some of the shittiest skinning conditions (wish I had my ski crampons) You are quickly up in the alpine and rewarded with excellent views. Ski Dreams is the obvious chute on the left:

    Once you hit 10k feet there was about 3-6 inches of pow on top of a giveable crust which made for primo riding. Above 11k you started to run into ribs of wind crust and more variable types of snow. But still good. Here I’m just getting out of the death crust and into the pow:

    I always take a break in this spot. You have a lot of touring options at this point. The Twin Peaks area is to the left and a there’s bunch of nice lines in the middle I want to hit but never do:

    I thought I saw what might have been a crown in ski dreams from way down low. Once I popped over a rise to get the first close view I was taken aback at the carnage I saw:

    There were at least a couple big slides here as there were some big debris piles poking up around this last debris field. I really wasn’t sure when this thing went last. Some of the debris looks newer than others and the debris was really soft as you can see by my tracks:

    This is usually the exact way I skin into the side of ski dreams to avoid exposure which is funny seeing how it’s exactly where it crowned. Needless to say I was spooked at this point even though the “official” ESAC rating for the day was LOW. I knew not to put any stock in that seeing how it was Considerable less than a week ago. I dug around and did some compression tests just above the crown and could only get a CT25 Q2 96cm down in two different columns. I then isolated a couple columns right into the crown face and got a CT14 Q3 17cm down and CT18 Q2 33cm down. I’m no avy expert and but I’d think a CT18 with a Q2 at that depth was saying “hey asshole, I probably won’t slide, but do you feel lucky?” I really need to get my ass into an Avy II course. I dig pits but sometimes I don’t feel like I know what the hell I’m looking at. Regardless, I didn’t ride anything steep. I was psyched out at this point (I had also just read about the Terminal Cancer incident the night before just to finish off any ambitious thoughts that might be floating around in my head)

    The next bowl adjacent to this one showed the same past activity:

    Time to ride!:

    Since I didn’t want to give people the wrong impression that snowboarders were smart and responsible I dropped this powder filled terrain trap down lower 😉
    Kidding aside, I jumped around on it and felt it was stable. The snow down this low had warmed up a lot more than 2k feet higher and was now frozen underneath a nice silky layer of pow. I was still freaked out so decided to bomb it fast and made plans to duck into some crevasses on the canyon wall. I dropped in hot and made 4 turns and glanced back to see that no dragons had awakened and then I proceeded to enjoy the funnest run of the year! 😀 I’d swear God made this gully especially for snowboarding. So fun!!

    So stoked! I really wanted to do another lap but the skin track takes a long route around to the top and I was spent.

    Another fun zone with some cool gullies in the area. If I would have known I would have just set up a track to do laps between 10-11k where the good were:

    Looking back up Horse Creek Canyon:

    And I lost one my verts on the way out! 😥

    #675815
    keffler
    319 Posts

    That’s some beautiful terrain and nice pictures. Looks like you had a great day out there.

    #675816
    buell
    534 Posts

    Sweet BG. That gully looked great!

    That was a big slide. Looked recent. I wonder if it was from the wind / couple inches of heavy snow event on Thursday or from earlier in the week just after the big storm. We just saw a relatively recent slide today at the Mammoth Crest. There is still depth hoar around in different locations and last week’s storm produced weak layers in the storm snow, but they have not been reacting in ECTs.

    That seems to be the pattern. We have been getting weak layers showing up in compression tests and shovel shear tests over the last six weeks in the top couple of feet of snow, but have not had any propagation in our pits on our ECTs in the Mammoth, June, and Virginia Lakes areas (we are avoiding the day right after heavy snow). There just has not been a slab that will propagate. There is quite a bit of difference in the snow profiles of the different areas though and it would not surprise me to find a dangerous snow pack somewhere. Rock Creek seems to have low snow and a poor profile. Mammoth Crest seems to be the most stable and deep overall. June is somewhere in between.

    #675817
    UPGRAYEDD_2505
    127 Posts

    Awesome pics. Looks super fun.

    That area is kinda in the no-man’s land avy forecast-wise. I *think* the forest service is trying to have a forecaster in Bridgeport (mainly for snowmobilers around Sonora, etc.); something to keep an eye out for in the future.

    #675818
    buell
    534 Posts

    Up in Virginia Lakes today. My second line on a north facing gully with shallow snow had an ECTN at the bottom but half way up I got three ECT6s in row. 8″ of wind slab over small grained facets from the last storm. Luckily the slope was still 31* at that point. I got out of there. The avy danger is quite variable depending on the drainage.

    #675819
    philip.ak
    679 Posts

    Brilliant pics and phenomenal terrain. Too bad your honey hole ripped huge. Maybe next time/season?

    Kodiak is having an epic poo snow season too. :nononno:

    #675820
    saign
    330 Posts

    That’s lemonade out of this lemon of a season right there. Nice score

    #675821
    UTAH
    830 Posts

    Beautiful pics, as always.

    #675822
    liketoride
    263 Posts

    Nice Brooks, Stoked to see you are out shredding the gnar.

    Splitboarding is the answer unless Splitbooting is the answer, either way we're going snowboarding because America!

    #675823
    EBwest
    71 Posts

    love the sawtooth TRs…jewel of the eastside. Thanks for sharing.

    #675824

    Beautiful pics of an awesome looking spot!
    Hope your guys’ season starts looking up.

    #675825
    SwitchBack
    136 Posts

    great pics! That last gully-chute thing looks super fun.

    #675826
    aliasptr
    282 Posts

    That first picture is fantastic! Great colors.

    Looks like a good time out for sure!

    #675827
    schwalbster
    320 Posts

    Nice Brooks! What’s with the shitty winters? Must be all that global warming, huh!? Just kidding man 😆

    After much research, experimentation and consideration, I have decided adulthood is not for me. Thank you for the opportunity.

    #675828
    BGnight
    1382 Posts

    @buell wrote:

    Up in Virginia Lakes today. My second line on a north facing gully with shallow snow had an ECTN at the bottom but half way up I got three ECT6s in row. 8″ of wind slab over small grained facets from the last storm. Luckily the slope was still 31* at that point. I got out of there. The avy danger is quite variable depending on the drainage.

    Wow, that’s pretty reactive. Glad you backed off. I really should be doing ECT’s instead of just compression tests…I need to get my ass in an avy course next year. I always put off Avy 2 cuz I never wanted to spend the money on Avy 1 (which I’ve never taken). People from UT and CO probably think I’m a kook having never had formal training 🙂 (I have had certified Avy 3 friends teach me shit…just not enough)

    Haha Schwalbster! Definitely climate change driven by solar irradiance and other factors for sure! 😉

    #675829
    wjb
    163 Posts

    Beautiful pics! Thanks for the eastside stoke!

    #675830
    wasatch surf
    979 Posts

    so rad. love your eastside photos. that first photo is fucking great.
    Fun area would love to go back sometime. Had me digging through my old photos and reliving my trip up there a few years ago. Thanks for the stoke BG!

    #675831
    dishwasher-dave
    460 Posts

    Wonderful pics.

    Upgrayd: They hired somebody but I wouldn’t expect much as it’s just focused on the Sonora sled zone and it’s a one person forecast/info center. I consider it baby steps towards better avy forecasting for the Sierra.

    Buell: ECTP 6 right? (P for propagation) That is reactive. Good on ya for noticing the small facets under the windslab. We get those all the time but there are often overlooked.

    Curious to hear about coverage and snow structure further south in the high sierra.

    #675832
    Kyle Miller
    510 Posts

    Awesome pics!!! The mountains in our backyard are amazing.

    #675833
    buell
    534 Posts

    @dishwasher-dave wrote:

    Wonderful pics.

    Upgrayd: They hired somebody but I wouldn’t expect much as it’s just focused on the Sonora sled zone and it’s a one person forecast/info center. I consider it baby steps towards better avy forecasting for the Sierra.

    Buell: ECTP 6 right? (P for propagation) That is reactive. Good on ya for noticing the small facets under the windslab. We get those all the time but there are often overlooked.

    Curious to hear about coverage and snow structure further south in the high sierra.

    Yes, 6 hand taps for the 8″ wind slab to collapse on a 90 cm wide ECT. The shear was clean but it did not jump out at me. From what I have seen, it was an isolated weak spot. The snow was shallow, roughly 70 cm. The facets were from the storm last weekend. I have not seen any near surface faceting of that snow layer till then. Much of the snow I have been riding on has been much deeper though, so the temperature gradient was steeper on this slope than most I have been on recently. Plus we just had a couple of chilly nights.

    Most of the high sierra is shallow and I expect quite subject to depth hoar and near surface faceting with cool nights, even though the current forecast is low danger. I have not been too far south of Mammoth since the last storm but I was in the Bishop area mountains and farther south just before the storm and there was very little snow on the peaks. Mammoth Crest has quite a bit and the Negatives have more than average.

    Back to Oregon for us this week. We are absolutely planning to be back next winter. It is a beautiful place, even with low snow.

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