Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hairpin Gully

I woke up very early to ski above Lone Pine off of the Whitney Portal Road. I visited the broad gully system just north of the hairpin turn on the Portal Road that I skied several times year before last.

This is the hairpin turn.
Sunrise looking up the Owens Valley.
Looking east out of the main gully.
It is hard to see, but a small avalanche occurred here recently (click to enlarge). The crown can be seen on the far left, runs along the the horizontal, fish-shaped rock and then to the right, where it reaches it's maximum height of close to two feet.
This is the debris pile below. It appears that melting snow from the cliffs above fell onto the slab and triggered the slide. There were lots of snow snails and snow balls - I guess from Sunday.
There is a persistent 6" to 10" layer of faceted, rotten snow between the ground and the recent snow in this area that is a serious avalanche concern, which is why I stayed in the low angle main gully. I experienced no collapsing or cracking of the snow pack however.

The skiing was fairly poor too, as a melt freeze crust had formed on all aspects. It was a bit thinner higher up and in the shade. Fortunately it was skiable, but it wasn't pretty!

The snow just under the crust was faceted, and this layer may well prove to be a concern with more loading too.

It was great to ski before work, but I wish the snowpack was more stable and skiable.

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