Archived Climbing Report - April 21, 2004
These reports were summaries based on reports from climbers and skiers, weather and avalanche reports, and prior experiences. Observations are sparse and conditions vary widely throughout the Cascades as well as with elevation and aspect on any particular mountain. The intent of these reports is to give a starting point for what to expect - but your safety and that of your partners relies on your own observations and decisions!
These reports are archives and are saved for reference only - they do not apply at this time!!!
Wednesday April 21, 2004
The only information from Oregon for the past weekend was that Timberline had some good powder skiing and the summit was in and out of clouds (potentially luring the unwary up into changing visibility) and that North Sister was accessible from Pole Creek but not very conducive to climbing. (It did offer good skiing with new snow in the Alpine and older corn-like surfaces in the forest). Both reports were from Sunday. There were apparently some good climbs done in the north Washington Cascades, primarily on the east side.
Saturday and Sunday were unsettled with showers and the ODOT cams showed rain more often than not. However, the brunt of our most recent storm, the remains of a tropical cyclone from the western Pacific, hit Monday and has continued through Tuesday, with more showers forecast for Wednesday. New snow accumulations are suspected to vary from 6-12" at pass elevations to higher amounts in the alpine. This storm had gusty winds at times. There were reports of cracking and collapsing slabs on Mt Shasta but not many avalanche observations. The storm track appears to have been more pronounced to the south than to the north. (Update: The NW Avalanche Center claims Mt Hood received 18-24" of snow while the Washington Cascades received very little.)
The weather should be changing for the better, for a while. Thursday should be at least partly sunny with only some warming before another weak system quickly moves through Friday with little precipitation. Saturday should see significant warming and increasing sunshine after the possibility of lingering showers early, with solid high pressure through the early part of next week at least. The weak system Friday will track to the northern part of the range and may have very minimal affect in the central and southern Oregon Cascades.
Thursday holds some promise for excellent skiing if it clears enough, due to the minimal warming. However, keep in mind that there is a lot of new snow in places and that it was accompanied by winds. These are among the most common conditions leading to avalanche incidents in this region in spring. On Thursday the sun will probably be the biggest factor, from Saturday onward the combination of sun and very high freezing levels will create a potential hazard. Be sure to plan accordingly, choose routes conservatively, and observe condition indicators as you travel. With this much snow, at least in some alpine areas, along with the rapid rise in freezing levels, the snow may remain sensitive to warming and solar radiation for several days. Skiing conditions will probably be highly dependent on aspect and elevation with many areas being slop or forming breakable crusts. With cool nights forecast remember that if you start your descent/return too late you will find yourself more likely to encounter breakable crust as the pack cools.
(Update: The NW Avalanche Center, referring only to Mt Hood, claims in a spring update that there will be wet slab and sun induced avalanche potential Wed afternoon and Thursday but that by the weekend most of it should have taken place. With limited sun Wed, modest freezing levels through Friday, and then full sun and freezing levels of 9000-12000' on the weekend remain aware and make your own calls. The existence of recent debris does not mean such activity is over, this was one of many mistakes made in the last fatal avalanche incident on Mt Hood.)
Access is probably largely unchanged. Roads that were clear were probably warm enough not to accumulate much snow. Pioneer Gulch on Diamond was passable to at least its top junction at 4500' and Pole Creek is passable until the last mile, and maybe the entire way with high clearance 4wd. Over this weekend, with the skyrocketing temperatures, road access will continue to improve.
In the longer term, high pressure is forecast through Monday or Tuesday by the NWS at this point. Long range GFS models and the accuweather 15 day forecast both predict this spell will last somewhere around two weeks! (But that's a long time to forecast so take it with a grain of salt. Update - beyond Tuesday isn't so clear anymore, and accuweather no longer shows the whole 15 day outlook as sunny.)