It is a blustery unsettled day in the forecast region with warm temperatures, thunderstorm activity, some intense precipitation and high winds. Yesterday was WARM well into the alpine in most areas. So, what does this mean for alpine conditions?
As a gross generalization for alpine terrain along the Rockies and Columbia Mountains Divide, on most sloping terrain there is still enough snow for potential wet snow avalanches when the heat is on. Without new snow, slab avalanches are increasingly unlikely but loose wet snow avalanches that could knock a climber off their feet are certainly possible. Perhaps the biggest concern is that even small wet snow avalanches or meltwater from the snow slopes could trigger rockfall when the heat is on. This rockfall could effect climbing terrain or hiking terrain directly below big melting faces.
As the attached photo from yesterday shows, after this warm spring some cornices are drooping dramatically and are still hanging in there despite being running with water. Others are simply melting away and all of them are slowly becoming less likely to fail naturally. However, while they are warm and wet I sure wouldn't want to walk any where near any of the many cornices still on the big ridges.
Glacier travel is generally still good, depending upon the current state of the snow strength/temperature. Bare ice is starting to show and rockfall around the edge of the melting snow and glacier edge is increasing as a concern.
Sun exposed, continuously steep granite like in the Bugaboos/Valhallas will be mostly snow free and should dry quickly. Sedimentary rock(Quartrzite and Limestone) will have more snow along the divides and almost all the alpine North faces and shady places still have some snow sticking to them. Away from the divides of both ranges the snow line is much higher and dry rock can be expected if the rain has dried off.
Another thunderstorm is just rolling into Canmore as I write at noon. Being hit by lightning probably isn't as much fun as it sounds so keep a weather eye wide open and try hard not to be committed when the big cells come your way.
Alpine conditions are changing dramatically with all this warmth and rain so a little patience for some of the big objectives could pay off. It could be a long summer of good alpine rock conditions if the melting continues and we then get some settled high pressure systems. Time will tell.
ACMG Mountain Guide