It seems to be a wet and chilly day in most of the Rockies and Columbia Mountains. Snow is probably falling somewhere in the Alpine but a quick survey of the Parks Canada remote weather stations in Glacier and along the Rockies Divide made me think it would be a grey, damp just barely freezing sort of day up high. Yukk!
The snow line will be getting pushed even higher up and it would be prudent to assume that the remaining snow around treeline will be soggy and poor traveling till we get a good overnight recovery again. Big greasy wet slab avalanches, glide slabs and rockfall should all be happening today as the rain carries on. This rain soaked snow could get strong quickly with clear overnight skies and cool temperatures. There may be some stiff windslabs in the alpine but I don't imagine there is too many people currently in the alpine making direct observations.
Access into the alpine is improving as the snowline recedes and is way ahead of "normal" by at least a month throughout the forecast area. Along the divide of the Columbias the snowline is generally lower than the Rockies. It is possible to drive to the turnoff for the Bugaboos parking lot but there is still some snow in the forest down low and lots of snow above the moraines and around the hut. Glacier Park has received 50ml of rain so far and it currently appears to be well above freezing there at 2000m.
What does all this mean? Well, the bad news is that skiing is becoming an increasingly more desperate act with longer and longer approaches. The good news is that alpine climbing is becoming much more reasonable from the roadside attractions like the Columbia Icefields and Rogers Pass. Wise sources at Rogers Pass figure that routes like the West Ridge and South Face of Tupper and the NW ridge of McDonald could be climbed with an early start and a willingness to deal with some snow on the approach and the ledges. At the Columbia Icefields, moderate routes like the W Shoulder Direct on Andromeda and the ESE Face of Athabasca looked great. Steeper routes like the A-strain, Asteroid Alley ,Shooting Gallery etc are difficult to see but looked lean for ice. The bottom of Slipstream looked melted out last Sunday and is very unlikely to have improved.
The whole East slopes of the Rockies are very scrambler friendly for this time of year and East slope peaks close to the valleys in the Columbias would be worth considering but I don't have any direct observations to confirm that.
As usual in these transitional periods, it is all about the weather. Keep an eye on the forecast and on the sky if you are going out. It could be good and it could be bad. How is that for an expert opinion?:)
ACMG Mountain Guide