ACMG Mountain Conditions Summary for the Rockies and Columbia Mountains issued November 16th, 2017

This past week's little storms left most their load west of the divide. Avalanche hazard has risen and in much of the Columbia Mountains it is now Considerable hazard in the alpine, potentially rising to High with the next storm by Sunday. If the forecast strong SW winds come to the Rockies the avalanche hazard will spike there too as wind slabs build mass. As we all know, Considerable hazard is when the accidents seem to happen most, and as Steve mentioned last week this is about the right time of the year for the first avalanche incident -- so don't let it happen to you this weekend.

All across the west the PWL (Persistent Weak Layer) to worry about right now is the Hallowe'en Crust, which was covered up by that wet heavy snowfall while we were trick-or-treating. It is now about half way down the snowpack, covered by 30 to 70 cm of snow above it. It is actually becoming more of a concern as snowpack facetting progresses and the overlying load increases. In thin snowpack areas you might not even find the crust because the entire snowpack has turns to crumbs.

Here's a video link from a snow profile done in K-Country on Wednesday that says it better than words: (Thomas Grandi, SG).

Skiing is still grim below treeline, but some good early season turns are being had in the alpine. A few days ago I experienced a few dozen of them above 2100 m at Healy Pass in Banff so I can confirm the rumours. But you still have to be pretty keen to battle your way up there, especially in the low snow areas like the Rockies or lower elevation trailheads in the Interior.

Ice climbing in the Rockies has taken off with a few of the bigger lines like Bourgeau Left being climbed as well as many others. Check out Gravsports for the latest beta as the reports have started coming in. Be increasingly cautious about overhead hazard, especially in places like Ranger Creek or gully features. And remember it's still early -- expect thinner and more challenging conditions as per the usual for November.

If you visit you'll find that the Mountain Information Network has a bunch of recent reports (the blue inverted tear drops). You'll also find avalanche bulletins for the mountain National Parks and K-Country. Avalanche Canada begins their reporting November 24.

This is the last MCR Summary for the season. Thanks for tuning in, and see you next year!

Tom Wolfe
Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA

On The Map

These observations and opinions are those of the person who submitted them. The ACMG and its members take no responsibility for errors, omissions, or lapses in continuity. Conditions differ greatly over time and space due to the variable nature of mountain weather and terrain. Application of this information provides no guarantee of increased safety. Do not use the Mountain Conditions Report as the sole factor in planning trips or making decisions in the field.