ACMG Mountain Conditions Summary for the Rockies and Columbia Mountains. July 30, 2021.

A minor change may be in the works in the next week, with some showers forecast. Long term modelling shows more sustained precipitation starting in a week or so - we can keep our fingers crossed that we will get some "bad" weather in August, but I'm not holding my breath.

Heat and smoke have been the norm most places, and I'm not sure there is enough rain in the forecast to change that much.

For precipitation, mark Monday and Thursday on your calendar. It looks like it could be short, intense bursts of moisture and I would not be surprised if lightning is associated with these events. The northern and western ends of the ranges may see more rain than the south and east. Temperatures remain high, although perhaps not as hot as we have seen recently.

Hiking, rock climbing, and alpine rock climbing objectives remain in excellent shape.

Many snow and ice faces are baked, melted down to black ice embedded with rocks and gravel. Unless we see a major turnaround I will have them crossed off my list for this year. Let's hope for a better and longer snow/ice/mixed climbing season in 2022.

On mellower, less steep glacier routes and approaches the snow travel has been decent with early starts and finishes. Expect postholing if you are still descending snow at noon, especially in thinner snowpack zones. Bergschrunds seem to be the biggest obstacle on these routes, and these will not get any easier as we start in on the second half of the summer. You may also expect plenty of bare ice on the glaciers, with the difficulties associated with that condition.

A plague of mosquitoes continues to harass us in many areas.

My biggest concern is rockfall coming from slopes, ledges, and cliffs that in the previous 10,000 years have been snow or ice covered but which are now snow-free. Because these spots have never been exposed to the elements, they are especially unstable and can be quite dangerous. Expect this to be an issue in places like the high north faces of the Rockies, and getting to cols and ridges everywhere. The Bugaboo-Snowpatch col is infamous for this problem, and recent photos of the north face of Joffre show that permanent ice has retreated down the face and does not reach the summit anymore. The west face of Lefroy has lost most of its permanent ice and is now a seasonal snow climb – see image (20 years ago we would regularly shortrope this climb on snow well into the summer).

In addition, boulders fields, cliffs, scree/talus, and moraines that have ice cores also become unstable in these hot conditions. A typical spot for this hazard are the moraines and the boulder hopping approaches in the Bugaboos.

The hot weather creates most of the hazards I am concerned about right now:

- wildfires (including accidentally starting one)
- rockfall, especially on ice routes or places where snow is exposing unstable rock
- weak crevasse and bergschrund bridges
- wildfire smoke inhibiting visibility and damaging my lungs
- afternoon lightning storms
- heat exhaustion / heat stroke
- high water volumes in streams and rivers
- cornice failures
- serac falls
- wet snow avalanches

This week I would be headed for:

- shaded rock climbs
- alpine rock
- moderate glacier routes/snow climbs and approaches that have minimal overhead hazard
- higher elevation scrambles, especially those near the divide if I am in the Rockies
- high elevation hikes

I am avoiding:

- areas with Extreme fire danger
- areas with thick smoke
- ice faces
- couloirs and gullies with any amount of snow in them
- lower elevation hiking and rock climbing

AB Fire Danger Map (choose Fire Danger Rating from the layers list):

BC Fire Danger Map (choose Wildfire Danger Rating from the layers list):

Smoke forecast:

We should be aware that certain hazards exist during, and because of, "good" weather. Indeed, too much good weather is a bad thing. There are many reasonably safe options for outdoor activities right now, including many routes that are in excellent shape because of the conditions we are experiencing. Our job is to determine where the present hot and dry weather is increasing hazard, and to avoid those objectives.

Mark Klassen
Mountain Guide

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.