ACMG Mountain Conditions Summary for the Rockies and Columbia Mountains. June 15th, 2018

The fabulous spring mountain conditions have been interrupted by the snow, rain and wind of the past week. In Glacier Park, reports of up to 50cm of new snow having fallen above treeline over the past few days. Similar amounts in the Nakusp region at treeline and I would suspect that is representative of conditions throughout most of the Columbia mtns alpine.

Snow fall amounts seem much more variable in the Rockies. MCR's from earlier in the week mentioned drifts of up to 100cm below Mt. Quadra and on the Columbia Icefields with significant avalanche concerns. Lots of wind with all this snow and yesterday a party of Jasper Visitor Safety staff turned back on "Shooting Gallery"due to spindrift and wind transported new snow. Conversely, yesterday at Lake O'Hara there was around 5cm of new snow and no other discernible recent snow up to 2700m. No real avalanche concerns at O'Hara yesterday except the snow temperatures as it was mild and there had been only a mediocre overnight freeze.

For this time of year, especially given a fairly generous snow winter, the snow has retreated fairly quickly and higher elevations are relatively free of winter snow. When and if the stable weather returns and the fresh snow melts and settles there should be lots of opportunities for early season alpine rock climbing and snow free hiking and scrambling.

The tree falling on climbers at Lake Louise this week was a tragic reminder of the consistent pull of gravity on the various materials that aren't always anchored well to the strata below them. We often talk about rain, snow melt and temperature changes loosening snow, rock, ice and dirt but wind was the most likely trigger in this case. Some things are simply uncommon and difficult or impossible to forecast accurately from below. Hundreds of climbers, myself included, have collectively spent thousands of hours under those cliffs for most of the summer days for many years in a place where wind is fairly common. It is a beautiful place for climbing on excellent quartzite. But, this is not the first potentially catastrophic falling tree or rockfall at the Back of the Lake. It is just another reminder that at the crag and in the mountains we need to keep our eyes and our senses wide open for change, be open to changing our plans and be mentally and physically prepared to deal with emergencies. Condolences to everyone involved and much gratitude and respect to everyone who assisted at the scene.

Larry Stanier
ACMG 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.