This is the first Mountain Conditions Summary for 2018. Spring has finally arrived with some warm temperatures and lots of snowmelt below treeline. It is still winter/spring in most areas at Treeline and the Alpine and snow will remain above 2200m for a long while yet close to the Rockies and Columbia divides.
Forecast looks like a nice warm sunny weekend for the whole region. Low elevation rock climbing is well underway in Nelson, Golden, Revelstoke, Jasper, Canmore, Banff etc. Crags like Begbie Bluffs and the Back of Lake Louise will still have snowy approaches and there is bound to be some wet rock in places. Some multipitch cliffs will still have running water but around Revelstoke it sounds like Waterworld and 3 Valley gap are dry enough. In the Rockies for eg, Yamnuska and Guides Rock are dry, EEOR and Ha ling are still snowy.
Scrambling routes will require some scoping, decision making and a willingness to retreat. Even in the dry ranges there will still be snow in lee features and above certain elevations. Wet snow avalanches are certainly still a possibility given poor overnight freezes, daytime warming or enough rain. All that melting snow is a good rockfall trigger.
Not much recent info from the big Mountains. Generally the alpine snowpack is still deep but I recently saw some very icy photos from the Columbia Icefields. Late April winds had scoured snow from the summit of Snowdome, Skyladder, North Face of Forbes and the North Face and Silverhorn routes on Athabasca. Still lots of good spring skiing to be had from roadside in the Rockies and Rogers Pass.
Glacier travel, ski conditions and avalanche hazard are all tied to the melt freeze cycle for the foreseeable future. We need solid overnight freezes with clear skies and cool temps for good travel conditions and relatively easily managed hazard forecasting. As I mentioned above-Warm, overcast nights, rain and hot days will mean the potential is there for both loose wet avalanches and large destructive wet slab avalanches.
Mediocre freezes(grey nights and grey days) may not mean big avalanches but it certainly could mean terrible snow travel and ski conditions. Breakable crusts and punching through isothermal snow can be knee and soul destroying without becoming an avalanche hazard.
The ticks are out and the Rivers are rising-Happy Spring!
ACMG Mountain Guide