Although we have had some warm weather in the past week it looks like a change is upon us and we can expect some normal November patterns. This will cause things to get more winter-like than the fine autumn conditions that we have had recently.
The major weather event of the past last week was a significant snowfall at higher elevations over the weekend, with snow turning to rain at lower elevations. Although we have had a few days of fine weather since then it has changed again and along the continental divide of the Rockies and in the Columbias we are seeing rain low down and snow at higher elevations today. Long term forecasts show a mix over the next week, with steadily declining temperatures and gradually increasing snowfall amounts. However, don't expect significant snow to accumulate below treeline.
Lower elevations are dry (when it is not raining). Upper elevations are winter-like.
Snowline is still generally hovering at treeline areas with rapidly increasing amounts as you get into the alpine. There is 60 cm near the divide in the Rockies at 2100 m and a metre at the same elevation in the northern Selkirks. South aspects will have quite a bit less due to solar melting. Some areas of the eastern slopes of the Rockies may have lesser amounts as well.
Typical fall hazards prevail. Melt-freeze cycles will promote rockfall as it warms up later in the day, some sections of trails are icy for bikers and hikers, and avalanche hazards are the predominant concern above treeline.
An avalanche accident occurred last Monday. Details are sparse but it occurred in an alpine couloir and involved skiers. I suspect it would have been the storm snow from the weekend not bonding well to the melt-freeze crust that would have formed from warm temperatures affecting the early season snowpack.
This interface will continue to be the predominant issue for anyone venturing into higher elevations. And this basal crust will probably be a problem for the entire winter. Start tracking it now so you can make good choices later!
In the Rockies people continue to enjoy shoulder season activities:
- Valley bottom mountain biking is still good when the weather cooperates.
- Hiking will be limited to the valley or popular trails where the snow is packed down but the views are tremendous...when you can see them.
- Rock climbing is enjoyable on south facing valley bottom venues on clear afternoons.
- Folks are picking away at skiing in a limited fashion in the Rockies.
- Some high elevation north facing waterfall ice is in good shape. Avalanches are a real concern.
- Most scrambling peaks would be a challenge right now, with avalanches and temperature triggered rockfall being the issue.
- There have been reports of good alpine mixed climbing, but continued snowfalls over the next week will require climbers to reevaluate hazards on a daily basis.
Although I haven't heard anything from the Columbias recently, I expect things to be similar there.
It is the time of year to be patient, choose objectives carefully, and wait for real winter to arrive.