ACMG Mountain Conditions Summary for the Rockies and Columbia Mountains. September 20th, 2018

It may not be winter yet but it sure feels more like October 20th than September 20th. The first major avalanche involvement of the season occurred on Mt Athabasca yesterday and it looked like a wild ride and a very close call. Also a couple of other slab avalanches were observed failing on glacial ice in the past 2 days. At this point we certainly don't have the observations to be able to say if this avalanche problem will persist for awhile but I would certainly be very gentle in my glaciated terrain choices till we know something has actually changed.

I was up to 2700m at O'Hara today and sun effected slopes below 2500m were actually decent step kicking. Above 2500m it was honest knee deep trail breaking in soft snow at that elevation in the shade. It definitely had me choosing the terrain very carefully-staying in places with lots of rough ground cover and avoiding even small smooth features above 30 degrees. I would assume the snow is much deeper and more wind effected at higher elevations. Again, conservative terrain choices in places with above threshold depths of snow will be a good idea this weekend. More precipitation is in the forecast for most of the region and this could easily overload the current alpine snowpack about which we know very little at present. Maybe there is only a weak layer on the glacial ice? Maybe not?

Saturday at least looks it will be way too greasy for rock climbing and skiing seems at best a mediocre idea on gentle, planar glaciated features considering the uncertainty around the current avalanche problems and early season skiing hazards (rocks, crevasses, creeks, stumps, bears, aliens etc) Lots of good looking water ice forming in the alpine runnels but we would need a couple of cold clear nights to set up those pitches and especially the snow slopes above and below most of those features. Hiking and damp tooling are about the only PG options I can think of.

Dont worry, conditions will change again soon! They may get better or they may get worse, but they will change.

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.