The drought continues, at least for a few more days. Rugged conditions on any sort of objective involving snow or ice continues to be the theme.
Forecasts are not entirely in agreement, but there may be a change in the weather pattern coming, especially to the south.
Weather models in all areas except north of a line running from the Adamants to the Columbia Icefields show a blip of precipitation overnight Monday/Tuesday, although this is not noted in text forecasts right now. In Kananaskis and the Columbia Mountains south of Rogers Pass, showery weather may continue for the remainder of next week.
Temperatures have dropped and look to remain more seasonal for the next while. We have finally been recording some overnight freezes at higher elevations.
Although temperatures have moderated, dry conditions prevail for now. This may change over the week in some areas.
Rock climbs, scrambles, and hiking trails at all elevations are in good condition. Colder temperatures will become an issue for some rock climbs, especially those at higher elevations or in the shade.
Glacier travel on lower angled terrain is predominantly on ice. However, where there is snow left on the glaciers it is well-settled and travel is good, if you can get on to the glacier safely. For example, the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col is a mess of dirt and boulders right now and not recommended. Crevasse bridges are generally strong (except at the firn line where the snowpack is thin).
Many routes involving steep snow and ice are not viable, with few safe or easy options available. Faces that were traditionally ice are now mostly rock, with the remaining remnants of ice being dirty and spewing rocks. An exception seems to be a few of the deeper couloirs, where the big winter snowpack and the cool start to the summer have enabled a few routes to retain snow coverage. Getting information on any snow/ice objective beforehand is essential to having a safe and successful outing.
Longer nights and cooler overall temperatures seem to be in store for us, so with some cautious investigation and cold overnight temperatures the few snow and ice routes remaining may be feasible.
In my mind there are two main hazards to consider at the moment.
The first is the longer and colder nights as we move into fall. Getting caught out overnight in the dark at this time of year will be, at the least, long and uncomfortable. It could be much worse than that if you do not have proper clothing and/or if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Secondly is rockfall, especially in places that historically have not had much of a problem. On my ascent of the ramp route on Athabasca last week I was surprised at the amount of rockfall potential beneath the Silverhorn. Rocks that have not been exposed for literally thousands of years are precariously perched on terrain that in the past was more of a concern for snow avalanches. Other parties, wind, and warm temperatures may all be a trigger for rockfall.
Finally, another thing to consider is the wildfire hazard with several large fires burning in BC and Jasper.
Of note, Jasper National Park is asking visitors to stay away from the Jasper Valley. The Chetamon fire has burned through the power line and the town has been without reliable power for a few days now. There is no end in sight to getting this fire under control.
For this week I am considering:
- Scrambles, hikes, and lower elevation rock climbs
- Easier/sunny alpine rock
- Straightforward glacier travel with minimal overhead hazard
I am avoiding:
- Ice faces (or what were once ice faces)
- Complex glaciers
Enjoy the cool autumn weather. With a bit of anticipation and planning there are plenty of objectives to choose from.