Regional Summary: Rockies and Columbia Mountains - October 21, 2021
Much of October seems to have come as a consolation prize for enduring several weeks of smoke this summer. It looks like this will be coming to an end over the next few days.
The unseasonably warm temperatures continue on Friday, with freezing levels rising as high as 3000m. The western edge of the Columbia Mountains will see precipitation starting midday Friday and lasting through the weekend. The farther east and south you go, the higher the likelihood of drier conditions. Precipitation amounts and timing vary significantly by region.
Avalanches: Although I've not heard any recent reports of slab avalanches, some people who've been out looking for ice in the alpine gullies have encountered significant sloughing. I suspect this will change for the worse with the forecasted precipitation over the weekend.
Crevasses: Most glaciers above 2000m are covered with fresh snow, making crevasses harder to identify and navigate.
Slip and fall: Hiking trails and approaches that may not catch your attention in the summer months can prove to be different beasts when the ground is frozen solid or covered in a bit of wet snow or verglas.
Buried hazards: If skiing in October is your thing, remember that there are lots of thinly covered, often very hard and sharp objects lying just under the surface of the snow.
Wildlife: I haven't heard of issues in other areas, but here in the Bow Valley, we are in the middle of the rutting season for elk. There have also been reports of cougar encounters around Canmore, and the bears didn't get their usual berry feast due to the hot and dry summer. Carry bear spray, travel in groups, and give a wide berth to any wildlife you encounter.
It is also good to remember that the days are rapidly getting shorter, and the long nights are dipping into negative temperatures. Bring a real headlamp and plan accordingly!
What To Do?
Rock climbing: The diehards might find a sunny crag in the drier regions this weekend. These are what some consider to be 'sending temps'!
Hiking: Low elevation hikes, particularly in the front ranges of the Rockies, might be wet but still enjoyable. Consider bringing micro-spikes in case things get slippery.
Ice/alpine climbing: It is the season where ice climbers 'take the gear for a walk' and sometimes get lucky. Ice is forming at higher elevations across the Columbias and Rockies. Climbers have had success on new ice lines and in reliable early-season drainages such as Storm Creek in the Rockies. Be ready for early season, aerated ice and keep an eye on the avalanche conditions as they evolve. There are several dry tooling crags around if the weather and conditions don't feel quite 'right.'
Skiing: Although some from the 'ski 12 months a year club' have made turns already this October, ski season hasn't arrived quite yet for most. If you just can't wait - be wary of early season hazards and take the necessary precautions.
Patience: Maybe one of the most challenging activities this time of year. Ways to distract yourself may include: sharpening tools and crampons, waxing skis, planning trips, practicing companion rescue, raking leaves, etc. Don't worry, winter is coming, and once it is here, it won't leave for a long time. Remember, in Canada, we have eight months of winter and four months of bad skiing!
All the best,
ACMG Mountain Guide