Conditions at the Icefields
Guided the Silverhorn route on Athabasca yesterday via the Silverhorn route (June 5th). Temperature at the parking lot was 3 deg at 0300 and 0.5 deg at the moraine just before the glacier. Light winds on the north aspect and snowing less 1cm per hour most of the day. Travel conditions were good to excellent with substantial freezes making for fast travel on the lower glacier except for a few punchy spots at the start. We trucked up to the Nanutak and crossed over the schrund easily. Climbing conditions on the Silverhorn itself were really good with bullet hard ice and long stretches of refrozen 'snice' which made for quick movement on the face.
Winds became quickly industrial on the way to the summit ridge and were blowing mod-strong from the SSW for the rest of the day which was redistributing recently fallen new snow around. I pulled a few hand shears in some of the small wind pockets on the Silverhorn and was get mod failures on graupel down 4 cm and 15 cm. This was not terribly significant at the time for us, however these shears are something to keep in mind over the next 3-4 days with up to 20cm of new potentially falling today and tomorrow above 2100 meters with moderate winds on Saturday.
As a result of the poor visibility, strong winds and also the dramatic changes to the Ramp since I'd been there a few years back, I opted to go down the AA col which was definitely the safer option but travel was crappy. This was because of a recent significant avalanche of loose wet to Sz 2 and then a very sudden freeze. Some wind sifted snow in the gullies of the these avalanches provided for better travel down slope on the descent.
Although the travel down the AA col was far from awesome, it was still the better choice in order to avoid possible windslabs on the Ramp. Avalanche companion rescue equipment might be worthwhile for those going into the alpine above 2700 meters in this area for the immediate short term. We had this equipment with us yesterday