Mount Ruppel, Kokanee Range, Mar 2-5, 2020
We just finished a 4-day backcountry basecamp in the Mount Ruppel area located West of Kokanee Glacier Park from March 2-5. Over the 4 days we skied on all aspects between 2300m - 1600m in the headwaters of Timber and McGuire Creeks. Despite windy conditions, we managed to find great skiing (primarily on North and East aspects) everyday. The weather was generally cloudy with sunny breaks. Above seasonal temperatures with daytime highs near freezing at treeline and -10C overnight made for very comfortable winter camping conditions. Wind in the alpine was consistently moderate from the West-Northwest. The area got about 10cm of new snow during our stay.
The snowpack in this area is at prime seasonal values averaging about 300cm at treeline. Spring surfaces are in progress with dry snow on West, North & East aspect and patchy moist snow/sun crust on solar aspects. The February 22nd surface hoar layer was down 30-50cm and is widespread on polar aspects at treeline and below treeline. Crystals were in the 4-10mm range, easily detected in tests/snow profiles and giving consistent sudden shears in the moderate range. A big wind storm blew through the area on Tuesday night which created widespread wind affect in the alpine and a spike in wind slab avalanche activity however it did not affect ski quality at treeline and below. Terrain use was a mixture of short moderately steep slopes to 38 deg and larger supported slopes. We minimized our exposure to overhead hazard including the very large cornices in this area. We saw some signs of instability including minor cracking and isolated whumpfing.
Avalanche wise, we saw several natural wind slab avalanches in steep (lee loaded) alpine start zones ranging from size 1-2 every day. A couple of calculated ski cuts directly below ridge top at treeline (North & East aspects) resulted in a few size 1.5 to 2 storm slab avalanches failing on the February 22nd layer. This layer will require increasing care and evaluation as the overlying slab becomes more generally cohesive with forecast weekend storm.
All in all, a great way to kick off the Spring basecamp season!