Bearpaw Lake - Monashee Mountains
We just spent March 1-4 ski touring with a small group at Bearpaw Lake in the Gold Range of the Monashee Mountains. Our camp was located near the outflow of the lake, just south of Mount Odin, at an elevation of 1750m in the headwaters of Ledge Creek roughly 40km Northwest of Nakusp. We access the area with Highterrain Helicopter from Nakusp. The weather was cloudy/windy during the first couple of days with strong alpine winds out of the Southwest and up to 10cm of new snow. The last few days brought clearer skies and lesser winds however, much milder daytime temperatures.
We covered a lot of ground during our stay and skied most aspects between 2850m and 1450m including the Frigg Glacier. The ski quality was best on protected Northeast aspects at treeline and below treeline. That said, we found some pockets of sheltered powder snow in the alpine in the lee of previous Southwest winds. The average height of snow at treeline in this area was about 350cm. We dug a few test profiles at various elevations and aspects. We observed moderate to hard resistant shears in the top 60cm which appear to fail on previous storm interfaces. We located the January 25 interface down about 115cm in this area. It produced inconsistent results and in most cases no results however, some surface hoar to 3mm was identifiable at the interface.
Wind slabs in the alpine and exposed treeline area was our primary concern. There was an avalanche cycle on Tuesday March 2 during the peak of the wind event. That said, the evidence was quickly masked by ongoing southwest winds making it hard to see the full extent of the cycle. We did not see any deep slab releases involving persistent slabs but rather wind slabs out of lee features in very steep alpine terrain. On our last day yesterday, the solar radiations were in full force for the first time this spring in the Alpine. We saw some isolated cornice falls up to size 2 in the Alpine and widespread moist pinwheeling and wet loose snow avalanches to size 2 on steep solar aspects at treeline and below.
We observed little signs of instability which may reflect our terrain choices as the storm evolved. We felt a few localized whumpfs and minor cracking in previously windswept Alpine areas. We skied all terrain configurations up to 40 degrees except steep unsupported slopes. We avoided exposure to the growing cornices and steep alpine headwalls particularly with daytime warming on Thursday. Ski quality deteriorated by mid day on Thursday due to strong solar input and above freezing temperatures at treeline and below.
All in all, a fantastic trip in a relatively remote corner of the Monashee range.
Spring has sprung, enjoy the changing Spring conditions!