Intended to go up to Bow Hut on February 13 but was greeted in Parking lot by Parks Visitor Safety doing a rescue for some folks who triggered the slope near the final approach up to the hut on Friday afternoon. Parks at the time suggested against doing the approach so we did crevasse rescue practice instead.
After talking to one of the VS specialists that evening I decided to head up the next day and play the super conservative game. We approached all of the terrain for the two days as if it was very touchy. Turns out it was. (See last paragraph)
Feb14 – Bow Hut approach / ascent of Onion
Lots of open water in canyon. There was about 10cm more low density snow on the facets than 2 weeks ago. Above the canyon the wind began in earnest. Across the flats after the trees we had a lot of whumpfing and cracking. The final slope to the hut was treated with suspicion since the debris from Friday’s avalanche incident is about 20 - 25 m past where the normal up track goes. See attached photo if you are curious about where the avalanche took place. The crown in the leftmost slide actually extends well above the photo. We could not see where the actual burial was due to poor light.
That afternoon we ascended the Onion in strong winds. Snowing about 1cm per hour. Wind slabs forming. It felt like the kind of wind that results in significant cornice growth. Sastrugi more pronounced the higher up we got. Height of snow on the slopes between Bow Hut and Onion ranged between 220cm and 320plus cm. Ski quality ranged from poor up high to fair lower down.
Feb 15 – Ascent of Mt Gordon and descent to road
Light snow and moderate to strong winds all night long. New windslab reacting easily to hand shears down 20 – 30cm in the storm snow on lee slopes. Managed to ascend Gordon in moderate to strong winds all day. A LOT of open crevasses between the Onion and Gordon. I have never seen it like this in 30 years on the Wapta. We roped up on the way up and put the rope back on for the flats after the initial descent of Gordon. Probing the glacier near the crevasses we had snow depth ranging from 200cm to 80cm... Not instilling confidence for travelling near these big slots without the rope!
Skiing up high on Gordon was fair to poor on descent. Height of snow on the upper slopes was typically 300cm plus. Descending final slopes to hut was poor ski quality on sastrugi in the upper reaches. When we got down lower in the slight lee of the recent west winds ski quality improved from fair to good.
On the way out we encountered another recent Size 2.5 natural avalanche event that hit the approach trail some time on the night of Feb 14 or morning of Feb 15. I am pleased to say that it did not hit our conservative up-track that was in the trees on the climbers right hand side. The debris nuked the normal path that winds it’s way up and down under the slide path. I have posted pictures of this slide on a separate MCR.
Cyril Shokoples MG
ACC Calgary Ski-Mo Crew