Observations

Sun affected snow in Sluice – Ascending after short descent

March 17, 2021 at 9:00 AM
Name: RD
Location: Sluice

As a party of two we arrived at the base of the ravine for sunrise. We assessed the snow in right gully and felt comfortable with the conditions. We booted up right and descended by 7:45. It was very firm but edgeable. Splitboard was digging >1″ into the snow, but made for a pretty fun ride. Prior to going back up I read the newly posted forecast. It had comments about icy start zones and sun affected wet snow that I should have considered further before making my decision to ride Sluice. I went back up to take a second run in Sluice while my partner decided to ride the lower half of right and observe from the base of the ravine. Initial thoughts were Sluice was going to be very similar to right, but a little icier up top. When I initially looked at sluice after descending Right I noticed a few patches of ice, but believed I could navigate around them and descend safely. I was equipped with crampons, an ice axe and 6mm cord.

I started by hiking up right and noticed some of the snow that loosened up while riding our first run was naturally releasing down the gully. Concerned that the sun was going to start to affect the snow further I hurried up the gully and traversed over to the top of Sluice. I was strapping in at about 9:45 AM. I began my descent on skiers left and quickly realized how wet the snow was getting. I made two quick turns. On my second turn to my toe edge my board penetrated fully 2-3″ through wet snow and was on top of the melt-freeze crust from last week. Unable to hold the edge I used my ice axe to self arrest. Assessing my situation I looked to see if I could traverse to what appeared to be an edgeable patch of snow. I tried to edge over but was unable to get any sort of traction on my board and had to rely on my ice axe to keep myself on the slope. Very concerned with my situation I pulled a pole off my back and stabbed out a step, through the crust, on the face of Sluice that I could stand on. I looked around and did not see a safe descent route so I jankily anchored into my ice axe. I unstrapped from my board and placed crampons back on my boots. Once situated I ascended back up Sluice to the start zone. Rattled and not wanting to risk a similar situation in Right Gully I decided to descend the Lions head winter route.

Attempting to ride Sluice that day at that time was a very poor decision on my part. The warning signs were there but I chose to ignore thinking I could manage the hazards. I share this information because I personally was unaware how quickly the sun could affect snow. I knew it was happening, but told myself “its 9:45, its fine” The temperature was forecasted (from the night before) to be 30 degrees at the time of descent, but I do not know the actual temperature. It did seem warmer. I was lucky in the sense that I was prepared with the proper equipment but still put myself in a terrible situation.