Stability hand pits in chute
December 31, 2021 at 9:00 AM
Name: Aaron Rice
Location: Left gully and chute
We performed a beacon check before entering into avalanche terrain. In the bowl we reassessed our options. Chute looked tempting, but we decided to start on left gully.
The snow in left gully was mostly firm but edgeable and heavily skied. The upper reaches had a few wind pillows that were avoided.
From the bottom of left gully we decided to check out chute with the understanding that we would turn around of anything didn’t look good (be it too icy, minimal coverage, or unstable). As we ascended the snow was supportable and 6-24″ deep resting in a much more firm and icy layer. We made it up to where others had turned around and saw a route up through brush and rocks to the top. We dug a couple hand pits. At least two distinct layers were identified. Neither was from the dusting of snow last night. We assessed our red flags. No appreciable new snow, no poor snow pack structure, no recent loading, no cracking collapsing or whumpfing, no recent avalanches, YES in a slide path, and maybe rapid warming since it was right around freezing and the sun was strong.
We decided to continue climbing with ice axe and crampons. Climbing to the top proved not to difficult with mostly supportable snow and not much ice.
Even though we had dug pits, counted our red flags, assessed human factors and felt good about our terrain selection for the day, we skied one at a time from the top of chute to kits above the choke where the first real safe spot exists. In addition to this being good protocol, lots of sluffing made this a very good call.
On the descent the snow showed no signs of instability. Save for on the skiers left flank where shallow new slabs were heating in the sun and becoming a bit more sensitive, but still not propagating past your skis. Still even a small amount of moving snow in nearly 60* terrain could easily take you off your feet.
Obviously minimal signs of avalanche hazards were present but we did our due diligence, talked about our decision and were able to ski some technical terrain.