Multiple Slides in Oakes Gulf, 4/11/19

By Kurt Niiler

Date of Observation: April 11, 2019  12:40 PM
Location of Observation: Oakes Gulf

While the east side of Mt. Washington remained clear and calm throughout the day, consistent southeast winds made for steady wind-loading on isolated terrain features in the eastern half of the ravine and on the entire slope in the western half. The first slide (first additional photo) was triggered underneath the rock buttress near the base of Halfpipe Gully: SS-AS-R2-D1.5. Skier was not caught or carried, uninjured. The second avalanche (main photo) occurred on the slope skier’s-left of Double Barrel: SS-ASr-R3-D2. Appears to have been remotely triggered by a party of three, one of the party members may have been caught (was really hard to see exactly what was happening from across the ravine.) Third slide (no photo) was triggered underneath a rock buttress on the skier’s-right side of Airplane Bowl: SS-AR-R1-D1. Snowboarder was not carried or caught, uninjured. In addition to these human-triggered slides, there were lots of recent crown lines in the buttress area of Oakes, most notably underneath the cornice at the start of Halfpipe Gully (second additional photo). All slides occurred within 10 minutes of each other. Another reminder that it’s not quite spring up high yet.


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Snowpack observations are one part of the complex puzzle which is your decision to enter avalanche terrain. Some observations may include stability tests. It’s important to understand that the results of a stability tests are seldom conclusive anywhere, but particularly in snow climates and terrain like ours where the primary driver of instabilities is wind drifted snow. Many stability tests exist and each works best with specific avalanche problem types. Stability test results should never be used alone as an indication that a slope or conditions are safe particularly when more obvious red flags are present. Please use this page as part of your information gathering process, but don’t make decisions based on a single piece of information. A good article that summarizes some of the issues associated with snow and avalanche observations can be found here.

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