Flagstaff, Arizona - Backcountry of The San Francisco Peaks and Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Format and Limitations Statement
Thank you for a great Mikee Linville fundraiser last weekend! The funds will provide scholarships for future avalanche course scholars. This will be our last snowpack summary for 2017/2018, unless a significant weather event warrants an update.
No human triggered avalanches, nor significant slab avalanches have been reported this season. At higher elevations, enough snow may exist to create an avalanche, though with snow depths ranging from 0 to @100 cm, size may be small to moderate.
Changing weather can create a corresponding increase in the avalanche danger, as well as change the type of avalanche problems
you may encounter. Currently with the warm spring weather, wet avalanches are your most likely problem. Wet slide possibilities are mitigated somewhat by the relative lack of snow in starting zones, especially on warmer/sunny aspects.
Backcountry travel can be challenging due to the shallow, or nonexistent snowpack at lower elevations. Logs and rocks are a significant hazard. Melt/freeze crusts have developed on all aspects and elevations (that have snow). Crampons may be helpful.
At this point, we have received only 35% of our average seasonal snowfall at 10,800 feet: with 95 inches year to date snowfall, and an average of a 25 inch (63 cm) base depth on shaded and sheltered slopes. Last season snow total on this date was 328".
Expect to find new melt/freeze crusts on all aspects. Crampons may be helpful. Spot your lines before descending, coverage is thin and rocks should be expected. The best coverage will be found on northerly and easterly slopes.
Without consistent freezing temperatures, the snowpack loses cohesion. If you experience postholing, saturated snow, or free water in the snowpack, it is unsupportable and potentially hazardous.
Strong sun and rapid warming correspond to rising avalanche danger. Roller balls, pinwheels, sloppy wet snow, or loose snow sloughing are all signs of instability. Stay off of and out from under steep slopes when these signs are present.
New snow, especially when accompanied by wind, can cause a corresponding rise in avalanche danger. Be alert to changing conditions and avoid recent deposits of wind drifted snow characterized by their smooth, rounded appearance. Look for signs of instability such as cracking in the snow surface, collapsing or whumphing, or the most obvious sign of instability - other avalanches!
- Eric Trenbeath (last Utah, Abajo advisory for the 2017-18 season)
It's getting thin out there. North and Easterly slopes above 10,000 ft will be your best bet for sufficient coverage to ski/board.