Avalanches are unlikely below treeline, due to a thin snowpack. As winds pickup this weekend, wind slab avalanches will be possible near/above treeline. Backcountry touring is still not recommended due to thin coverage.
The peaks got "epoxied" with a few inches of dense snow between Tuesday and Wednesday, when ~6" of 16% density snow accumulated near 10,800'. Many rocks got covered by this new snow (see pics below) but keep in mind it is still early season and rocks and logs will be hiding just under the snow surface.
Looking ahead, approximately 14" to 22" of snow may accumulate near/above treeline on Monday, accompanied by strong winds. This storm may be the one that begins our backcountry season, but it may also kick off our avalanche season. Wind slabs will likely form near and above treeline. Some high elevation northerly slopes may have a weak faceted snow base, and new heavy snowfall could overload these weak layers.
Without much early season observations, backcountry travelers should adopt an assessment mindset. Select conservative terrain (< 30° steep) that will give a large margin of safety, while gathering more information for a more complete hazard assessment. And help KPAC to inform the community by submitting your observations HERE
. Your first trip plan this season should start with avalanche rescue practice.
There is plenty of new snow available for transport by winds that are forecasted to pickup over the weekend and into the next storm cycle. Watch for winds loading leeward slopes, and crossloading other slopes and gullies.
Watch for old November snow at the base of the snowpack, on steep isolated northerly slopes. This faceted snow could get overloaded by a significant new load of snow. December 1st observations in Humphreys Cirque indicate early season (basal) layers had been packed by winds above treeline. However with limited observations this season, there may be weak faceted basal layers that exist in other isolated and wind protected zones near/above treeline on ~northerly slopes. More observations over the next few weeks will help to understand just how much of a concern this may be.
Avalanches are unlikely below treeline, due to a thin snowpack. Trees have shaded the snowpack and reduced the effect of wind. Hence many treed areas have more snow than those above treeline.