High pressure entrenched off the California coast has ushered in an extended period of spring-like weather, which has rapidly shifted the snowpack from a winter-like snow regime toward spring-like snow conditions, with the accompanying melt/freeze cycles, on solar aspects as the sun races toward the spring equinox (March 21). Cloudy skies Friday night, kept temperatures above freezing to nearly 11,000’. Warm temperatures Saturday on solar aspects softened the snow with the upper 30 to 45 cm of the snowpack becoming wet with small wet point releases were reported. The recent warm-up has even impacted the northerly aspects (~ below 9000’) where the snow has turned sticky and thick (aka Manky).
The last snowfall in the area occurred on Sunday (3/5) , and was accompanied by very strong SW to West winds through Monday forming Windslabs on exposed W-NW-N-NE-E-SE aspects at all elevations with the mid to upper elevations most heavily impacted. The Windslabs that formed during that storm event have had six days to stabilize. Since then, spring like conditions have dominated the region with above average temperatures and low winds. As temperatures climbed the avalanche focus shifted toward loose-wet point releases on solar aspects in the mid to upper elevations, all aspects in the lower elevations, especially when the overnight low temperatures are only near or above freezing.
With spring conditions comes firm melt-freeze crusts on solar aspects in the AM hours (possibly later) and firm wind-board on more northerly aspects. These snow conditions make an arrest difficult on steeper terrain if a fall occurs (Slide For Life). If these conditions are encountered, crampons, ice ax, or a whippet maybe required to travel safely in steep terrain. Caution in complex terrain with multiple aspects. Careful snow assessment is recommended, reevaluate your plan as needed, be prepared to alter your objective.