Lee Vining Area -Kidney Couloir -Solar gain on due South -sticky lower snow

Kidney Couloir
Submission Info
Monday, January 11, 2021 - 12:30pm
Red Flags: 
kidney couloir 37° 54' 9.9648" N, 119° 12' 13.2624" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

I skinned from the west end of lower horse meadow up to Kidney Lake and the Kidney couloir today. It was mild with warm temperatures and light to moderate westerly winds for most of the day  until I departed  midafternoon. Although the old road and trail corridor offered plenty enough coverage to skin on, the overall snowpack was pretty abysmal. In the lower forests there was 30-50cm of faceted snow and upon climbing above Gibb Lake and above tree line I entered a wind ravaged landscape. Broken trees, limbs and needle scatter were residing on most snow surfaces and very firm wind scoured surfaces abounded.  I took a look at the north facing chutes above Gibb Lake and they looked to be a good mountaineering challenge, and less as attractive to ski. Very firm wind board surfaces mixed with shallow faceted snow amongst talus fields and exposed boulders made me continue uphill for an exploratory tour.

At noon it was close to 40F at 11000ft with light winds.  At mid-day directly due South Aspects were softening from solar input and there was a nice 2cm softened surface at 1pm today up to 11400ft. Cloud cover dissipated mid-morning and the direct solar from 11am-1pm really helped take the edge off of the chatter on the due South. Kidney Couloir’s apron was a smattering of some rock with old debris from a previous avalanche. The mid-section was close to stripped and the upper more SE aspect of the gully looking very firm and smooth. Not quite late enough in the year to get enough sun to soften that up. Snow depths were very shallow from 30-60cm, with most areas having dense wind deposited snow throughout or a very firm wind board encapsulating loose more faceted snow beneath. It was my first foray in a while into higher alpine terrain and it was sad to see the lack of coverage, certainly more rock then snow at this point. There was evidence of an old wind slab avalanche high on the N aspect of Mt Gibb, which for the glacier the avalanche slid on I’d categorize as an R2D2, the old crown still visible at 1-2ft in height and extending for at least 200ft wide. Faceted snow in sheltered trees provided soft surfaces as long as you were on a shady aspect. The exit out was a bit tedious as any sun kissed patch of once-cold winter snow in the trees immediately iced my bases, even with a good wax. I had to stop several times to scrape my bases so I could actually glide a bit. This was primarily an issue from 9000ft down in elevation and by 8200ft down the entire snow surface within the forest had melted down a bit.

Did not observe any flagging of transported snow today, nor experience any collapsing or cracking. There was minor rock fall and ice shed on an East aspect today from the eastern ridge coming off Mt. Dana.

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Weather Observations
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