New snow, surface instabilities in Virginia lakes

South Peak
Submission Info
Monday, March 16, 2020 - 2:45pm
Red Flags: 
Recent loading by new snow, wind, or rain
38° 2' 22.344" N, 119° 15' 22.968" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

I ventured up the NE side of South peak today in the Virginia Lakes area to get a feel for new snow totals in the northern end of the forecast area. The road had been plowed somewhat recently but even still I found 2-4” of snow on the road as I made my way up around 11 this morning. 

Skinning across the creek and up to the saddle between South peak and Mt Olsen I observed 30-60 cm of new snow with some drifted areas close to 1 meter deep. For the most part, the snow was right side up and felt well bonded to the old snow surface. This new snow is very low density (Fist to 4F hard) and ski penetration was boot top to knee-deep. Short surface cracking was observed throughout my tour and indicated a slight density change in the upper snowpack. (4-6”4f/F) at 4-6”.  These cracks were short consistently braking in circles around my skis. No concerning shooting cracks were observed but the slight difference in density was consistent and I was sure to stay out of steep terrain. 

Poking around near the saddle I managed to find a few small winds loaded terrain features that were reactive under my weight.  As thick as 30 cm deep, 4f+/F and quite sensitive, the panels of reactive snow I found were limited in size and located in inconsequential terrain. Most ranged in size from coffee tables to pool tables and ran only a few feet. Heavy snow, strong winds, and low visibility kept me from venturing into the alpine to search for more extensive windslab development but given the amount of blowing snow I found at the saddle, I would be suspect of catchment zones near and above treeline. 

Surface conditions were pleasant as I made my descent down lower angle gladded slopes back to Virginia creek.  While the knee-deep low-density powder is a welcome change from the variable boilerplate we have experienced over the last month I managed to find many rocks and leave my fair share of ptex behind today.

While I did observe some surface cracking throughout my tour, I did not see concerning signs of storm slab development. I would suspect Loose-dry avalanches to be more problematic in steep and sheltered terrain today. 

Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
100% of the sky covered by clouds
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
Accumulation rate: 
Greater than 1 in. per hour
More detailed information about the weather: 

Temperatures were cold today in the low to mid 20°F. Heavy snow fell throughout the day with rates over an inch an hour at times. Below treeline winds were light out of the SW but increased with elevation and were a steady Moderate to strong on the ridge top. 


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