Onion Valley - Solar warming and conditions

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass
Submission Info
Saturday, February 15, 2020 - 2:45pm
36° 46' 23.97" N, 118° 22' 35.9004" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

Toured out of Onion Valley today up to Kearsarge Pass with a side jaunt up an appealing looking south facing gully on the way to check on solar warming effects, and overall conditions.  Beautiful day, with some light to moderate SW winds, especially at ridgetops.  I was worried the mountains might be feeling a little sick, so I took their temperature quite a few times:

-Onion Valley Trailhead at noon, 9200': 3.5°C, very light SE winds, sky covered halfway with high thin clouds.

-Sub-peak to the east of Kearsarge pass, 11,880' at 1:45pm: -3.5°C, mod west wind, 1/4sky cover by high thin clouds.

-10,500', 2pm: 1.5°C.

-Kearsarge Pass, 11,760', 3:15pm; 0.5°C, 1/4 sky cover by high thin clouds, mod WSW winds.

-Parking spot, 9100', 4pm: 3.5°C.

North-facing terrain was a bit ill, very variable and unpredictable where it wasn't obviously very firm and wind effected, from loose facets to breakable.  Solar aspects however from east to south were much more healthy and predictable, undergoing expected surface melt and then re-freeze.  Skiing down a south facing gully from 11,800 to 10,500' at 1:45 was quite pleasant with just enough surface softening ontop of firm crust.  Not sure I would call it exactly corn, it was more of a mini sastrugi-like surface feathering made of larger melt-freeze grains that was moist and skied well.  See attached photo of surface.  The middle of this upper gully just below 11,800' had a total snow depth of 130cm, and was isothermal and moist to the ground at 1:45pm.

No signs of instablity anywhere.  No snow being blown, and no excessive surface softening.

Thin but adequate coverage, with easily identified obstacles.  SW facing slopes were the most consistently bare. See photos.

Road was driveable to within ~5-10walk of the trailhead (a couple small patches of snow before this on the way on shady curves, but fine with 4 wheel drive and a little clearance ... I pulled out a stuck BMW in one of these spots).  Dodge the rocks!

Snowpack photos: 
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