I went for a quick tour to south peak today in the Virginia lakes area with the goal of evaluating surface conditions and to search for isolated wind slab instabilities. Temperatures were chilly today remaining below freezing. As I left the car around 11 am and a thick layer of cloud cover had settled in obscuring the top of Dunderberg and other high peaks in the basin. Light winds seemed to increase as I gained altitude and were a solid moderate by the time I reached the ridge of South peak. Intermittent flurries hinted that new snow may be on the way but no more than a few flakes were observed during my tour.
I needed to remove my skis twice to cross areas of exposed rocks and I found myself walking on a fair bit of sagebrush as I made my way to the NE side of South peak. I observed 2-4” of new snow above 10000’ with some areas with drifts up to 6-8”. In many areas, the new snow resided on older faceted snow which made for quite pleasant turns. (ski pen about 20 cm). I found a couple of isolated areas of recent wind deposits on leeward terrain features near the saddle of south peak and Mt Olsen. While some minor cracking was observed under my skis these areas were very small and located in inconsequential terrain. Higher elevation start zones have seen more scouring then loading and I suspect new snow will be required to see consequential loading in this particular area.
Descending back to the car I found the new snow made for pleasant turns. I took it slowly picking my way through the many exposed rocks and bushes but a high traverse allowed me to keep my skis on all the way back to Virginia creek.