Thin coverage, variable surface conditions Mt Locke

Buttermilk Country
Submission Info
Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 1:00pm
Red Flags: 
37° 15' 39.5208" N, 118° 38' 52.854" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

I headed down the hill this morning to see what I could find in along the Bishop skyline. I was able to cross McGee creek on the Buttermilk road and drive to 8700’ without incident. High clearance and 4WD are recommended equipment. I had planned on heading to a southerly aspect in the Humphrys/ peaklet area, but as I climbed the drainage, it became pretty clear that solar aspects are pretty burned out. I shifted gears and headed for Mt Locke. Approaching the Wahoo gullies, it was clear that the snowpack is very thin in the apron with numerous rocks permeating the snow surface and 2-4” of loose snow from the 2/22 storm did a good job of hiding many more sharks below the surface. Climbing the center gully, I encountered a variety of surface conditions. Most commonly, I found 1-4” of soft snow (F-4F) residing on top of a very hard (P+-K) windboard layer. I observed a few areas where winds had drifted soft snow into drifts 10-12” deep, and I also observed areas where the wind had uncovered the old snow surface. I also observed a few areas where the crust was less supportable, and I punched through to the faceted snow below. These were few and far between, and for the most part, booting was relatively easy. Despite the significant difference in hardness, I found the new snow fairly well bonded to the old surface, and while I found many areas where the fresh snow was topped by a 1-2 cm wind skin, I did not find any significant wind slab development. For the most part the new snow is unconsolidated and right side up. Descending the gully was variable with something for everyone. In more windswept areas, I found chattery but edgeable skiing, and in some areas, I found soft powder skiing. Unfortunately for much of the initial descent, the wind skin proved grabby and unpredictable. As I got to the apron, the aforementioned sharks proved hungry for p-tex. The fresh new blanket of snow from 2/22 certainly has polished up the terrain, and while soft snow was a welcome change, I found myself wishing I could see all the obstacles that are still very much there.  From here, I tiptoed my way back to the moraine and, eventually, the car. Stopping briefly in a sunny meadow around 9500’ at around 130pm, I found melt forms on the surface with about 10-15 cm of BP. I suspect this surface melt may have been intensified on steeper solar terrain where the sunshine was more direct. Slopes that fit this description and also still have sufficient snow coverage are very limited right now.   All in all it was a beautiful day of adventure skiing on the Eastside with no signs of unstable snow observed along my tour.

Snowpack photos: 
Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
Air temperature: 
Above Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
Accumulation rate: 
More detailed information about the weather: 

Today was very warm with clear skies and light winds from the south. Some high-level clouds began to form around midday offering a brief respite from the intense Sierra sun.


ESAC receives significant financial support from ...