VA Lakes - South Peak - Woomphing, propagating test results, natural activity

South Peak
Submission Info
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 1:30pm
Red Flags: 
Recent avalanche activity
Whumphing noises, shooting cracks, or collapsing
Recent loading by new snow, wind, or rain
38° 2' 23.6328" N, 119° 15' 17.9172" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

Toured up South Peak today to 11,000' to check on new snow, wind effects and snowpack.  Bluebird morning with clouds developing in the afternoon, light winds with moderate SW gusts at ridgetop blowing small amounts of snow into the air.  Encountered 2 people on the climb up who were on the way down that said they felt whoomphing ~10,500', so aimed to check that out.  We followed their skin track along the ridge between the two gullies, and climbed a bit further up beyond to dig a pit (felt no additional whoomphing in this area).  Extended column results were the most alarming I've seen all year, see attached video and pit profile.  ECTPx2 failing and propogating in a facet crust combo down 70cm.  This pit was dug on steeper slope that made up the edge of the gully, and I dug another pit 30' over in the middle of the gully which didn't have such dramatic layering and showed no failures ... however it is quite possible that old ski tracks led to compaction in the center of the gully. Dug another pit on the edge of the lookers left gully at 10,900' and again found propogating ECT test results (ECTP22 in a facet layer just under the old surface crust), but not nearly as energetic as the first.  Finally, we did get a significant whoomph ~10,400' on a mellow slope within an island of spaced out white bark pines, that seemed like it extended ~20' around us.  Concerning underlying snowpack that now has a significant slab ontop ... something to consider that we don't often see!    

One natural slide occured on the steep north face of south peak likely during last night wind event, see pic.  R2-D2 loose dry release.  

In many areas lower down below the gullies there was a layer of denser wind deposited snow ontop of softer storm snow, but above this up to atleast 11,000', snow in the gullies was mostly un-windeffected.  Didn't come across any concerning wind-slabs on our travels today, but they may exist up higher toward the ridgelines.  Quite thin snowpack below 10,000' with lots of rocks just barely under the surface.  About a half meter of new snow up higher in more deposited areas from the 3 day storm that ended last night.  Quite good skiing, but important to locally assess the underlying snowpack and think twice about steep terrain!   

Snowpit or crown profile photo or graph: 
Snowpack photos: 
Snowpit videos (tests, etc): 
Weather Observations
More detailed information about the weather: 

-8.5°C / 17°F at 10,700' at noon.

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