Variable surface conditions, Horse Meadow, Kidney Chute

Kidney Chute
Submission Info
Friday, February 14, 2020 - 1:00pm
37° 54' 8.0748" N, 119° 12' 24.0732" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

I made my way up the Kidney Chute today from the Horse Meadow trailhead. The road is passable to about 7800’ at the upper Horse meadow, but it to make it all the way is not for the faint of heart. High clearance, 4WD, and some decent tires are required equipment. Leaving the car at 930 this morning the temperature was just above freezing, the sky was mostly clear, and the winds were calm. From ~8000’ to ~9000’ I found the snowpack to be very thin. HS varied from 20-40 cm deep with many areas of dry ground, particularly under big trees and at lower elevations. The structure in this area was primarily faceted loose grains caped with a hard melt-freeze crust (1-1.5 cm thick). Despite the uncohesive and thin snowpack, I found it to be largely supportable, and skinning was relatively easy. 

After rounding off the shoulder of Mt Gibbs, I started following the creek and climbed to Kidney lake at 10400’. I found a slightly deeper snowpack (50-80 cm), and the pack was almost entirely faceted on this eastern aspect with scattered areas with a thin breakable MF crust to keep things interesting. I found travel to be more challenging in this zone as the snowpack was not very cohesive. Getting above treeline at kidney lake offered a good vantage of the different aspects in the basin. The north-facing shots off of mt Gibbs are thin and largely wind-scoured. In areas that are not scoured to the ground, surface conditions are comprised of Wind textured snow ranging from large sastrugi to smooth slick-looking snow. Except for a few narrow slivers of snow, the southern flank of East peak is almost entirely bare.  

I decided to aim for the SE facing Kidney chute, hoping for sun softened snow. In some thinner areas,(less then ~40 cm) I found the pack seemed to have transitioned to a spring-like isothermal snowpack while in some other, deeper areas (~100c cm +) I found cold snow still exists below a pretty thick (~20cm) MF layer.  It was a relatively cool day with light to moderate winds out of the SW and high cirrus clouds that filtered the solar radiation.  No signs of loose wet instabilities were noted on my tour. Even with the limited surface melt, I found the top 2-5 cm of snow had warmed enough to make a pleasant, corn-like descent back to Kidney lake. 

Descending from 10400’ at Kidney lake to the truck at 7800’ was far less enjoyable and could be summed up as variable. While the largely faceted snowpack was mostly soft down to 9500’, patches of breakable MF crust kept things from feeling predictable descending to Gibbs lake.  Furthermore, shallowly buried rocks and trees pepper the landscape, and the braided creek is open in many areas. Needless to say, there are many obstacles to keep you on your toes. The final descent back to the truck was a bit more predictable but far less enjoyable. The breakable MF crust did not soften up at all during the afternoon, and I found it easiest to make long traversing turns in an attempt to save the knees. 

While I did not observe any signs of instability in the snowpack today, I did find the variable ski conditions to pose their own hazards.  There are certainly still fun to be had out there, especially if you can enjoy the “adventure” and are willing to be creative.

Snowpack photos: 
Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
50% of the sky covered by clouds
Air temperature: 
Above Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
More detailed information about the weather: 

light to moderate winds and high-level cirrus clouds kept the day feeling chilly despite temperatures remaining above freezing.

930- @7800' 34°F, calm winds, clear skies

1100- @9500' 34°F, light SW winds, few clouds

1200- @10500' 31°F, Light SW winds, scattered clouds

145- @12200' 28° F, moderate SW winds, scattered clouds

240- @ 9400' 33°F, light Sw winds, scattered clouds

327- @7800' 41°F Calm, Few coulds

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