On a last minute GO, 3 of us decided to gamble with Sunday’s forecasted winds and head up Elderberry Canyon. As far we could tell we were the only party in the canyon today. Another pair of skiers toured up the north east lower face from the road and reported having a lot of fun. We set out just after 9 AM, the morning was calm in Round Valley but high elevation winds caused spindrift off the highest ridges most of the day.
There is ample snow and ice on the forest road approach above 5,000 ft , 4x4 and high clearance highly recommended. 5,500 ft to the mouth of the canyon was pretty soft, faceted snow. The skin track on the road was firm which made for efficient travel.
When getting into the canyon and as the track got steeper, faceted snow caused some slippage. The skin track was frozen in most of the ascent. There were roller balls and tumblers in couloirs above on both sides of the canyon, likely from yesterday’s warm temps and sun. No signs of instability were observed in the canyon proper.
There was a thin wind crust most everywhere that progressively got thicker as we ascended. There was plenty of soft snow below the crust (poles penetrated 6-18+ inches) so we continued up to 8,500 ft, turned up into a north west facing tree’d gully, transitioning around 9,000 ft. We experienced very little wind until gaining the ridge transition point, just some mild downslope breeze at times.
Solar aspects were soft and fun but a thin breakable crust was persistent on most aspects until exiting the canyon. Turns were surfy and fun, with a few bumps and firm patches to keep us on our toes. The splitboarder among us had the most fun with one less edge to catch. Exiting the canyon was a little crunchy in the shade although we made good time and had some more great turns on the facets back to the truck.
Further winds and solar effects will likely make for firm conditions until more snow falls.