NOLS WOE Tetons Ski Mountaineering Expedition: Day 12 – Avalanche Science

Amidst the raging storm which has deposited over 90cm of snow so far, we’re hunkering down in camp today to go over some basic avalanche measurement and evaluation techniques. Notes:

  • Woke up this morning to more snow. Overnight it snowed over foot, and it continued to snow heavily all day. Our paths around camp are continuously being covered up, and we all walk around with shovels. Although we all obviously love snow, it’s finally beginning to get a bit annoying, as well as dangerous.
  • The temperature rises when it snows, and everything that was once dry and frozen becomes wet and cold – a very dangerous situation. When the temperature is much colder, moisture stays frozen, and actually evaporates through sublimation.
  • Since we stayed in camp today, we did avalanche science class. We practiced digging snow analysis pits, which show a cross section of all of the snow layers.
  • Among the tests, we practiced identifying individual layers within the snow, determining the composition of each layer, testing layer hardness and density, identifying weak layers, and determining avalanche potential for a given snowpack.
  • Rest of the day we spent practicing using avalanche beacons to find buried backpacks. We also spent a considerable amount of time in our caves reading an trying to stay dry amidst the heavy, wet snowfall.