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Location (general area)
Road conditions to area
Open. Few sections with many small rocks.
32° F (0° C) (Give or take)
clear (no clouds)
Light (1-16mph Flags/twigs in motion)
Wind direction in degrees
Aspect in degrees
0–16" (0–40 cm)
Boot/ Ski penetration
PS 8 cm
Activity, recent avalanches
Whumphing noises, shooting cracks. collapsing
Obvious avalanche path
It turns out CalTrans kept The Crest open to Wrightwood (!), so I decided to head up there and see what kind of snow I could get into.
Snow started sticking to shaded, N-aspect slopes from the Santa Clara Divide road (5,890’) on up. Waterman & Cloudburst (≈ 7,000’) still looked too boney for a tour; let alone ski.
Looking at peaks, I knew I need to get higher than 9,000’ for real snow, so I decided to park at Dawson Saddle (7,903’) and tour up the northwestern shoulder of Throop Peak (9,138’).
I could skin basically right after the first switchback above the highway. The trail south was mostly covered. I had to duck down below the ridge at times to minimize early-season, mandatory gingerly stepping across small fields of gravel and rocks. (Thank God for nearly indestructible Black Diamond nylon skins!)
I hit the trail at 10:45. Temps hovered around freezing all day. Winds were mostly calm with occasional moderate gusts. Throughout the tour, snow was highly variable: hard (PS > 1 cm), soft (PS 10 cm), deep (30 cm), absent. The only constant was graupel within the snowpack... And facets. Whew! Lots of facets.
In the morning there was a breakable crust over facets. I observed small shooting cracks (≥ 25 cm around ski). Near midday, above 8,800’ I observed radiation re-crystallization. By 14:00 sunned snow below 8,400’ was melting into mashed potatoes while shaded snow began the afternoon freeze.
I found it difficult to find a deposition pattern; i.e. where the good snow would be. I think it snowed from the south which preceded a wind event from the NW. But it was odd; certain NW-aspect slopes were scoured and others had 15 cm of facets (??). All north chutes of Throop were heavily scoured to the road, but other NE-aspect drainages had over a foot of sugary snow. The NW shoulder off the summit had hard wind drums and sastrugi down to the trees where it was scoured almost to ground.
The snow was never deep enough to have meaningful pit data, so I never dug one. Most pole probe tests showed a right side up snowpack (except for where there was an obvious breakable crust). I hopped on a few test slopes: SCC30NE (@8,000’), SCN30E (@8,300’), SCL(1)30N (@8,800). Lastly, I hopped on one of the smaller wind drums on the NE shoulder around 8,800’ and it broke to ground. It had formed over that first layer of graupel. eek!
I got in about 8 turns of nice, albeit shallow pow off the summit. It was a ridiculously clear day. From the top I could see Mt Whitney to the north and Catalina surrounded by reflection of the sun off the water. A beautiful way to start the season.
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North Face of Throop Peak. Note heavy scouring in the central gully
Looking North in the afternoon.