June 13, 2010

Todd's Bowl

If the texture of the wind slab was classic, so was its hollow sound - the mountain's equivalent of beating a drumroll before battle. All it took to know that the slab was sitting on nothing but rotten snow was a ski pole. When pushed through the more resistant wind slab, the pole plunged effortlessly through depth hoar all the way to the ground, as though a trapdoor had sprung open. This kind of layering asks for attention almost anywhere, but loaded in a smooth, treeless bowl that holds a 40-degree angle for the first seven hundred vertical feet and has curving side walls barring easy escape, it demands reverence. Todd might as well have stepped in front of a bus. - Jill Fredston, Snowstruck (Harcourt 2005)

Todd Frankiewicz was killed on Tincan Mountain in an avalanche December 6, 1988. We call this place where he died, "Todd's Bowl."

Kruser and yours truly trekked to Todd's in June 2010 and skied it without incident.

Although conditions at Todd's Bowl in late spring are much less risky than in winter, ski cutting the top of the slope propagated a slushy snow flow down the mountain for several minutes. The slushy slurry flowing below the ski cut was heavy and could knock a man down, but getting buried by the slow motion slide was very easy to avoid.

We enjoyed Todd's Bowl so much that we climbed back to the Tincan common summit, and skied the front or normal side. Snow conditions are great for mid-June and skiing to within 100 feet of the car is easy. We started up at 9 a.m. and were sinking 1-3" into the ample snowpack. If we have some clear nights, perhaps the snowpack (6-ft +/- at tree line) will set up and last a little longer.

Jill Fredston's Snowstruck: in the grip of avalanches (Harcourt 2005) is an intensely personal perspective on snow safety, accumulated from her fusion of professional and personal life in Alaska's avalanche forecasting, mountain rescue team, and marriage to fellow forecaster/rescuer Doug Fesler. Fredston's prose take the reader far beyond the technical analysis of snow safety to the despair of those close to avalanche victims and the sadness of those would-be rescuers who complete body recovery missions. Snowstruck is a must read for the backcountry skier.

Photo credits: Kruser

1 comment:

Dante said...

Good report. Less than a week before the season hits the refresh button.