February 13, 2011

South Fork Whiteout

Ascending in a whiteout into an avalanche debris field was nerve wracking - where did it start?  are the slopes in the fog loaded and ready to come down?

It was 10 deg F at the South Fork Trailhead with very little wind and light snowfall.  The upper half of North Bowl had a couple of inches fresh snow on a very hard, icy base.  It wasn't worth a second lap. 

Moving to the west wing of the bowl was a mistake.  Stumbling into the debris field, finding the avalanche starting zone much higher, kicking steps up an incredibly hard cornice in the snowy fog were enough to make me want to bail.  Bailing out was the plan, but where was the pass to the front side?

Traversing back to the pass, the fresh snow deepened and the fog lifted.  After 4 hours of up and down wandering in the whiteout on sketchy snow, a sweet line with deep snow presented itself in good light.  The 'secret' line was accessible from the uptrack of about 3 hours prior; skinned right past it oblivious to the treasure.  Better late than never.  The best snow was between 3500 and 2000 feet on a north-northwest aspect.

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