Another beautiful autumn week in the Rockies and Interior BC, but looks like we're returning to a more typical colder weather pattern in the days to come. If snowfall amounts in the high Rockies and further west are substantial we will be back to early winter mode again with avalanche concerns rising back to the top of our list of hazards for mountain travel.
The keen interest everyone had in skiing last week has precictably tapered off with the drier weather this week. Warmer temperatures and wind have resulted in not the most enticing snowpack for even diehard skiers.
The long range forecast calls for more dry weather across western Canada into next week with rising temperatures. Clear skies and overnight lows in the alpine of well below freezing (possibly down to -15 C), however, mean that mixed alpine and even ice climbing could be coming into good condition very soon.
Winter arrived on the East slope of the Rockies with a bang on Tuesday. Snowfall was from 20-40cm depending up on location and it tapered slightly as you went west. Very little wind observed with the storm but as is usual for this time of year we have very few observations from treeline and the alpine during storms. It would be a safe assumption that there has been some wind effect in the alpine and dramatic solar radiation effects on S and W aspects at least today.
September hasn’t been typical, and this last week was a very snowy one. In the Rockies there were reports of more natural avalanches up to 2.5 (maybe larger) in the Louise group with deeper than normal fracture lines of up to 1.5meters on lee aspects. The Silverhorn avalanche reported last week that was triggered by climbers (size 3) was completely filled in today as I drove past the Columbia Icefields. There are reports of up to 1m of storm snow that has drifted deeper in certain features, and alpine travel has been “futile” according to a few reputable sources.
It may not be winter yet but it sure feels more like October 20th than September 20th. The first major avalanche involvement of the season occurred on Mt Athabasca yesterday and it looked like a wild ride and a very close call. Also a couple of other slab avalanches were observed failing on glacial ice in the past 2 days. At this point we certainly don't have the observations to be able to say if this avalanche problem will persist for awhile but I would certainly be very gentle in my glaciated terrain choices till we know something has actually changed.
When I left Lake Louise this afternoon it was snowing close to 3 cm an hour in the village, ice cleats were useful on the trails at treeline, and the snow plows were out on the 93 N, so what follows is more of a snow report than a climbing summary...though conditions have been pretty good recently.
The last week saw ascents of snow and ice routes like the Emperor Face on Mt Robson, the North face of Stanley, Mt Bryce, Mt Athabasca, and Mt Fay, all in pretty good fall conditions.
After a great few days of classic fall weather with cold nights and warm sunny days, a frontal system is scheduling an appointment for later Saturday into Sunday. This will bring scattered showers into BC to go with the cooler temperatures, and possible showers onto the divide. (lake Louise area). Freezing levels should be around 3000m dropping a bit on Monday when cooler air moves into the rockies.
Sure feels like fall is in the air through the Columbia and Rocky mountains! Last weekends showers and those since have brought new snow, up to 15 cm, to the high and mid level mountains. I know what you’re thinking but no its not quite enough to borrow your friends new skis and go scratching around yet. There is no wide spread avalanche hazard yet, but I would be carful on high peaks where you could get swept off your feet by a small wind slab pocket depositing you in something unpleasant, like a crevasse.