A Bit Of Misadventure Near Rohr Lake Jan 05 14 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Default A Bit Of Misadventure Near Rohr Lake Jan 05 14

My first big outing in nearly 2 months had me once again heading up Duffey Lake Road. It was also the first time doing a trip with TimG. The plan was to follow the Marriott Meadows Trail past the Rohr Lake turnoff then head up to "Rancherie Peak" which is one of the bumps on the ridgeline between Mount Rohr and Mount Marriott. Some pictures in this report provided by Tim.

-9 C when we parked with the sun out and we walked up the logging road then put on snowshoes at the trailhead. Following the well packed down trail for a while we then left it and headed upwards in deep powder aiming for a bench just above treeline (about a km north of Rohr Lake). A good workout doing that and after emerging in an open area we took a break with a good view of where we wanted to go and decent views in other directions.

Rancherie Peak with Mount Rohr at rear (Tim blending in with the trees in the foreground).

Looking towards Marriott Lake and Mountain.

During some food and drink we studied the area and noticed a couple of steep steps (plus a cornice) on the upper north ridge of Rancherie so we cast our eyes about for an approach further north along that ridge with maybe the plan of acsending another peak further north called "Oblate". It looked okay to head northeast into the bowl gaining elevation to reach a ramp that we could follow to the ridgeline.

Oblate the peak at right.

Me looking around. We'd be aiming for centre area of shot then up-left to the ramp.

Off goes Tim. Left side of bowl with ramp visible and Oblate at left.

Avalanche rating on this day was moderate. We were aware of the thin hard base below 30 or so cm of fresh snow and I didn't think too much more beyond that at this time but we had discussed staying off certain areas descending after reaching the ridge or peak.

Couple of shots from Tim during the ascent:

As you can see, many of the boulders throughout this area area barely covered. Quite a few times there were some post-holes about thight deep.

After ascending for a short while we both noticed that things were getting really warm. I started to angle left up towards the ramp and just happened to look up (not sure if there was a sound or I sensed something). A section of snow had released above me and I watched it at first thinking it was a small slide (seen plenty of those in past trips) but all of a sudden everything else released as far as my scope of vision.

First I'd called down to Tim "Hey, look up at that". Then it all went and I yelled "I think we'd better run". It was kind of surreal to be standing there watching this wall of snow sliding down towards us with barely any sound (faint hissing noise) and there was a beautiful aspect of watching the motion of it all as it came towards me (I'll let Tim tell how he felt if he wants to add anything to this TR). The next words out of my mouth were "Oh shit".

Part of it hit some boulders and exploded over them (again, there was something grand in watching it happen right before my eyes) then I started to run towards what I hoped would be some minor cover of a few smaller boulders (these were sub conscious decisions by now as things were happening so quickly).

I got about 5-6 steps in the deep powder then fell over (short of the boulders) and braced myself for the hit. Nothing happened. Glancing downslope I can see that Tim is out of the zone but he too had fallen over. I look the other way to where I had been standing and see that much snow has flowed through.

Then I look upwards and see more snow heading towards me so I turned downslope and kind of fell down to let the snow flow over me and try to ride it out. However, there wasn't much to it so I just got covered briefly then stood up to get my bearings and make sure/hope the area was safe.

Tim was up now and we asked each other if we're okay. All was good but there was a definite weakness in my legs as I looked around and took in the scope of what just happened. A few minutes later and we'd both be further across the slope and things may have been worse. Those 5-6 steps I managed to take may have been crucial.

Looking up the slide from where I got a bit of it.

And a look down towards Tim after he'd headed back down a little way.

I descended back down towards him on shakey legs with a few pictures taken along the way. That was it for our day and we decided to head back towards the bench for some lunch and heavy discussion about things.

Red arrow is where we came in. Tim was just inside/at the edge of the slide zone whilst I had been nearer the boulders just to the left.

Marriott and area across the lower debris field.

The crown fracture was probably around 30-40cm and maybe pushing 200m across with runouts up to 300m below. I was thankful for a few things, one being that the snow was powder and not the heavier wet stuff.

Tim's shot of me heading back towards him.

Reaching the bench we look back, drink, eat and discuss what happened. I felt mainly lucky. Unlucky to be there but lucky in the fact that it could have been a lot worse. As the trigger point was above us we figure it was probably solar heating (southwest slope, about noon and like mentioned above we really felt some heat before it happened). Since, I've heard more about the weak layers/facets, small base, this area being prone to slides. Tim figured we should have gone more north to gain the ridge through some well spaced trees which makes sense.

The view from our lunch spot.

After much discussion we packed up and headed back down. More clouds had built in during this time too.

Just before the descent.

Looking down valley towards Wedge/Weart area.

And a zoom on Slalok, Tszil and Taylor.

Uneventful back to the vehicle, then we drove home.

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/library/...6-bb0668e40ede avalanche.ca report filed by Tim

Map of area and rough idea of our route and start of slide.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/timg_va...7639464473926/ Tim's photos.

I'd welcome any comments, advice, criticism etc. And hope Tim can add anything I missed plus his prospective.

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 06:15 PM
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Glad to see you're both ok.

Think it was a release unrelated to you, or remotely triggered?

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post #3 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 06:19 PM
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For clarification and to forestall (or not) any armchair quarterbacks, it might be useful to indicate whether you were carrying beacon, shovel, probe etc. and were the beacons turned on?

Disclaimer: packed beacons for Iago last week. Got back to car and realized I never turned mine on. Really useful [B)]
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 06:33 PM
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No armchair quarterbacking, just glad for happy ending. If nothing else, these kind of posts raise awareness.

Beautiful firsthand close-up of release btw
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 06:51 PM
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Thanks for the detailed report. So glad you guys are ok.

These reports always help to raise awareness. Good stark reminder of how easily things can happen even with this little amount of snow.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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I added a bit to the OP about when it happened (swear part).

Dru, I don't own any of that stuff. Tim was carrying a probe and shovel but did not bring a beacon as I didn't have one.

If I venture more out into terrain like this and at this time of the year then it is something to consider. Tim is a pretty cautious guy and we both had studied avalanche bulletins and the terrain and we had wrongly figured things would be okay.

Ryan, it was a natural occurance probably started from sun warmed slopes or sun warmed snow on rock or tree dropping on to the slope. There was another avalanche reported the day before on terrain near Marriott Lake triggered by skiers.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 07:00 PM
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Glad you're ok guys. Please be careful.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 07:13 PM
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Seen plenty of slides in that area like that .
That puffy powder turns into compact really
Fast after the action stops. Glad you weren't carried
Over some bluffs or strained through some trees.
There were plenty of pre weekend clues that
Made many stay off certain terrain, it really is not
Easy to tell the risk factor. The stuff above is always
A big concern. Thanks for posting, hope it can
End up in an educational discussion.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 07:43 PM
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Glad you are ok. Thanks for posting it.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 08:00 PM
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glad it all turned out good for u guys, I did notice all that new snow although only about 10-12" was definitely on an icy hard layer below it while in alpine by borden pk this sunday. good pics and report anyways of what we got right now....bob
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 08:05 PM
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Really glad you're ok.

We headed up Rohr at freeze up and I ended up badly injuring my Achilles tendon by slipping on wet ice near the lake Scared the daylights out of my wife. had my SAR beacon, didn't use it but was glad to have it and hobbled out of there. it was supposed to be a quick late afternoon dash. We had no spikes, were lightly equipped in freezing temps.... Stupid.

Thanks for theTR. Great shots, good info and a valuable reminder of how fast things can go sideways out there.

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post #12 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 08:50 PM
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I am not an expert or super experienced in this field, but..
A few things that likely gave you confidence.

A couple of days rest since last snow storm.
Solid overnight freezing temps.
Low snowpack.
Moderate avy bulletins
Early January season.
Plenty of anchors to keep current snowpack from separating drastically.
Blue skies.
A slightly familiar place.
Not many major slide reports/incidents or deaths in this area.
Not really complex terrain.

However, terrain/slides above you, may not fall into any of the above mentioned categories.

Many may ask why no Avy gear, since you travel mostly solo, its not really a great tool set to have for you.

You have great mountain travel experience and have covered more terrain that most could in 5 lifetimes. This also puts you at higher risk, due to this exposure.
Keep at it and stay safe man.
Thanks again for posting, as things are more serious out there than many want to believe at times.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 09:07 PM
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Simon, thanks for such an honest report. Really rare. Glad you are all OK. We got caught in a similar situation years ago up at Balu Pass in the Selkirks and I remember thinking "this is it, I'm gonna die" Ours was a dry slab avalanche triggered by a group above us and, although we tried to, we had no hope of outrunning that wall of snow. Like you, we ended up just being carried down slope and were luckily deposited on the surface.

It seems to me you guys on the Coast are dealing with a very different snowpack to what you are used to - a much more Rockies like pack - ie. thin, faceted, weak base overlain by a midpack that has gained sufficient strength to travel on but only hides what lurks beneath. People in the Rockies get used to tip-toeing around especially in thin years (like this year) or early season. People on the Coast are used to a generally stable snowpack with the major instabilities being caused by recent storms that settle out quickly. Basically, you guys get away with stuff year after year that you'd never get away with in the Rockies (or even the Interior in certain years).

I've noticed skiing with Coast skiers and Rockies skiers a big difference in how each group approaches the snowpack Coast people will jump on things that Rockies skiers would spend a fair bit of time evaluating before committing themselves too, if they even did.

Y'all gotta start thinking like Rockies skiers this year!

You've probably read this, if not, it is worth a look:

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post #14 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 09:20 PM
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Glad to hear everything worked out and everybody has an opportunity to learn from it. Great account of your perspective by the way - it sounds like you were incredibly lucid.

Nice assessment above, outlining some lessons from this AT. It fits my thoughts exactly having read Simon's account.

It looks like the slope just above the talus field had just reached threshold for avalanches ie: anchors covered. The slope you guys were on may have appeared to be below threshold which it likely is - you're location just happened to be in the track/runout of small fully formed start zone within a larger, below, threshold sz.

It appears this was remotely triggered by one of you - but I'm just guessing. Did you hear/feel a wumphf underneath you? Remote triggers have been common in that area the last few days.

The sun/warmth baking the alpine on Sun. likely was a major factor as would appear the reverse loading that likely occurred the night before with outflow winds.

The shallow snow should be of no comfort as we see new load forming slabs on top of what is generally a very weak foundation. The rules that many have become accustomed to over years of mountain travel could very well change in the coming weeks as we see fairly atypical conditions.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 01-07-2014, 09:45 PM
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I'm glad you guys are ok. Just shaken, not stirred as it were.
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