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.
avalanche.ca report filed by Tim
Map of area and rough idea of our route and start of slide.
I'd welcome any comments, advice, criticism etc. And hope Tim can add anything I missed plus his prospective.