After the ferocious North winds of December 30th, most pow skiing can still be found at Southeast and South aspects. Most other aspects regardless of elevation were impacted by northwest, north and northeast winds.
Notice in the wind chart included below the predominance of strong (>12 m/s) northerly winds during December 30th and January 1st.
Winds Chart for Pilot Peak
The next pictures illustrate the various sastrugi and wind ripple surfaces at Freeman Peak easterly and northerly aspects.
South and southeasterly aspects were not impacted as it can be seen in the picture. Due to cold temps solar radiation is minimally impacting the snow.
The 12-mile creek drainage that encompasses the easterly and southern aspects of Freeman has steep open meadows where rock outcrops are sparkled across the landscape.
When going backcountry skiing it is essential to stay keyed to the principles of situational awareness. Meters away from Freeman trailhead, a windslab release with an SSE aspect released during the last 24 hours was clearly visible.
While skiing and breaking trail, at two different instances, ski cuts triggered small avalanches in steep terrain. Stability tests confirmed the reactivity of the 20-25 cm storm slab with rather easy scores; CTVQ1 and SSTE (Easy shovel tilt test). The picture below shows the storm slab as well as the fracture plane with large stellar crystals. The crystal card was inserted perpendicular to the fracture plane.
The stellar crystal weak layer requires attention for two reasons; it is going through faceting and it will be buried deeper by the next storm. Right now it is a rather shallow slab, but it is working its way to become a concerning persistent slab problem.
The 20-25 cm shallow slab generated a fracture plane at a weak layer composed of large (1.5-2 mm) stellar crystals that are showing evidence of near-surface faceting.
Not surprisingly, at a snowpit located at 7000 feet with a 110 Deg Southeast aspect, no basal facets were found. And the surface hoar (SH) was unreactive, due to the melt-freeze metamorphosis of the SH crystals. Additional details about snowpack and weather can be perused at the Bitacora field notes for today.
Below 6500 feet, there is a need for additional snow storms to finally bury the underbrush. However, I was exhilarated to be able to ski into the road and avoid lengthy skin track exits, even when there is still brush sticking out.