Friday, May 30, 2008

Snow updates

Lots of updates to pass on to you related to snow melt. These first ones are from Stephen Lofgren:

Silver Falls
The west side of the loop is all melted out. The trail is in good shape. The east side of the loop still has some 200-300 yard sections of snow about 3/4 of the way to the bridge. The trail is relatively easy to follow in these areas. The Silver Falls bridge is in and usable. The access to Silver Falls from Laughingwater is also snow-free all the way to the Silver Falls bridge.

Grove of the Patriarchs
Four honey bucket toilets are now in place at the Grove of the Patriarchs trailhead. The trail out to the Grove of the Patriarchs (and around the loop) is still 95% under 18"-40" of snow. The trail travels along a steep hillside, so many visitors normally accustomed to the easy walk in will be surprised how steep and slippery it is. I think it will be at least 10-14 days before there is much of a change (depending on the weather).

Laughingwater Creek
The Laughingwater Trail is snowfree for the first 1.25 miles just short of the pond. Near the pond the trail is mostly covered with snow. The trail is exposed with patchy snow for another 3/4 mile before it goes into the canyon, from there it is more or less inundated. Three Lakes cabin is completely covered with snow, roof and all. There is a place to crawl down to the door, and you can get in easily. I skied up from where there was enough snow to use skis at about 3200', however, I think it would've been easier to just boot it up. Snow conditions were pretty firm, especially low, underneath the canopy.

Longmire Area
Allan Dreyer checked out the trails in the Longmire area yesterday and today, and reported that the trail from Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground is about 2/3 snow-covered. There are some small trees down across the trail, but nothing serious. The Rampart Ridge Trail is snow covered mostly on the top of the ridge, though there are also some serious (and very slippery) patches of snow along the way, too.

Stevens Canyon
From Stephen Lofgren again: The avalanche that happened this winter near the Stevens Creek bridge on the Stevens Canyon Road is impressive to say the least. I had a good opportunity to explore the terrain in the start zone and along the perimeter of the slide path. I've run some of the numbers and here are some initial estimates.

Approximate Date: 12/3-4/07
Length: 3200 ft.
Vertical: 1500 ft.
Approximate Total Area: 80 Acres
Weight of Snow: 64,000 kg
Cubic Volume of Snow: 160,000 m3
Acres of Forest Destroyed: 15 acres sparse forest

The Steven’s Creek avalanche most likely occurred on the 3rd or 4th of December, 2007 after a rain event that drenched the shallow snowpack. On the 1st of December, 2007, there were 33 inches of snow recorded at Paradise. This warm weather event produced about 4 inches of rain. Rapid weight, water, and warmth added to a snowpack created very unstable conditions. Although no one observed this avalanche, it is likely that the avalanche took most of the available snow in the start zone all the way down to the ground. This is called a climax avalanche.
Roughly 15 acres of sparse forest were completely flattened. Limbs on trees left standing show that the air blast and/or the snow reached 20-30 feet up. Dozens of trees were pulled right out of the ground by their root wads.

During this warm weather event in December, the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center elevated the avalanche danger rating to extreme. A number of avalanche fatalities occurred in Washington during this period.

Road Openings
From Chief Ranger Chuck Young: Both the road to White River Campground (from the Mather Wye) and Stevens Canyon all the way through to Stevens Canyon entrance will open to the public at 8:00 am on Friday May 30. The White River Campground remains closed to camping. The road beyond the White River Campground road to Sunrise remains closed due to snow. The picture to the right is at Chinook Pass recently.

Snowmelt Statistics
From Bret Christoe, our Ecological Data Manager, this summary of the progress of the Paradise snow melt in several notable years including this one:

1955: May 30 depth, 194 inches; meltout, August 4.
1956: May 30 depth, 192 inches; meltout, July 28.
1964: May 30 depth, 183 inches; meltout, July 30.
1971: May 30 depth, 202 inches; meltout, August 6.
1972: May 30 depth, 216 inches; meltout, August 7.
1974: May 30 depth, 249 inches; meltout, August 26!
1975: May 30 depth, 178 inches; meltout, July 31.
1999: May 30 depth, 204 inches; meltout, August 18
2008: May 30 depth, 172 inches; meltout, ???

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