Kearsage Pass-Snow transport with W-SW winds, shallow wind slab

University Peak
Submission Info
Friday, March 13, 2020 - 2:00pm
36° 45' 13.4748" N, 118° 21' 32.4864" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

Getting an early start would be advantageous if you want to avoid major glopping. I endured the old ball & chain of super sticky conditions again today from 9000-11000ft by starting late~11am. There was much evidence of loose wet point release slides on east aspects below 9000ft, most being d1 in size that took place a few days ago. Did not see any slab activity anywhere today. 15-20cm of new snow from mid-week were found in most sheltered areas above 9200ft and where wind loaded was even deeper (~20-25cm) on due north aspects. Westerly winds had already ramped up at 1100am as I headed up to check out the north side of University Peak   Upon getting to 11500ft in the basin below the north side of University Peak, I found typical scoured and  thin conditions with rock fields more prevalent than snow. The ceiling for cloud cover was around 12000ft for most of the day starting around noon and snow flagging from the peaks was prevalent and quite beautiful to behold.  I didn’t venture higher than 11600ft today to maintain visibility and avoid any building potential wind slab with the strong to extreme winds that were strafing the high elevations.

Ventured underneath the north face and ascended up to 11600 where I started to find more robust 5-10cm wind slab and obvious signs of wind effects (uneven surfaces, drifting, and ribbon features) which were stiffening up snow surfaces. Hand pits in wind loaded northerly aspects showed 20-25cm of 4F cohesive snow that would shear off old snow surfaces with moderate to strong force.

At 11663ft on a 23deg NNE aspect, 35deg slope angle, I dug a snow pit and found 265cm total snow. The top 5cm wind slab was encapsulating 20cm of very light Fist hardness snow which was resting on firmer 1F snow. The Fist hardness snow was comprised of the top 10cm being Fist, and then another 10cm of very loose graupel deposit ~F-. Compression tests failed at moderate levels between the two 10cm layers of Fist snow and then below at the interface with the firmer snow underneath. Extended column test did not propagate. I descended at this point as the snow was feeling upside down, hollow, and starting to get minor cracking as I broke through the surface wind board.

Found very faceted cavity hoar around most rock features and vegetation throughout the tour and obvious overall thin conditions. The warm temperatures and sun significantly warmed up the new snow during the day, and as I descended around 4pm, a robust temperature crust covered most surfaces from 10500ft down. Another reason to start early and end earlier during this transitional time of late winter.


It was 37.5F @ 1100am @ 9200ft and 22F @ 1530pm @ 11663ft


Snowpit or crown profile photo or graph: 
Snowpack photos: 
Snowpit videos (tests, etc): 
-- placeholder --

ESAC receives significant financial support from ...