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Squamish-Ashlu-Elaho Primed and Ready to Produce Massive Avalanches #2135
Back To Discussion List Written: 2009.01.17 by: Frank W. Baumann

Avalanche experts flew in and completed snow profiles in the Ashlu River area and are reporting very grim avalanche conditions- two or more metres of hard snow resting on some of the worst faceted layer anyone has ever seen.

So be warned: if they haven't already occurred, or are about to occur, this spring will bring some massive avalanches in the Squamish-Ashlu-Elaho area.


#1150 - 2009.01.22 Frank W. Baumann - Road will be kept open
We fully anticipate that a major avalanche will eventually block the road at what you call Bond Creek. As long as Ledcor is working there, this would likely be cleaned up within a day or two. However once the Ashlu project is finished this spring, access is much less certain if the road is blocked.

#1149 - 2009.01.22 Paul Kubik - Bond and Cassetta Creeks
A Weldwood development plan from 1993-1997 refers to the creek draining into Ashlu River just above the elbow in the canyon as Bond Creek. The next major creek is Cassetta Creek, which is more or less due south and opposite Buck Mountain. It sounds like Bond Creek is the lower of the road threats you mention. I've seen slides across the road there before. Both of Bond and Cassetta run off Sigurd Peak (Rose Peak).

Frank, I don't think I'll be attempting to drive the Ashlu main past the Sigurd trailhead this spring based on your comments. I don't want to get trapped behind these slide paths. Thanks for the info.

This information would be useful for anyone contemplating the Ashlu-Elaho Divide ski traverse this year.

#1148 - 2009.01.21 Frank W. Baumann - Conveying life-saving information to the public
I agree, Scott- this type of information should be shared more openly. Until about 1988, there was a great resistance on the part of commercial operations to provide any of this information- mainly because of liability concerns. This changed when the Canadian Avalanche Association started InfoEx- a confidential, data exchange system through which information on avalanche conditions is shared by subscribers. Since the CAA derives part of its funding through government grants, they were required to provide some of this information to the public- which is done by the avalanche forecasters, who read through the InfoEx reports and then condense the information down to provide the public avalanche bulletins.

A remaining major problem with the system, though, is the lack of reporting on accidents and near misses. Every other jurisdiction in the world where avalanches are a problem recognizes the value of providing case history studies so that we can learn from our mistakes. Not so in Canada where again, liability concerns apparently stifle the dissemination of this potentially life-saving information. Early reports were done by the National Research Council- and these are available on-line; however, no recent compilation of accident information has been done. This really should change.

#1147 - 2009.01.21 Scott Webster - Public information?
It would be useful if these avalanche experts could provide results like this to the public.

#1146 - 2009.01.21 Frank W. Baumann - Study plot is at 49.910015, -123.367631
The Ashlu study plot is in a col at about 49.910015, -123.367631; and about 1600 m elevation on a north-facing slope. There is currently about 2.5 to 3.0 metres of snow in this area resting on facets.

There are big bowls both to the west and east of this study plot- the one on the east side is a complex avalanche path with multiple starting zones that all feed into one narrow gully that crosses the Ashlu mainline road in the canyon area at about 4 km (we call it Snowslide Hill).

Slides have already come down this path- but none have crossed the road. Since a slide here could have dire consequences if someone was in the way, and block access to the upper valley, we rank it has having a High risk.

The other major slide path of concern is what is referred to as Archers- it is about 7 km up and on the north side of the valley at about 49.961911, -123.369119. Avalanches have come down this path, but none have crossed the lower mainline road (which is currently not being used by the power company).

Work is being done at the Ashlu intake, so the road is open to about 8 km.

#1145 - 2009.01.21 Paul Kubik - Where were the test pits located?
I'm particularly interested in conditions at Sigurd Peak, Cloudburst Mountain. Also, Frank, do you know how far the Ashlu Main can be driven?