Lake Ice, Trail, and Snow Conditions
January 10, 2018
As reported last week grooming began on January 2nd with grooming the Crosswind, North Crosswind and Big Bay trail. Following that we groomed the Mendeltna and Bob Lake trails. These trails were groomed first with an emphasis on the CB300 dog sled race this weekend.
Other trails groomed this week were the Tolsona/Big Rock and the Lake Louise/Susitna loop trail. There are still spots of overflow on both sides of the lake trail. Beaware of a couple “super rough” sections on the trail between Army Point and Larson Bay where the groomer broke through the overflow and left it a frozen mess.
Overflow is still an issue on all the lakes. It appears to be healing up somewhat but riders beware it is everywhere.
The snow depth off the trails has remained about the same as last report. The groomed trails are coming out excelant, with a nice hard base once it has set up. The trails should remain great through the season if riders will refrain from “digging out” and leaving big holes and snow piles. Not Cool!
No new snow to report this week but have had lots of frozen fog. Temps were -18 to +15 all week until yesterday and today. Currently the temp. at Lake Louise Lodge is -39 degrees. Weather forecast is for warming in the next few days back up to the 20’s by the weekend.
After the weekend we plan to begin grooming once again starting with the Eureka/John lake trail. Moore Lake trail will be delayed till we are able to get our BR400 Sno-Cat back into service.
A couple club members last weekend marked the Lake Louise trail into Cameron Cove and part way down the east shore . The rest of the east side still needs to be marked around and back to the main trail.
Riders be aware that the CB300 dog race begins Saturday. Dog teams will be on the Crosswind trail, to Lake Louise, through the State Park, to the Mendeltna Trail, traveling to the Mendeltna Lodge on the Glenn highway. Dog teams will be on the trails most of the week.
In concluding this report I’d like to remind trail users all our trails are being marked and groomed by just a few volunteer club members. We need more help if we are going to continue accomplishing our goals of grooming, marking, and maintaining our trails. Please take some time and help out.
As always; let someone know where you are going, when you plan to be back, dress for the weather and travel in pairs.
LAST YEARS AVALANCHE FATALITY – Nelchina Glacier Avalanche (click on link)- CNFAIC Avalanche Reports
Location of Accident: Incident report Eureka, Alaska Date: 27 February 2016 Time: 12:30 pm AST Place: Toe of Nelchina Glacier. 16.5 miles South of the Eureka Roadhouse (MP 137.4 Glenn Highway) as the Crow flies. Accident site coordinates: 61* 42’ 00.43”N 147* 06’ 09.73”W State: Alaska Borough: Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Reporting Agency: Chugach National Forest Avalanche Info Center (CNFAIC) Fatalities: 1
Synopsis: Three snowmachiners were caught in an avalanche triggered by the party. Two were caught and carried while the third was overrun by debris as he sat on his snowmachine at the base of the slope. Of the two riders caught and carried, one came to rest on the surface uninjured and the other was shallowly buried but killed, likely from trauma. The third member of the party was partially buried (to his waist) and able to eventually dig himself out.
Avalanche details: Avalanche Code: SS-AM-R2D3-I Avalanche Type: Soft Slab Avalanche Character: Persistent Slab Crown height: 2-4’ Width: 250–400’ (estimate). Vertical run: 1500’ -2,000’ (estimate) Trigger: Snowmachine/ rider ascending slope. Weak layer: Facets and surface hoar (weak layer unconfirmed). Slope angle: 35*+ Aspect: East Elevation at crown: ~5,000’ ASL Path character: Channeled terrain trap. Debris: 2’-10’ deep. Events leading to the Avalanche: On Saturday February 27th, 2016 a group of three snowmachiners left the Eureka Roadhouse (MP 137.4 Glenn Highway) enroute to a zone near the toe of the Nelchina Glacier. All riders had intermediate to advanced snowmachining abilities and have been riding in this zone for more than 10 years. All three members of the party were carrying avalanche beacons, shovels and probes. The victim (rider #3) had his avalanche beacon in his backpack and had been known to keep it there instead of wearing it on his body “because it was uncomfortable to wear.” No obvious red flags (recent avalanches, shooting cracks or whumphing) were observed by this party during the 20+mile ride in to the toe of the Glacier. The party had been riding in this exact area and on the exact same slope one week prior. The party identified a small test slope they have been familiar with in the past (at the base of the slope that avalanched) and put several small climbs/ side-hills in with no discernable results. The comment from Rider #1 was that there were “no obvious layers”. The group of three then proceeded up to the base of the gully and stopped for a break. Rider #2 and #3 were changing out a clutch spring on Rider #3’s snowmachine (sled) when it was communicated that Rider #1 was going to climb the slope. Accident Summary: At approximately 12:30 pm Rider #1 began climbing and unbeknownst to Rider #1, Rider #3 followed several seconds behind, “following his track” and gaining ground on Rider #1. Nearing the top of the gully, Rider #1 turned left out of the gully, and remotely triggered avalanche #1. Rider #1 looked to his left, back downhill and saw Rider #3 being overtaken by the leading edge of avalanche #1. It was about this time that Rider #1 triggered avalanche #2, which propagated above him. Rider #1 stayed on his sled for as long as he could until the wall of snow (avalanche #2) hit him from behind. At this point he jumped off his sled to create as much distance as he could between him and the machine. Rider #1 described being in the “washing machine” and was sucked completely under the snow several times. His helmet came off at some point (not buckled). His horizon was going from dark to light to dark to light. He continued to fight and keep moving until the avalanche stopped. When the debris stopped Rider #1 came to rest completely on the surface approximately 50 yards downslope from his sled. All the debris from avalanche #1 and some debris from avalanche #2 funneled into the gully and caught up with Rider #2 who was still stationary with his sled. The debris hit Rider #2 burying his sled (except for a ski loop) and him up to his waist. Rescue summary: Rider #1 had a visual on Rider #2 and could tell he was okay even though they were separated by a substantial distance. Neither rider could see Rider #3. Several verbal callouts were not answered. Rider #1 turned his avalanche beacon to search and scanned the area toward the gully but did not pick up any signals. Rider #1 noticed his sled uphill of him and hiked back uphill to dig it out before riding over to rider #2. Rider #1 was able to get a signal with his cell phone from the location of his partially buried sled and placed a call to 9-1-1. At least 2 other parties in the vicinity saw the avalanche and/ or the powder cloud and both began heading toward the toe of the debris. From where responders were it was 20-30 minutes to get there based on deep snow, steep slopes and thick brush. The first responder got to Rider #2 within 20 minutes (estimate) of the avalanche. Rider #2 had nearly extracted himself and was uninjured. After determining there were three in the party and one still missing, the first responder began a beacon search.
Fairly quickly the searcher saw Rider #3’s backpack partially buried. The backpack appeared to be undamaged (buckles and straps in-tact) and had Rider #3’s avalanche beacon inside. First responder confirmed with Rider #2 that this was Rider #3’s backpack and avalanche beacon. Rider #3’s sled was also spotted uphill of his backpack and his jacket (unzipped)/ helmet were spotted a bit further up. By this time more people were responding and 5-7 people began spot probing likely burial spots near the surface clues for about 10 minutes. One rescuer noticed blood in the snow near the jacket. The responders decided to walk uphill a ways above where Rider #3’s jacket/ helmet were found, and formed a probe line, walking back downhill. An organized probe line ensued for roughly an hour before one member decided on a whim to walk further uphill than where the probe line was started (approximately 150 yards above where Rider #3’s backpack was found). It was this responder who noticed Rider #3’s boot above the surface. He probed in this spot and got a positive strike immediately and with the help of other responders extricated Rider #3. This was approximately 2 hours after the avalanche.
Rider #3 was buried face down in an uphill orientation (head uphill) with a foot or less of snow on top of him. Once on the surface it was clear rider #3 was deceased. At this point the group on scene made a decision to extract the body from the mountainside. A suitable landing zone was identified at the toe of the Nelchina Glacier where Alaska State Troopers Helo 2 landed and flew the deceased out. Rider #1 returned the following day to extract Rider #3’s sled. It’s also worth noting that the responders recognized significant hang fire still above. They discussed this and made a conscious decision to keep beacons and airbag packs strapped and armed during the search/ extraction. Avalanche forecast: There is no avalanche information or avalanche advisory for this region. Snowpack and Weather history: Due to the remote nature of this site, we were unable to get an avalanche specialist on the ground to conduct a crown profile. Snowpack and weather history that follows is based on interviews with members of the victim’s party, the rescue party and supplemented by some remote weather data. Individuals involved in this incident were riding sleds in the exact same drainage 1 week prior on Saturday, February 20th. They reported riding in 6-8” of loose snow on a supportable crust. Daytime temps were around 0 degrees F with overnight lows dipping to -9F (Eureka, Skeleton Airport). They were “chased out of this area on Saturday night (Feb.20th) by an approaching storm”. The Moraine SNOTEL site registered 1.5” of snow water equivalent (SWE) in 24 hours from approx. noon on the 20th to noon on the 21st. Light snowfall ensued throughout the week leading up to the accident but no additional large loading events were recorded at the Moraine SNOTEL site (Moraine is ~70 miles SE of accident site). Winds were moderate from the NNE all week as recorded at 3235’ near Gunsight Mountain (~15 miles East of accident site). Rescuers were adamant that the bed surface in this avalanche was the supportable crust they experienced the week prior. Based on this, the above brief weather history and crown thickness it is prudent to infer that the 6-8” of loose snow above the crust was faceting during the cold, clear period preceding the February 21st loading event. There may have been a layer of buried surface hoar deposited during the clear period as well. Other parties in the area were experiencing whumphing, shooting cracks and triggering smaller slabs in smaller terrain that had similar depths and characteristics to the fatal avalanche.
A special thanks goes to the rescue party and Rider #1 of the victim’s party for the openness, honesty and willingness to share this story for others to learn from.
27-Feb-2016: A snowmachiner was killed Saturday in an avalanche near Nelchina Glacier in the Chugach Mountains, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Troopers in Glennallen responded at about 12:50 p.m. to an avalanche near the glacier, south of the Eureka Lodge.
“Information was received that two (people) on snowmachine were caught in an avalanche and were unaccounted for,” troopers wrote.
Troopers responded by snowmachine and later by helicopter to reach the scene. The body of one of the snowmachiners was recovered by helicopter, troopers wrote in the dispatch. The person was identified in the dispatch only as a male.
No one else needed medical attention, troopers said.
Little other information was immediately available. Troopers spokesman Timothy DeSpain did not immediately respond to an email seeking further details.
Alaska State Troopers have identified the snowmachiner killed in Saturday’s avalanche near Eureka as an Anchorage man.
Troopers said Sunday afternoon that 50-year-old Randy Pratt was the man killed in the slide, which troopers responded to just before 1 p.m. Saturday near the Nelchina Glacier.
Initial reports indicated contact had been lost with two people, including Pratt, who were snowmachining south of the Eureka Lodge when they were caught in the avalanche.
Troopers were able to make contact with the other person, but Pratt’s body was recovered by a trooper helicopter and flown to the State Medical Examiner Office in Anchorage for an autopsy.
Lake Louise Lodge WX Cam (Weather Camera)
ASC Thanks The Wolf Pack for this Trail Update.