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Hot Topic (More than 30 Replies) Above the snowline in the South Island (Read 33094 times)
headcase
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Above the snowline in the South Island
Jul 31st, 2009 at 12:30am
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The snowpack throughout the South Island is generally weak and unstable at the moment. Numerous avalanches both with natural and human triggers have been recorded. There are layers deep in the snow that have a very weak bond to each other. I noted on a trip up the Godley last week there were signs of big and small avalanches  everywhere, the bigger ones mainly on Easterly aspects, but every aspect, especially at higher altitude had fresh avalanche sign. The tragic death of one skier last week, and numerous other occurrences, bring home the inherent dangers hidden in a weak snowpack.

for those of you that are hunting Tahr above the snowline caution should be exercised.

Here is a small excerpt from "the backcountry travel advisory " released on the 28th, and it is still current. It applies more or less for all areas in the South Island.


Quote
TRAVEL ADVISORY
Well east of the divide the snowpack is shallow and weak, with reports of widespread woomphing coming in over the last few days. Heavy snow loadings and windslab exist lee to the western quarter, about and east of the divide. This is spread over an increasingly weak snowpack the further out east from the divide.All steep slopes should be treated with suspicion, as with slopes below ridgeline lee to the western quarter. There is such a wide variability of snowpack conditions throughout the district, that a positive snow profile test on one slope does not represent snowpack conditions on
similar slopes. New snow is now falling with westerly winds about the divide which maybe loading lee slopes to threshold, or reloading slopes that have previously run. Stick to gentle terrain and travel with caution in the backcountry at the moment.
Unquote

"woompfing" refers to the sound the snowpack makes as you walk over the surface and it settles a cm or two, over a large area. This is often accompanied by the propogation of a fracture line in the snow and an avalanche is also highly likely. One would hear a very audible woompf. If you ever hear it as you move over snow, the best course of action is retrace your steps, drive home and sit in front of the fire.

more deatiled info for your area can be obtained at
http://www.avalanche.net.nz
happy hunting..  Smiley
« Last Edit: Aug 6th, 2009 at 12:13am by headcase »  

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MattDog
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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #1 - Jul 31st, 2009 at 4:16am
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cheers - wise words.

I've just flown back from Queenstown to ChCh and she was a bumpy flight. Plenty of wind about along the east edge of the range all right.
  
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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #2 - Jul 31st, 2009 at 2:53pm
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Bloody Hell, not really what I wanted to hear since i am heading up there next week....... Undecided

Thanks for the heads up Headcase. How are upcoming conditions looking? What is the best source of up-to-date infor and forecasts?

Cheers,

blacks
  

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headcase
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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #3 - Jul 31st, 2009 at 8:41pm
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Blacks, youll be fine. In the east its still pretty hairy but you can still go there. Id just be picking nice snow free ridges and staying out of slopes that have snow loaded into them by the wind. Lots of westerly facing slopes have been scoured by the wind back to a hard icy layer and the snow has been deposited in the lee. If your moving around below those loaded slopes Id also be a little cautious about walking up any narrow gullies  under the snow line.

anyway, All the Tahr that ive seen in the last week and the two that I heard got shot yesterday in my area, were all just on or under the snow line on sunny faces.


Go get em..  Smiley
« Last Edit: Jul 11th, 2011 at 2:56am by headcase »  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #4 - Aug 1st, 2009 at 3:04pm
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Thanks again Mate! Looking forward to it, with a little trepidation!! Wink

blacks
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #5 - Aug 3rd, 2009 at 2:28am
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Another avalanche death yesterday at Coronet Peak. It’s not to be trifled with at the moment. The deep instabilities in the snowpack and strong winds from varying directions make back country travel challenging at the moment.
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #6 - Aug 6th, 2009 at 12:06am
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For anyone wanting uptodate info on the snow situation, the link to the MSC backcountry bulliten is here.

www.avalanche.net.nz

and as an aid to interpreting the bulletin below are a few terms and commonly used names.

Glossary of commonly used terms in the NZMSC Backcountry Avalanche Advisories (www.avalanche.net.nz)

Avalanche path
A terrain feature in which an avalanche occurs, this is normally split into the start zone, track and runout zone

Avalanche terrain
Any terrain which has the potential to form or be part of a snow avalanche

Bonding
Refers to a snowpack which has undergone some metamorphism and has many links between the individual snow grains, generally leading to a stronger “bonded” snowpack. (or a weakening, depening on teh situation. ed. hc)

Cornice
An overhanging mass of wind sculpted snow projecting beyond the crest of a ridge

Crust
A hard surface layer which can be formed by solar radiation, wind or rain which has the potential to cause instability when buried.  ( or simple rise in air temperature
amd then a cooling of teh surface layer. Ed. HC)

Freezing level
The elevation at which the air temperature is at 0° Celsius

Half (1/2)
Used with compass directions, e.g. “lee to the easterly half” refers to the aspects facing west from north through to south.

Instability
A weakness or lack of stability indicating that additional loads will result in a given probability of avalanche occurrence.

Lee (leeward)
The side of a mountain protected from the wind

Loose snow (avalanche)
A type of avalanche which originates at a point and spreads out as it descends.

Melt-freeze
A metamorphic process when snow changes from a solid to a liquid and back again and may result in the formation of a crust.

Pockets
Small isolated terrain features

Quarter (1/4)
Used with compass directions, e.g. “lee to the easterly quarter” refers to the aspects facing northwest through to southwest.

Runout zone
The area at the bottom of an avalanche path where an avalanche starts to decelerate and comes to rest, this is where the debris is located after an avalanche has occurred.

Safe travel technique
The use of appropriate terrain to move given the posted danger scale (e.g. stay to ridges and well away from runout zones, or slopes less than 30°)

Shady aspect
The side of a mountain protected from the sun

Slab
A cohesive layer of snow

Sliding hazard
A hazard posed by very hard or icy conditions, also known as ‘slide for life conditions’.

Solar aspect
The side of a mountain exposed to the sun

Start zone
The area at the top of an avalanche path in which unstable snow may fail. Most commonly has an angle greater than 25 degrees.

Terrain traps
Terrain features which in the event of an avalanche would compound the effect (e.g. gullies, small bowls)

Track or Path
The area which connects the start zone and runout zone, this can be either confined or unconfined.

Unsupported slope
Slopes which are not being supported by the terrain, e.g convex rolls

Weak layer
A layer in the snowpack identified as a possible failure plane. 

Wet snow
Snow with a water content greater than 3% and has a temperature of 0° Celsius

Whumphing
The sounds associated with the rapid settlement or collapse of a snowpack, when weighted.

Wind loading (sometimes reffered to a crossloading depending on terrain shape)
The transport of snow by the wind causing an additional build up of snow on a lee slope

Wind slab
A cohesive layer of snow caused by wind loading

Windward
The side of a mountain exposed to a wind

(and an additional one that Ive added. Pillow A confined small deeper area of wind blown snow that has collected in the lee of a ridge or terrain feature. ED.HC )
« Last Edit: Jul 11th, 2011 at 3:10am by headcase »  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #7 - Aug 8th, 2009 at 9:34pm
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I think most hunters that venture out tahr hunting in the winter would benefit from a basic alpine skills course run by the mountain safety council. They cover basic stuff such as use of ice axe and crampons, building snow caves, and avalanche awareness.
We did  a course up at fox peak ski field and found it to be quite informative and useful.
  

Just got to keep on chipping away!
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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #8 - Aug 10th, 2009 at 10:14pm
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Heres a tutorial thing I organised for HUNTSOC, I think the guys gained allot

http://www.fishnhunt.co.nz/forum/YaBB.cgi?num=1249878427

Hopefully it'll be enough to keep the kids out of trouble
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #9 - Aug 11th, 2009 at 6:15am
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Good stuff Get some. They say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but I’d say that Alpine Safety has to be learned in small steps and any education in a safe and controlled environment is positive, and will help hunters and others to make sounder and safer decisions when they are needed.  Smiley
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #10 - Aug 13th, 2009 at 10:10am
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Thanks Headcase - I have read this a couple of times now, and believe it or not... its actually soaking in...

RS described very vividly just the situation you warned about... thanks.l
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #11 - Aug 16th, 2009 at 12:27am
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Some more sad news.

Totara Peak, Methven

15:20 15-08-2009
Police advise that the man killed in the avalanche at Totara Peak yesterday was -edited-, aged 38 years. He was a heli-ski guide who was a Methven resident.

No further information is available.

As at 15.08.09, 1520 hrs

District:
Canterbury
Description of Incident:
Avalanche Victim Named


Its when you think you know it all that nature comes around an slaps you in the face.  Heli ski guides are particulary exposed because they are alway looking for fresh untracked powder to ski.. on the front line so to speak.  Tongue
« Last Edit: Jul 11th, 2011 at 3:15am by headcase »  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #12 - Aug 16th, 2009 at 3:15am
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Thanks for that Headcase, He's a friend of a friend.and will be sadly missed.
Ive got two or three avalanche stories, once at the head of Griffiths stream, Wilberforce, once near Aspiring and once on Barrier at the head of the Gertrude Valley.  Yup, we think we got it all sussed, Nowadays I wouldnt go anywhere in winter without the transceiver, shovel and probe and a mate as ya cant really probe  for yourself. chhers
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #13 - Aug 16th, 2009 at 5:20am
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Sorry to hear...

At least he was doing what he loved, poor excuse tho.. any life lost  Undecided
  

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Re: Above the snowline in the South Island
Reply #14 - Aug 16th, 2009 at 5:34am
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wobblyboot wrote on Aug 16th, 2009 at 3:15am:
Thanks for that Headcase, He's a friend of a friend.and will be sadly missed.
Ive got two or three avalanche stories, once at the head of Griffiths stream, Wilberforce, once near Aspiring and once on Barrier at the head of the Gertrude Valley.  Yup, we think we got it all sussed, Nowadays I wouldnt go anywhere in winter without the transceiver, shovel and probe and a mate as ya cant really probe  for yourself. chhers


Do you hunt around the snowline Wobbly boot? and as a hunter do  you bother to take your transciever also? Just interested.  Smiley

RIP
  

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