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RossJames
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 4:52 pm 
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Appreciate anyone who has knowledge/experience to share  smile.gif

I feel like I am able to read noticeable signs of avalanche danger, or at least I have been learning. Obviously when out by ourselves we have only our own decisions and actions to be responsible for.
But I'm taking a few others out this weekend and I'm planning the trip. Watching weather conditions, nwac.us, and researching other trails/areas that I haven't yet considered. Original idea is to find the best snowshoeing conditions for this early in the season.

Options at top of list now are:

McClellan Butte - looks like snow depth forecast of just a foot. Feels like that's on the line of a snowshoe and not.

Kendall Lakes peak trail - Some 30-45 degree on the west and north slopes. Looks like 20"-30" of snow depth on the forecast. Anyone with experience here?

Gold Creek pond + Gold creek trail - Possibly just 2.5 miles in, stopping short of the shadow of Alta ?

Others considering
Amabilis - eh
Polallie Ridge - did this Feb '20
Hex
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Windstorm
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 5:23 pm 
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I wouldn't consider McClellan Butte to be a lower avalanche risk hike. I believe there are several avalanche chutes that cross the trail.
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RossJames
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 5:49 pm 
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Windstorm wrote:
I wouldn't consider McClellan Butte to be a lower avalanche risk hike. I believe there are several avalanche chutes that cross the trail.

Unless we get more snow than expected between now and then, would there not be quite enough snow to be a real danger? Just yesterday the furthest out snow depth forecast on noaa showed only 8"-12" at the summit, and 0"-8" on the approach. That was forecast for the end of Thursday. And on Mountain forecast I was only seeing an additional 0.5" on Friday.
I know that snow slides build up when falling, but if we are talking about 1 foot of depth, you think that could still pose a danger there?
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Mike Collins
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 6:29 pm 
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Windstorm wrote:
I wouldn't consider McClellan Butte to be a lower avalanche risk hike.

These two snowshoers were lucky on McClellan Butte; https://livingsnoqualmie.com/avalanches-cascades-claim-five-lives-one-week-danger-many-areas-still-high/

This snowshoer only needed facial surgery. https://books.google.com/books?id=r0S1DgAAQBAJ&pg=PT199&lpg=PT199&dq=mcclellan+butte+death+avalanche&source=bl&ots=yr5e8Iw-LZ&sig=ACfU3U13CiG2sI9Gn8l6JPLywy4YQE284Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj2vcCJ-IrtAhXOop4KHQY3CDM4FBDoATAPegQICRAC#v=onepage&q=mcclellan%20butte%20death%20avalanche&f=false

But there have also been deaths in the avalanche chutes on McClellan.

I have always enjoyed snowshoeing into Commonwealth Basin. Once you get into the old growth forest you will be immersed in the tranquility.
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Kascadia
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 7:19 pm 
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We went up McClellan on 11/11, there was ~10 inches of snow through the chutes.  The snow started in earnest on the switchback through the talus field.  This has been posted since our hike:

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report-2020-11-15-9056089131

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Man, stretch thy reason hither, so thou mayest comprehend these things. Johannes Kepler
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Windstorm
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 7:28 pm 
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RossJames wrote:
Unless we get more snow than expected between now and then, would there not be quite enough snow to be a real danger? Just yesterday the furthest out snow depth forecast on noaa showed only 8"-12" at the summit, and 0"-8" on the approach. That was forecast for the end of Thursday. And on Mountain forecast I was only seeing an additional 0.5" on Friday.I know that snow slides build up when falling, but if we are talking about 1 foot of depth, you think that could still pose a danger there?

I'm not sure how much snow is enough to pose a danger, but the Snow Lake trail had an avalanche a couple of days ago and the elevations there are not all that different from the part of the McClellan Butte trail that crosses the avy chutes. Sure, snow accumulation could be different between the two locations, but personally, I wouldn't count on McClellan Butte being safe.

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report-2020-11-15-6476034490
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pcg
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 8:29 pm 
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RossJames wrote:
I know that snow slides build up when falling, but if we are talking about 1 foot of depth, you think that could still pose a danger there?

I can't speak for the conditions at that specific location, but keep in mind that many deadly avalanches occur when a slab that's as small as three to four inches deep breaks loose. It doesn't take much depth to build up snow when the area that slides is large, particularly when it funnels into a terrain trap, which is very common.
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Malachai Constant
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 8:43 pm 
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I know at least two posters on this site that got caught in a slide on MaCllelan Butte. There are about 4 prominent chutes there that slide through the winter and build a moat for spring.

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kitya
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 8:56 pm 
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pcg wrote:
I can't speak for the conditions at that specific location, but keep in mind that many deadly avalanches occur when a slab that's as small as three to four inches deep breaks loose. It doesn't take much depth to build up snow when the area that slides is large, particularly when it funnels into a terrain trap, which is very common.

This is correct, what is important is not just the depth of snow, but how well anchored it is. If there is a foot of fresh snow that just fell on blueberry bushes, it will likely be pretty safe, because the snow is intermingled with lots of vegetation and is anchored to the slope by it.

Really dangerous conditions often develop when there are many layers of snow/ice. For example if a foot of snow fell, then rain fell, than temperature dropped and rain turned to ice creating hard crust, than another foot of snow fell on icy crust - now this new layer of snow is not attached by anything and is ready to slide at any moment.

P.S. If you want to play it safe, lower elevation mountains like Mount Si and Mount Teneriffe etc. are great in winter with snow. Another option is going east to Bleweet pass area, that area gets a lot less weather, snow is less deep and avy danger is usually lower there.

But these are not directly around Snoqualmie pass. For the Snoqualmie pass there are also many options, there are many safe routes avoiding avy terrain, you just have to use winter routes instead of summer routes and winter routes should be safe except for the very worst conditions. Winter route/ski route to source lake area is great and is part of a classic winter ski touring destination and the views are great. Mount Catherine, Mount Margaret, Monohan mountain is good and safe. Roaring Ridge is good and safe too. Cabin peak is good too. Katchess Beacon, Thomas Mountain etc. are great for winter and just east of the pass. So is  Fools Day peak, French Cabin peak, Red mountain (Cle Elum) etc. are slightly more east, but also great. Keechus ridge can be fun. Amabilis is popular and safe.

This list is not just snoqualmie area, but is a great list and there is info on potential avy exposure for each route:

https://www.mountaineers.org/locations-lodges/everett-branch/committees/everett-alpine-scrambling-committee/web-pages/winter-summits-list
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Randito
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 9:12 pm 
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Even if the snow doesn't avalanche on McClellan Butte, the last 200 vertical feet are steep downsloping rock.    In the summer on dry rock it is an easy scramble -- but coated with snow and ice it will require climbing skills and equipment.   Even then, I would put it in "the leader must not fall and nobody else either" category as the crummy downsloping rock lacks features for securing anchors to provide fall protection.
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zimmertr
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PostTue Nov 17, 2020 10:19 pm 
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Windstorm wrote:
I'm not sure how much snow is enough to pose a danger, but the Snow Lake trail had an avalanche a couple of days ago and the elevations there are not all that different from the part of the McClellan Butte trail that crosses the avy chutes. Sure, snow accumulation could be different between the two locations, but personally, I wouldn't count on McClellan Butte being safe.

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report-2020-11-15-6476034490

I'm chagrined to admit my girlfriend and I ALMOST talked ourselves into snowshoeing to Source Lake on Sunday. We elected to go to the zoo instead..... Glad they were alright.
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RossJames
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PostWed Nov 18, 2020 3:58 am 
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Thanks everyone for the input!

kitya wrote:
For the Snoqualmie pass there are also many options, there are many safe routes avoiding avy terrain, you just have to use winter routes instead of summer routes and winter routes should be safe except for the very worst conditions. Winter route/ski route to source lake area is great and is part of a classic winter ski touring destination and the views are great. Mount Catherine, Mount Margaret, Monohan mountain is good and safe. Roaring Ridge is good and safe too. Cabin peak is good too. Katchess Beacon, Thomas Mountain etc. are great for winter and just east of the pass. So is  Fools Day peak, French Cabin peak, Red mountain (Cle Elum) etc. are slightly more east, but also great. Keechus ridge can be fun. Amabilis is popular and safe.

This list is not just snoqualmie area, but is a great list and there is info on potential avy exposure for each route:

https://www.mountaineers.org/locations-lodges/everett-branch/committees/everett-alpine-scrambling-committee/web-pages/winter-summits-list

Those are all great suggestions. And for winter routes looks like i should pick up a Green Trails map #207. (a caltopo map of that wud be real nice haha)
And Aaron Wilson actually sent me the same link just after i posted this thread, so I have been looking at that. It's interesting how I got myself to considering almost that exact same list for Snoqualmie Pass just simply by considering which trailheads would be accessible. Now seeing the avalanche risk ABCs helps some.

Randito wrote:
Even if the snow doesn't avalanche on McClellan Butte, the last 200 vertical feet are steep downsloping rock.    In the summer on dry rock it is an easy scramble -- but coated with snow and ice it will require climbing skills and equipment.  Even then, I would put it in "the leader must not fall and nobody else either" category as the crummy downsloping rock lacks features for securing anchors to provide fall protection.

Also good to know! I'm juggling our party's wants and was thinking that MClellan butte could be a compromise between the desire to attempt a peak like Snoqualmie Mnt or Granite and less of fatal avalanche risk. A large part of that thought, though, was simply that there's less snowfall on McClellan than 10 miles east up on the pass.

Anyways, that is kinda where I'm coming from - trying to compromise between a peak as "cool" as Snoqualmie Mnt and the risks.
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rossb
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PostWed Nov 18, 2020 8:53 am 
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It is worth getting books. Winter is no time to fu** around. The Mountaineers have excellent ski touring books, as well as at least one snowshoe book. In general, if it isn't in the book(s), it is probably very high risk.

Unfortunately, most of the summer hikes that provide relatively easy access to spectacular views are often dangerous with enough snow (Granite Mountain is probably the best example). Typically you end up lowering your expectations, or driving farther. You also may share the walk with snowmobiles (although it may be too early for that -- I don't know).

Of the ones you mentioned, Hex is a probably the closest thing to what you want. It is a real mountain, and commonly done in the winter. No snowmobiles, either (using the standard approach). I would also check out some of the ones kitya wrote about, like Keechelus Ridge. It feels like a "real mountain" and requires a lot less driving. The only drawback could be snowmobiles (but again, that may not be an issue).
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Bronco
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PostWed Nov 18, 2020 10:33 am 
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RossJames wrote:
I feel like I am able to read noticeable signs of avalanche danger, or at least I have been learning. Obviously when out by ourselves we have only our own decisions and actions to be responsible for.
But I'm taking a few others out this weekend and I'm planning the trip. Watching weather conditions, nwac.us, and researching other trails/areas that I haven't yet considered. Original idea is to find the best snowshoeing conditions for this early in the season.

If you're in an area that is displaying "noticeable signs of avalanche danger" you're already in trouble.  If snow shoes are necessary due to snow depth, there's probably enough snow to slide in the right terrain and conditions.  If you're interested in pursuing snowshoeing, the best thing you can do is take a Level 1 Avalanche course, get a transceiver, beacon and probe and know how to use them.

Another resource is caltopo.com You can select "slope angle shading" in the layers and see what's considered avalanche terrain.

It's clear that McClellan Butte has a bunch of terrain you don't want to be in if avalanche danger is present.
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kitya
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PostWed Nov 18, 2020 2:08 pm 
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Granite Mountain has a winter route that is safer than summer route, but even winter route is not a thing to do with high avy danger. However, you can try West Granite, Pratt Peak and Low peak, all of them are quite safe and popular. In fact they are great to do in winter, because in summer they would be miserable due to brush.
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