Burt Ravine – 3/20/2018

March 20, 2018 – Burt Ravine

Isolated pockets of powder provided nice, soft turns for skiing through the slalom course of brush-gates. With untracked snow deep enough to control speed, it was possible to link slo-mo turns down the low-angle streambed. Taking advantage of three-day-old storm snow that was unaffected by wind, we avoided obvious weak spots and open water hazards in Clay Brook, and descended to the end of the 2010 avalanche runout.

In all honesty, I would not go back and ski Burt again any time soon.  It needs a lot more snow. I can’t recommend it.  It was a big deal, if we linked more than 3 or 4 turns. The skiing wasn’t very good, except for recon.  There is no substitute for first-hand snowpack observations, and the weather provided great visibility.

Then we ascended back towards the Cog, and stumbled upon this recent slide path.  It said “ski me” to us. We could not refuse.
We call it, “TRICK OR TREAT”:

We did a beacon check before we ventured across this slope, then crossed it one at a time.  Looking up, I estimate its 200 vertical feet to the top, and looking down, 300 vertical feet to Clay Brook, below us.  This very recent slide path was remarkably free of obstructions, rock outcroppings, or tree trunks, and appeared to be a very smooth anchor-free bed surface of rock and soil, under a variable layer of snow approximately a foot deep, possibly more at lower elevation. There is a spine in the middle, at a snowdrift halfway down on the left, in the photograph below, where the slide splits into separate left and right paths.

SAFETY NOTE:  We did not “dig a pit”, but switched beacons back into transmit mode, and evaluated the stability from the adjacent forest, and considered route-finding choices for ascending or crossing the terrain, and any obvious potential snow problems.  This is clearly high-consequence terrain, with a drowning hazard, looking down at that terrain trap with open water holes in Clay Brook, in addition to the usual trauma risk of leg-breaker tree-trunks. The wide-open slope with virtually no anchors was a red-flag. I counted 4 small field-stone size rocks poking through the snow surface above us, and they appeared to be loose stone, not bedrock outcrop. FALLING ROCKS and ICE HAZARD may be high on a warm day.

We crossed this one at a time, to a spot in the trees on the other side, out of the fall-line, where we transitioned from climbing skins to downhill mode.   We dropped in to the slide about 3 or 4 turns above the fork.  The two slide paths join again, where they run-out into the streambed of Clay Brook North.

The skiers-right side, the “TRICK” side, had a slight convexity, and was more sun- and wind-affected. There was a breakable surface slab that was obvious as we skinned across it. An observation of the stability included evidence a small deer or summit fox had recently run down the suspect slope, a few hours ahead of us, and left a row of sitzmarks every twelve feet, almost straight down the fall-line, marking where it’s leaps and bounds had tested the slope. Skiers-left was a TREAT. I counted out 16 perfect soft powder turns, before I had to stop, at a tree trunk in the line. On the shadier skiers-left side, the snow was soft and dry, unaffected by wind, and apparently deep enough to cover any surface rocks.

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