Thinking of heading into the backcountry to enjoy some fresh pow? Better study that snow closely first.
The Northwest Avalanche Center is warning of dangerous avalanche conditions in the Mount Hood backcountry above treeline, and recommending cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making.
“Expect deteriorating avalanche conditions in the backcountry on Wednesday as new snow found in higher terrain attempts to bond to a myriad of snow surfaces,” the NWAC forecast for Mount Hood warned Wednesday. “Make sure you know how the new snow is bonding to the old snow surface before committing to any avalanche terrain, especially on lee wind-loaded slopes.”
Conditions are not yet as hazardous on Mount Hood as they are in the Washington Cascades, but they could be heading that way. Here is a video NWAC released Tuesday showing exactly why the hoar crystals hidden underneath the falling snow near Stevens Pass are so worrisome.
It wasn’t that long ago that three expert skiers were buried and killed by an avalanche in the backcountry near Stevens Pass, as the New York Times documented in a Pulitzer-Prize-winning report.
The three most recent tragedies on Mount Hood have had nothing to do with avalanches, but Hood certainly has seen its share of avalanche tragedies. 25 years ago, the head of the Mt. Hood Meadows professional ski patrol was killed by an avalanche while on the job.
Here are a few safety tips from backcountry experts:
Going out of bounds? Don’t go alone. Bring a buddy.
Bring layers of clothing, food and water.
If you’re heading into avalanche terrain, carry a beacon, a metal shovel (not plastic) and a probe.
To be fully prepared, take a close look at exactly what rescue and backcountry expert Christopher Van Tilburg, M.D., carries in his pack.
Learn about the backcountry before heading into the backcountry. Mazamas Ski Mountaineering Courses come highly recommended.
Study your map before you go and bring it with you.
If you are planning to summit, read the Mountain Shop’s Climbing Mount Hood page.
Check out Portland Mountain Rescue’s Four Elements of Safety:
Know the Conditions.
Know Your Route.
Have a Back-up Plan.
Be safe out there, people!
Last modified: January 29, 2014