Backcountry Condition Report - August - Australia

11th of August 2017

We’ve gone from zero to hero in just a matter of weeks, and the backcountry is now snow loaded but this influx makes for an unstable snowpack, which means there’s been no shortage of major slides this week, and places like Watson’s Craggs on the Western Face have been fraught with danger. Photo: David Inabinet

Australian Seasonal Update - Backcountry | David Inabinet

With a massive dump of snow in the Backcountry this past week, there's mountains (literally) of great skiing and boarding to be had outside the resorts. And after a string of recent avalanches that’ve plagued the past week, conditions are set to improve as the snowpack stabilises over the coming days and weeks.

Avalanche debris from a slide on Tuesday morning out past Illawong Hut. Photo:: David Inabinet

Through July and into August the backcountry was looking a little thin and feeling a bit hard-packed under foot. Then, from 7 to 9 August, things escalated quickly as part of #theblizardofoz and got a little out of hand. A wave of seriously dangerous storm slab avalanches both inside and outside of the resorts came at the end of the storm cycle, sliding on a hard melt/freeze crust under 80cm to 90cm of fresh powder on wind loaded slopes.

That's a 195cm deep snow pit out at blue lake! Photo:: David Inabinet

That dodgy buried crust will hang around like a bad smell for the rest of the month, giving us backcountry bandits a persistent weak layer to keep an eye out for until spring. But the good news is … depending on your elevation and aspect, there's now a new melt/freeze crust and/or hard wind slab on top of that powder. From 10 August these new layers were generally strong enough to cautiously ski on without breaking through and disturbing that lingering instability. Things should only improve through the rest of August as that new snow settles in.

There’s been some serious avalanche action out at Blue Lake. Photo:: David Inabinet

Apart from the stability issues, there is some ice on windblown ridges to watch out for but it's not as bad as it usually is at this time of year. The ice out at blue lake is looking good for ice-climbing now though.

Dropping into Watson's Craggs to check the snowpack. Photo:: David Inabinet

So with plenty of snow on offer it's a great time to get out and earn some turns. If you're sticking in the trees or avoiding avalanche terrain you should be good to go after that storm by now. For those looking to get out and rip some more serious terrain proceed with extreme caution - check the avalanche forecast here  and make an assessment of the snowpack before committing to a line.

Testing out the stability after the new wind slab. Photo:: David Inabinet

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