Few clouds with light to moderate ridge line winds today.
In lower elevations (2000'-4000') we saw old crowns and debris from the widespread wet avalanche cycle that occurred Jan 13th and 14th. Near 5000' we observed more recent wet loose debris that came down during the warm up of Jan 25th and 26th. These are all consistent with what was found elsewhere in the zone after those warm ups. We also observed an old crown in a North facing couloir off Eight Mile Peak. This wind slab may have have released with the earlier Jan 13th - 14th window.
With fairly low avalanche hazard and clear skies we decided to check in on the snow pack in the Eight Mile Pass/ Billy Goat Peak area. Before the next systems rolled in, we wanted to see what's going on in a less visited part of this spacious forecast area. Largely speaking, our observations were pertinent negatives. We did not see shooting cracks, we didn't see signs of avalanches from the last seven days, we didn't experience whumphing collapses, and for the most part we did not see signs of instability in snowpack tests. That being said, there are some important things to keep track of as the season continues.
Like the Tiffany zone, the Pasayten has a shallower snow pack and is more wind affected than the highway 20 area. These more Eastern parts of the Cascades can be described as a Coastal Transitional snow pack. The same upper crust with a little snow on top is found here as elsewhere in the zone. South aspects have seen some additional melt and refreeze. In the right areas, on North aspects and shaded areas, this crust is fairly soft with 6-8" of soft week-old snow over top. With reasonable expectations, we really enjoyed the skiing from about 5600' to 7000'.
South aspects have a shallower snow pack at about 120cm. We performed hand shears here and found that with moderate force a column of snow would release immediately below the Xmas crust about 60cm down. We found some very interesting weak crystals that are thin tall and rounded. Check them out in my pictures. After talking with some snow nerds, we think they are some old buried surface hoar. This is kind of amazing because they are immediately under a crust. You'd think that when things warmed up and turned to rain around the 24th the surface hoar would have been destroyed, but maybe a freezing rain coated and preserved these guys. Cool stuff. While this layer doesn't seem to pose any threat at the moment, maybe during a big load or considerable warm up the Xmas crust could come back to life later in the season in isolated areas.
There is plenty of wind effect up high, but we didn't see a current wind slab. If it's anywhere, it would be small and North facing.
We didn't find the old Jan 5th buried surface hoar anywhere. We dug a pit in 175 cm of snow in a shaded NW aspect. There had been some faceting in the mid to upper snow pack, but overall it gave us no signs of instability. We got no results in column tests here. Also, notably those large weak grains were not found below the Xmas crust.