Joe Dellaporta of the Bridgeport Avalanche Center conducted a daring traverse from Sea-Tac international airport to the scenic burg of Merritt today. I agreed to accompany him from the portion of the East Central zone that runs from the Big Y Park & Ride to Merritt via Highway 2, a well trodden route that sees much winter traffic, passing through the Leavenworth metropolitan area AKA Christmas Town USA.
With Joe masked and buckles, we began our travel west and promptly stopped under a firmly entrenched inversion fog bank at Dan's Marketplace (0-degree slope, 1400', calm wind, obscured sky, -2C) for provisions. Half and half and coffee beans were procured, and with renewed vigor we continued onward to Tumwater Canyon where we looked expectingly to the surrounding high country. While listening intently to the most recent episode of Drew Hardesty's UAC podcast, we rubbernecked like many tourists who had come before us, hoping to spot carnage among the many large avalanche paths that run into the Wenatchee River.
At a speed of 30mph, we slowed routine traffic while gazing upward to the many wet loose slides we could see. The peloton behind us cared little for our investigation and showed their displeasure by passing on double yellow as we examined abundant debris from avalanches that occurred between the 6 Jan storm to the 12-13 Jan warmup. The inversion has preserved much debris as if it fell just yesterday, but we suspect most slides are, at the youngest, a week old. In some places we noted mid-storm debris hit by later wet debris. Many avalanches we're D2-2.5 with a few D3s near the Swiftwater Picnic Area.
At Cole's Corner we exited the fog bank to clear, calm skies with a slight easterly breeze and temps hovering around 0c at the road. Shortly thereafter, Joe's traverse was complete at a wooded A-frame where we exited the car to point at previously skiable, south-facing shots which, puzzlingly, showed bare rock and flowing water. "January isn't what it used to be" we noted, reflecting on colder, deeper times, like four weeks ago. With an elbow bump, we parted ways. Joe was destined to shovel feet of isothermal snow from his driveway as I headed back through the "Tumwater Cycle."
On my return trip east, I documented our findings photographically, noting that there were many avalanches that were, as they say in Kazakhstan, "veerry niiice." Of the large VN class slides, I reexamined the aforementioned D3 that entrained logs and rocks as it ran full path into the Wenatchee River.