Nov 21st offered a break in winter weather with clear skies and cooler air temps. Last week's repeated dustings topped the freaky Nov Fri-13th - Nov 16th storm (which quadrupled the current snowpack). This offered coverage promoting mostly comfortable travel in the alpine. With less coverage in the lower elevations, dead fall is still observable in the timber. The coverage is highly variable. Tree wells, creeks, and boulder fields were active trap doors for travelers where the bowls now have more supportive winter snowpack with layers, but indeed rocky slopes still have superficial coverings. The alpine slopes, couloirs, and saddles above 6000 ft had more cohesive "chalky pow" suggesting some level of wind transport of the recent snows. However, reactive wind slabs were not an observed avalanche problem in our small sample area limited to the Hairpin watershed.
Upper-Pack: The top 40cm was soft dry snow [(F-4F+) DF's] sitting on less cohesive thin layer of snow. (4F) lighty redistributed above 6000 ft.
Mid-Pack: The majority of the snowpack, a thick 60-80cm layer of stiffer (P-1F) rightside up cohesive snow sitting on the early fall snow when present.
Lower-pack: a rather resistant 0-20cm brick (K) of larger grains and melt freeze crusts (MFC) was preserved in alpine bowls and shaded aspects. In our more solar (W) pit this layer had a sporadic distribution from 0-10cm. Admintinly observations of the this early season layer at the bottom of the pack are extremely limited and should not be interpreted as ubiquitous.
Tests: The most replicable results was resistant failures at the bottom of the slab 30-40cm down, failing on a layer of softer snow beneath the slab in compression pit tests (CT) only.
Travel: We approached the day with significant amount of uncertainty, which still remains. With only a few local observations coming in this last week, our initial movements were conservative until several field observations in our area traveled were made. Our party, and several other parties, did gradually increase exposure into several alpine start zones reaching main saddles in the basin via steeper 35+ degree slopes and skiing 38-40 degrees on NE-N-W & S aspects.
Other Observations: The height of snow (HS) was 130cm at 5400ft on the valley floor; 182cm at 7000ft (NE); 130cm 6800ft(W). Ski-penetration was 20-40cm, while boot-pen was hip-deep. The sun did have a minor effect on the steep solars slopes late in the day. Minor roller-balls also associated with the radiation. The surface form was predominantly dry rimed-stellars and the temperature stayed in the mid-20's most of the day. Other parties are reporting a significant melt freeze crust (MFC) 4800 ft and lower on many aspects below the most recent snows.
Welcome back winter! Have a safe Thanksgiving.