Afternoon (unintentionally turned well-into-evening per fumarole experience at end) Crater Rock circumnavigation ski tour from Timberline (12:30) to Devil’s Kitchen (4:45pm) up and over Hogsback and through Hot Rocks (7pm) and back to TH (8:45pm). Pics highlight.
Weather was bluebird except for moderately strong easterly winds actively re-distributing snow until around 7500’ (confirmed w descending climbers it was fairly calm all day higher up) w some higher elevation clouds later on. Night sky was clear and starry til 9:30pm departure home.
No whumphing or shooting cracks experienced and no personal or second hand reports of unstable snow on the upper mountain, including by Old Chute skiers (though did hear it was wind slabby underfoot up there, just not reactive) and some pics seem to support that.
I hesitate to give further impression of skied snow as my hiccup below affected timing (ie snow hardening under a cold, clear night sky.)
In my defense, I knew the Hot Rocks area fairly well, consulted my pics from a trek this past January - a lesser early season snow year - and the terrain bridge began as low-angle sand. In my condemnation, I didn’t get eyes on the full CURRENT route before dark and my headlamp beam only extended so far, I could have snow-(slog)-climbed about 100’ to consistent snow above and - most importantly - the nature of volcanic activity is CHANGE and heated earth has the potential to create a mud-like consistency that - when re-subjected to snow underfoot and a cold, clear night sky overhead tends to reharden rather quickly, including on technical “must intricately function” equipment. Low-angle sand becomes low-angle mud becomes high-angle (quite slipperly) mud becomes a lengthy gear maintenance interlude. Luckily, at least it wasn’t precipitating….very luckily.