High lonesome | AspenTimes.com

High lonesome

Tim Mutrie

A lonesome set of tracks in West Willow Basin.Amos Whiting, head guide of Aspen Expeditions, took note of the sight as he was poking around looking for stable snow yesterday in the Snowmass backcountry.”We were mostly doing little out-of-bounds runs, Burnt Mountain, that sorta thing. But then we went up to West Willow and I dug in on a south aspect,” Whiting said. “A lot of the south was baked out, a lot of rocks, but two gullies I found looked full.”After a historic avalanche cycle in the wake of a historic storm, after days of high avalanche danger forecasts and avalanche warnings, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Wednesday afternoon report called for moderate danger with pockets of considerable in the Aspen area.”And that’s right on,” Whiting said. “I dug in pretty deep, maybe 5 feet, and then got my probe in another 5 feet.”It was pretty supportive, like there’s a fair amount of bridging going on. And none of the normal signs: no cracking, no whompfing,” he continued.”But when I did some compression tests, I had a 2-foot slab come out on a moderate compression. Basically, there’s a lot of wind slab in there and it looked like a thin layer of facets had been buried by wind slab. It was hard to see, but it was a really clean sheer.”Whiting decided to retreat.”It might have supported skiers. But if it had slid, it would’ve been big. Big hard slabs with big consequences,” he said.The area backcountry is seeing traffic, particularly popular spots off Richmond Ridge. And then there’s the lone set of tracks in West Willow.

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