Avalanche conditions in North Cascades this October 2019

October 22nd, 2019
By: Carolyn ‘Ravensong’ Burkhart

The PCT is not safe through this last storm! The snow is very unstable. Lives have been lost in avalanche on the PCT in the region noted below before.

Report from Northwest Avalanche Center.

‘Snoqualmie Pass
Oct. 19, 2019, 3:50 p.m. PST

Weather: Heavy snow with mixed graupel, gusting winds from the W, thunder, lightning. Weather data from ‘Snoqualmie Pass – Dodge Ridge’ (Alpental wind data not available) shows wind gust @ 18mph W/WSW around time of observation.

Snowpack: Loose unconsolidated that did not cover the vegetation/rocks until ~5100ft where the snow became noticeably deeper ~25″directly on bed surface.

Area Description: The PCT leading up to Kendall Peak around ~5100 ft which is an open area of terrain.

Avalanches: Witnessed loose dry snow slides originating above the PCT at around ~5600 which fanned out and resulted ~7-9ft of debris covering the trail which serves as a terrain bench. Party was able to quickly exit to a sheltered area of trees prior to impact. My assessment is (as predicted in the NWAC Special Statement), there was a wind loaded pocket in the SW facing feature of Kendall Peak as sustained westerly winds combined with strong gusts from the NW were depositing snow on the western ridge leading up to Kendall Peak. Slide seemed to be triggered by a particular strong gust of wind around 15:50.’


Snow water equivalent reported on SNOTEL is 388% of normal at Harts Pass for this date, today!

NWAC does not do daily reports until the end of November.

I have discussed risk factors with the groups of hikers and options…terminate their journey right here, wait until after the storm and then assess conditions, alternate routes and winter mountaineering experience/equipment.

Last week 2 others terminated their journey here at Mazama, due to snow conditions. Both had extensive winter mountaineering experience. One was a winter mountaineering guide from Canada and said she was not equipped for these conditions.

People need winter mountaineering expertise both individually and functioning together as a team with avalanche beacons for every hiker. In other words, in my opinion, hikers need to stay off the PCT through the Cascade Range.