Youngs Glacier, 7 Steps, Pterodactyl Incident

Glacier National Park

OliD , Tuesday 23rd November, 2021 8:00AM

We went for a walk on the Youngs Glacier to just below the peak's headwall. We found 5-10cm 4F wind slab widespread on lee features around the Youngs Glacier area and the Asulkan Hut, all non-reactive to our weight. No evidence of cracking or whumpfing during our uphill travel and most of our downhill run. The windward side was mostly wind packed and offered ok skiing. We traversed the lower and upper glacier, probing between 270-320+cm. Most crevasses seemed filled in except for a few near the upper bench (south of the headwall). The headwall bergschrund is covered. Winds were steady moderate to strong from the S, especially at ridge top. We skied the 7 Steps sticking to the mellow grades and avoiding the crevasses skiers left. The incident happened on the very last step, just below and east of the Pterodactyl when we thought we had it in the bag! Comments on the incident in the corresponding section. Thankfully, no one was injured. We should have avoided the steepest "last" step, loaded by the snow drifting off the base of the Pterodactyl and instead toured back to the Asulkan Hut to ski down the Tree Triangle. Excellent learning experience for myself and others, and not one that I would try again. Interesting point: the crown is located further lee of the convexity than one would anticipate - probably due to the strength of the southerly winds over the weekend.

Snow conditions were: Wind affected. Weather conditions were: Cloudy, Sunny, Windy. We rode: Alpine slopes. Riding quality was ok.

Incident

I entered the slope through the least convex portion to minimize my exposure to the avalanche hazard (in this case wind slabs on lee, north-facing terrain). In a split-second decision, I cut under a steep convexity to avoid nearby rocks. What a mistake! I remotely triggered a wind slab from about 10m and went for a ride. I stayed on the surface for most of it freeing one arm in the process. I managed to clean out the snow plug from my mouth, restore breathing, and then free my legs with one ski still attached. After 1h of probing with my backcountry partner, we found the lost ski and a pole. Casualty: 1 pole. Sr-20m, Size 2, crown: 5cm-50cm x 75m, ran 150m, aspect: N, time: 10:15, elevation: 2100m, sky: OVC