Rapidly changing conditions in Lake Louise area
Surprise Pass area Banff Yoho & Kootenay National Park
Jason Kuruc , Sunday 21st February, 2021 9:50PM
While out for a tour in the Surprise Pass area today, avalanche conditions changed rapidly. Leaving the parking lot around 9:00, temps were already warm (-4c) and winds were L-M Westerly down low and stronger up high. Walking up the standard trail through mature trees gave a false sense of conditions higher up. We managed the hazard by spacing out when needed but soon felt the full force of the near gale gusts as we emerged through treeline (gusts had the ability to knock a person over if not braced for it!). Realizing the rapidly deteriorating conditions, we pulled the pin on plan A, B and C and started our return slide down the trail. The trifecta of new snow/intense wind/warming temps to near zero was in full force. Upon our return, we noticed several size 1.5-2 avalanches, wind slab, from rapidly loaded pockets and gullies and warming temps. To our surprise, a couple of slides had debris covering our uptrack! Back at the parking lot (1750m), temps had risen to 3c and ridgetop winds were still howling. Ski sailing with a tarp across the lake sounded like a much better option!
Moral of the story is to always be ok with turning around when you recognize that conditions are not right. The mountain will be there when you come back.
Source: Mountain Conditions