Mount Sparrowhawk


We started at 7:30am for the Mount Sparrowhawk summit expecting terrible skiing and issues with warming. The skiing was better than expected but warming was indeed a problem. The main danger on the route is the steep, convex bowl on the north side of Read's tower. There did not appear to be enough snow below Read's tower to slide, although potentially with more warming, the entire 3 ft snowpack could separate from the ground. Slopes between Read's tower and the Sparrowhawk pinnacle are generally below 25 degrees, heavily wind-scraped and very thin coverage. We observed evidence of relatively recent size 2 slab avalanche on the south side of Read's tower, likely a persistent slab triggered by warming. There were also many very small wet loose slides on the south-facing north side of the Read's tower bowl. We turned around at the saddle below the Sparrowhawk pinnacle because of concern about warming in the Read's tower bowl. Our party of three and another party of two safely descended the bowl at around 1:30pm, but the danger was rapidly increasing. The crust between Read's tower and the Sparrowhawk pinnacle that had been exposed to the sun since around 10:30am was very soft when we descended around 1:15pm, and the convex top of the Read's towel bowl is also fairly sun-exposed and was beginning to soften. Summitting before 12pm is advisable right now. The snow was terrible for anything below about 2200m. Skinning up was challenging as there are many deep boot tracks to cross, and there is little to no snow on the summer route between where the trees start to thin around 2100m and 2200m, so we took off skis for that section. It is possible to traverse to the north side of the ridge below Read's tower to remain on skis, but it's not clear that that's faster and the ridge is significantly corniced. Skiing was very enjoyable starting from just below Read's tower. The bowl was firm in some sections, but ski crampons were not strictly necessary. There was enough soft wind-deposited snow and sun-warmed snow above Read's tower for fairly enjoyable skiing there, and the descent down the bowl was decent. The crusty snow further down was extremely inconsistent and not fun. The trees are tight below 2100m, so on the steeper section between 1900 and 2100m with limited control in heavy, wet snow, with many boot tracks crossing any line you take, skiing is stressful at best.

Snow conditions were: Crusty, Hard, Heavy, Powder, Wind affected. Weather conditions were: Sunny, Warm. We rode: Alpine slopes, Convex slopes, Dense trees, Mellow slopes, Steep slopes, Sunny slopes. Riding quality was good.

Avalache Conditions: Rapid temperature rise to near zero degrees or wet surface snow.