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View Full Version : Gothics: Avalanche conditions near summit?



hikingfish
02-28-2005, 02:26 PM
Hi!
A friend and I went up Gothics yesterday. After several hours of hiking to get to the summit, we came to within a 100 or so feet from the summit when we encountered a weird snow structure (I think it's a cornice, but honestly I'm not sure...see picture in link below). We met 3 skiiers that decided not to attempt continuing to Gothics' summit by fear that cutting through in skies might cause an avalanche. Since neither of us had any avalanche knowledge, we decided not to continue either (we shall meet again Gothics!), however we're rather intrigued by what we saw and were wondering if it was actually safe to pass.

A ~5 meter long path (15') had been already done, but it didn't continue all the way to the summit. The path was passing on the leeward side of the cornice (we were shielded from the wind by the cornice basically). There was a LOT of fresh snow. I was able to drive my 70cm long ice axe all the way in with ease (I know this is no where near a proper test, but eh! I'm no expert). I'm also fairly certain that the left side of the cornice (we could see Giant from this point very easily and the cornice was blocking our view of what I think was Algonquin) was exposed to the Sun for the better part of the day (we reached this tricky part towards 2-3 pm, we didn't bring a watch).

I hope my description is good enough and that you can orient yourself well by my description. I'm still new to the adk's, so orientation is a bit iffy! Even though we didn't reach the summit, it was an awesome hike nonetheless (Check out the other pictures in my link, the view was incredible! Not a single cloud in the sky).

Thanks!

David

http://community.webshots.com/photo/284792391/284795352bRQLJp
http://community.webshots.com/photo/284792391/284795175HOQkeZ

DougPaul
02-28-2005, 03:17 PM
Yep. That's a small cornice. They form on the down-wind side of ridges.

They like to fall down and start avalanches.

The also like to entice climbers to walk out on them and fall through and/or knock the cornice down. The safest path is frequently on the windward side well below the fracture line. (Of course, one can only guess where the fracture line would be from the windward side...)

Doug

reed820
02-28-2005, 04:51 PM
As doug said, this is indeed a cornice... and to reiterate, it is generally accepted practice to travel along the windward side... the avalanche danger comes, not usually from the cornice, but from all the winds scouring the windward slopes and depositing tons of snow on the leeward side creating what are called wind slabs... these wind slabs are notoriously unstable and have the potential to slide given certain conditions. From the looks of the picture, traveling along the windward side would have been the safest option... All this depends on a million factors, but exposure of the slope below has to be one of the biggest ones here...

reed820
02-28-2005, 04:51 PM
were you coming from armstrong or saddleback?

takeahike46er
02-28-2005, 11:10 PM
The pictures in question are on the southern summit ridge of Gothics (towards Armstrong)-- are they not? The three times I have climbed Gothics in the winter it has looked like that. Traveling on the windward side would have been fine. Never heard of any problems with that section of trail.

hikingfish
03-01-2005, 01:40 PM
The pictures in question are on the southern summit ridge of Gothics (towards Armstrong)-- are they not? The three times I have climbed Gothics in the winter it has looked like that. Traveling on the windward side would have been fine. Never heard of any problems with that section of trail.

Information that would of been useful while we were there! Oh well. Next time we'll know.

Thanks all for your comments, appreciated it (of course, they don't replace an avy course, which I'll take eventually).

Fish