Friday, 24 January 2014

Avalanche Update for Western Newfoundland

 by Keith and Heather Nicol
I have gotten some avalanche updates from some people that have been traveling around in various places in
Carry the right gear
Gros Morne Park and it seems like there has been some avalanche activity in that area fairly recently. One report is from Gerald Murrin who lives in Pouch Cove near St. John’s and he emailed me that he has just recently bought all the avalanche safety gear (shovel, probe and beacon) even though he is the only snowmobiler he has seen that has bought this equipment.  He told me that he had never seen an avalanche until his last trip to Gros Morne on January 16th when he saw two in an area that would normally be thought to be quite safe. He writes” At first I felt a little foolish spending so much money on avalanche gear most will say you will never need, especially in NL, then last week on the 16th in Gros Morne, I saw two decent sized avalanches! First time I've seen one in NL, let alone two together! I immediately felt better about my purchase! The co-ordinates of the slides are N 49 degrees 43.080'  W057 degrees 33.625' . The co ordinates are at the bottom of the hill, and from looking at my GPS, it appears that there is a creek underneath the location of both slides which is normally snow covered with no sign of water flowing underneath. I will attach a few photos. Sorry they are not better detailed, but you can see where the slab broke away at the top, and the path they traveled. I seemed to get a feeling for how powerful they are by the amount of trees and debris mixed in with the slide. My main purpose of this email is simply that I am wondering if any avy awareness and training courses are offered in NL?”
One of the avalanches recently seen in Gros Morne Park (photo G Murrin)
I thanked him for his note and immediately located the position on a topo map and it appears that it is in an area that we have not noted avalanche activity before. From the photos it appears that the avalanche is quite fresh and my guess is that it slid on an ice crust. The recent blizzard on Wednesday night and Thursday morning (Jan 22-23, 2014) has only added a lot more snow to the ice crust. I emailed Peter Deering at Gros Morne Park to find out if their wardens and other backcountry researchers had seen anything and he said that their teams really hadn’t been in the backcountry much this winter due to the wild weather we have had so far. But if any readers see any avalanches let me know their location and take a photo or two if you can. My email is And yes we usually offer at least 1 AST Avalanche course each winter so if readers are interested in taking a course please contact me. 
You can see the avi debris with branches and trees in the middle of the photo (photo G Murrin)
   I also recently received a note from backcountry skier Andrew Stokes and he made a trip to the Tablelands Bowl near Woody Point on Sunday Jan 19 and he reported the following. “The snow cover certainly took a big hit from the rain. We could skin to the bowl by following the strip of snow along the creek. Although the gullies and chutes in the headwalls have good cover, the run-outs and lower aprons in the area are almost completely devoid of snow. Hopefully a few days of snow will start filling everything back in. There have been at least two avalanches in the bowl that were probably due to cornice collapse during the rain. One of them came down on the lookers-left side of the bowl and looked particularly nasty as there seemed to be some rock in the debris along with the snow. I did not have a camera with me so couldn't get any photos unfortunately. The surface of what snow is left is quite hard but it is not nearly as icy as I expected. It actually resembles a cold spring snowpack consisting of refrozen corn snow as opposed to a true rain-crust. I expect to see some instability between this and any new snow but I don’t think it will be as persistent as I originally feared.  Hope to get out soon so will be sure to keep you posted!

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