Friday, 18 April 2014

Avalanche season not over yet in the Tablelands

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Recent avalanche debris and cornice chunks
    What a difference a few days make. Six days ago we headed to the Tablelands Bowl and were blown away by all the snow in many places in the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park. But after 2 days of 15 C weather on Tuesday and Wednesday the snow took a real hit and also brought down some big cornices which in turn triggered some large avalanches. Some chunks of cornice were the size of a couple of pick up trucks and they slid 100's of meters. The avalanche debris was spread over 100's of square meters and it is lucky no one was up here at the time.  There is still lots of cornice still to come down so be careful when the temperatures ramp up especially if there is no over night freeze. Our latest trip was on Friday, April 18 and it seemed like the sunny but cool weather really brought out the crowds to the bowl. We counted close to 20 people on snowboards, skis and snowshoes and there were likely 10 dogs getting some exercise at the same time.
View looking back toward Bonne Bay with avalanche debris in the foreground
      Due to the heavy freeze overnight with temperatures down to -9 C we knew the bowl would likely not thaw despite the forecast of sunny skies with light winds and + 4 C temperatures. So our plan was to ski the Lunchbox Chutes into Winterhouse Brook Gorge which have a southerly orientation. But once we reached the top of the chute we realized that recent warm temperatures had wiped out the snow in the gully and it was down to bare rock in places. So we headed back to western side of the bowl that had had abit better sun exposure and there we found some snow that was starting to turn to corn where we made a few runs. Be aware that since the Tablelands Bowl faces northeast it doesn't get much direct sun and so you need temperatures to reach the 8-10 C (at sea level) before you can count on the snow here really softening. One bonus of the cool temperatures was that it created a low avalanche hazard. There is still lots of snow in this part of the Tablelands and we could still easily ski back to the parking lot so this area will be good for awhile yet.
Jamie Ryan skiing the eastern side of the bowl

Scott Ledrew with dog T-loup take a rest by a large chunk of cornice
The western side of the bowl had softer snow

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