Winter 2014 Avalanche Activity in Western Newfoundland and Labrador

2013 Avalanche Reports and SnowThis page is sponsored by the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) who has provided funding for avalanche awareness in Newfoundland since 2007.   Archived 2011 Avalanche Activity     Archived 2012 Avalanche Activity      

More Newfoundland Avalanche Safety Videos                     MORE AVALANCHE INFO FOR NEWFOUNDLAND

Avalanche Hazard Map for Lewis Hills, Blow me down Mtns, North Arm Mtns and Gros Morne Park

To practice route finding in avalanche terrain try this exercise (scroll to the bottom to find examples from Newfoundland) - http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course/reducing-risk/route-finding-exercises

 

Mountain Reports Winter 2014 These are sent in by anyone who sees anything out there in terms of avalanches and large cornice falls. If you would like to contribute please email at knicol@swgc.mun.ca

Unlike the mountains of B.C., Alberta and the Gaspe area of Quebec, in Newfoundland we have NO avalanche bulletins which are published to let the backcountry users know about snow conditions. So if you see avalanches in your travels it would be useful to record their location (from a GPS receiver if possible), date if known, avalanche size and if people were buried. Send information to my email at knicol@grenfell.mun.ca 

First Report - On January 16, 2014 from Gerard Murrin of Pouch Cove, NL (near St. John's) about an avalanche in Gros Morne Park

 He recently 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 Park 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?”

I emailed Gerard back and told him that I do offer avalanche skills training courses (AST Level 1) in the Corner Brook area. These are 2 day courses which give people a good introduction to avalanche safety. If you are interested in a course contact me at knicol@grenfell.mun.ca

 

Second Report from Andrew Stokes of Corner Brook (Andrew is a long time contributor to these updates) - January 19, 2014 - Tablelands Bowl in Gros Morne Park

 Andrew 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!

 

Third Report from Steve Sheppard near St. Anthony, NL on January 26, 2014

This photo was taken by Steve Sheppard near St. Anthony. He told me that he was snowmobiling up the valley and the snow was sliding as he arrived. It is uncertain what the trigger was but Steve said that it was moving very slowly when he got there. He mentioned that the crown fracture was about 3 meters thick and you can see the sizeable thickness of the flank in the middle part of the photo.  Steve said he drove his snowmobile into the debris and you can see from the photo below that the slab is quite soft. The avalanche took place on Friday, January 24 which was after quite abit of new snow came down. It likely slid on a ice crust caused by the recent rain. Steve said he would get me GPS coordinates some time this week and I will report them when he sends them to me.  He said another smaller slide came down further along this slope. We have no record of avalanches in this area and hope to extend our record of avalanches in the province by reports like this. So if you see avalanches or trigger them please send us information about GPS location, a photo or two and any other pertinent information. My email address is knicol@grenfell.mun.ca  Also be aware of 20-30 cm of new snow (particularly in the last 24-48 hours) on top of an ice crust--this combination seems to lead to quite a few avalanches in Newfoundland. Also be aware of how wind can quickly redistribute snow. Steve said that the St. Anthony area received about 30 cm of snow in the storm on Wednesday night but that he thinks the wind piled it up 2.5-3 meters thick on this slope and then it slid a day later!! Steve said there are steeper slopes in the area that also avalanche and that he would try to get some GPS coordinates for those slopes as well.

 

 

4th report from Andrew Clarke on Saturday Feb 1, 2014 in Gros Morne Park  -I thought you were made aware of this one already. It was a natural avalanche and happened on Saturday, February 1st near the bog just before the Federal cabin in South West Gulch. The GPS coordinates in Lat/Long are as follows:49.42558008 -57.92634602. It was a fairly significant slide (about a 1 meter fracture) Some classified it as a Class 2 Avey. If you have any additional questions please let me know.

Andrew Clarke's photo.

5th Report from Kyle Hackett on February 6, 2014 in Blow me down Mountains. Not sure coordinates Keith but I can find out. It was a small avalanche. Close to the water dam in Benoits Cove in the Blow me down Mountains. The slide is just above the green snowmobile

Kyle Hackett's photo.

 

6th Report sent in by Troy Fisher on Friday, Feb 14, 2014 in the Tablelands- In for a look around on Thursday (Feb 13) in the South West Gulch area. Some of the steep stuff has released. The gulch is wind loaded on the top. The two pits were dug on lookers right of picture #4 (Left hand photo below) skirting the rocks. Similar results on both hitting ice at 130cm to 150cm, elevation 319m&470m ,angles were 36-38deg, with a suspect layer at 40 cm down, fractured with the compression test on 5-6 hits from the elbow. The location was N 49.44745deg W 057.93632deg. Heavy wind effect is taking place, below the choke is scoured and lean of snow.

7th Report sent in by Jonathan Anstey on February, 24, 2014 - This was sent to Jonathan from some one else and he is uncertain of the location but it is in the Lewis Hills. Perhaps near Blue Hills /Chrome Point? it occurred on Saturday, Feb 22. If anyone knows the exact location can they email me the exact coordinates. The slab avalanche looks like to has a large crown fracture but due to the small slope it appears that it doesn't involve lots of snow. Not sure if it was triggered or was a natural avalanche

8th Report sent in by Rick Lichtenauer of on March 17, 2014- Location- Bowl in Blow me down Mtns

Took the attached photos March 15th not long after the last rain we had... judging by the heavy ice covering the death cookies... or should I say death boulders, the slide happened sometime shortly after the start of the rain... didn't look like it was triggered by the cornices above breaking off.
The location is at the first bowl when hiking up from the parking at the Blow-Me-Down trail... let me know if you would like GPS coordinates if you are still collecting avi photos/info. I only had the camera on my cheap mobile phone with me so pictures aren't the best. You may remember me- I had a dog (Molly) and took your AST 1 a couple of years ago. Here are the coordinates-
N 49.03201
W 058.22412


9th report sent in by Jonathan Anstey on April 3, 2014 from the North Arm Hills-  Biggest avalanche I have seen to date in size and length! Has to be at least a 6-8 ft crown, picture does no justice to size!! I have emailed Jonathan about GPS location, when it might have come down and if it was natural or triggered and will post more info when I have it.

 

10th report by Keith Nicol on Saturday, April 5 we headed to Big Hill in Gros Morne National Park to check out the snow pack and possibly investigate an avalanche chute that we noted when scouting the area on Google Earth. I was joined by telemarker Rick Lichtenauer we fully recommend this trip for its stunning views and easy to access trailhead at 21 0441495 E 5484284 N which is along main road. We followed the ridge through the open birch forest. We never did get down to the avalanche chute - we thought we would save that for a trip when there was a bit more snow but we did circumnavigate the Big Hill summit at 639 meters. We measured the snowpack in several areas and found anywhere from 20 cm to 1 meter of snow along the ridge. Since this area faces southwest the snow won't last here like it will in other places so we recommend heading up there soon. More info in my blog: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2014/04/ski-touring-at-big-hill-in-gros-morne.html 

11th report by Keith Nicol on Friday, April 11 from Blow Me Down Bowl. I was joined by telemarker Mark Coady. We started at the Blow Me Down Brook Nature Trail (21 0410052 E 5484278 N) parking lot on the South Shore Highway and followed the valley in for about 3 km to the stream that drains the bowl. The route is through open forest and so it is easy to pick your own trail. There are also old signs and some flagging tape in places to mark the route.Although we had nice sunny weather for the start of our trip the wind was very strong and at times we had trouble skiing into the wind.  Once we skied up into the bowl we could see evidence of 7 small natural avalanches which likely involved the new snow that fell on Sunday April 6. These were all on either east or north facing slopes which were likely the main areas of wind deposited snow. We also found avalanche debris well down in the bottom of the bowl from some larger older avalanches. The bowl is ringed with large cornices so use care if you are here on warm days since they may collapse with little warning. We had planned on skiing some of the steeper slopes but the strong gusty wind and the start of some steady rain forced us to ski quickly back to the car. This area will have good skiing for the next while but don't leave it too long since the lower areas will start to melt out. But be aware of steep slopes especially if they have new snow on them. The lower right photo shows some of the small avalanches. For more info see:    http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2014/04/ski-touring-into-blow-me-down-bowl.html 

12 th report by Keith Nicol on Saturday, April 12 for the Tablelands Bowl in Gros Morne Park.

It was our first trip to the bowl this winter and our group consisted of Jamie Ryan and Scott Ledrew but we met several other people in the bowl while we were skiing and riding.  We saw 3 avalanches in the bowl but the largest was on climbers left and it was 80-100 meters long and roughly 20-25 meters wide. The debris was generally only 30 cm deep but in places it was piled up 1 to 1.5 meters deep.  Had you been  hit by this avalanche you would have definitely been knocked off your feet and likely injured since debris was pretty solid. It is uncertain when it came down but was likely several days old and may have been associated with some snow that fell on Sunday, April 6. The cornices that rim the bowl are huge and generally have not collapsed so give the main part of the bowl a wide berth. We stuck to the slopes on climbers right where the grade allows for a skin track to be set and we stayed well away from any areas under the cornice. The day turned out to be perfect skiing since there was no wind (even at the top)
 and the snow softened nicely through the day. There is tons of snow in this area, and we had to park on the road since the normal parking lot was still snow covered. This area should be good skiing for some quite awhile this spring but use caution in some steeper areas especially on very warm days or when there has been a fresh snowfall. We also noted remnants of what must have been a huge avalanche that occurred sometime earlier in the year since there were chunks of debris all the way to the end of bowl where the stream starts. The right hand photo shows some of this debris and how far it had to have travelled from the steep section of the bowl in the distance. More info in our blog: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2014/04/skiing-in-tablelands-bowl-in-gros-morne.html






13 th report by Keith Nicol on Friday, April 18 for the Tablelands Bowl in Gros Morne Park

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 the sunny 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. The weather was cool and the snow in the bowl didn't soften like it did a week earlier but this also meant that the avalanche hazard was low as well. But we will have more warm temperatures and when that occurs be cautious below cornices and remember that these cornice chunks can travel along distance. You can see the large piece of cornice that Scott Ledrew is leaning against which travelled well down in the bowl. More in our blog: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2014/04/avalanche-season-not-over-yet-in.html  

14 th report by Shawn Noel - This was just sent to me on April 21 but was for an avalanche on March 28 near Buchans. This is an area that we have no information on and I am in the process of getting more details. This is what he sent me in an email- "I went up the side of the hill and everything let go.Not a nice feeling when everything is going side on.it’s south of Hinds lookout.never got position. "

 

 

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2013 Avalanche Reports for Western Newfoundland

First report- On January 10, 2013 Andrew Stokes, Trevor Beck and I headed into Blow me down Valley to check out the snow depth and snow stability in that area. There is more info in my blog at: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2013/01/early-season-ski-touring-in-blow-me.html

We expected more snow but found the stability to be good in Market Gully and there was enough snow to make some good turns. If there is anyone interested in doing as AST course or if there is a group interested in an avalanche awareness presentation let me know at: knicol@grenfell .mun.ca

MORE INFO FROM January 29, 2013 from Andrew Stokes and company
Sunny, -9'C, calm.
Dug pit on Crouchers Ridge (SW ridge leading to top of Pic a Tenerife) near Glenburnie, Gros Morne. The pit was on a SE aspect at 430m., and was located on a treed slope with birch trees spaced ~15m apart.
The snowpack depth was 145-150cm, and had ice crusts at 35cm and 65cm. The top crust was a 4cm thick rain crust. Other than the two crusts, there were no obvious layers and the snowpack increased in density with depth, the top 20cm being loose powder.
Extended Column Test: ECTN (fracture did not propagate across entire column with n or n+1 taps).
Rutschblock Test: failure at RB6 (several hard jumps) on 35cm deep rain crust.
Shear Quality: Q2 (clean, smooth, low-energy), determined from RB Test.
Despite the potential weak layers in the form of ice-crusts and the Q2 shear quality, the high score of the Rutschblock Test and the failure of propagation during the Extended Column Test, we decided that the snowpack along the SE aspect of Croucher's Ridge was very stable. Turned out to be a fantastic day skiing deep powder in sunny, wide-open birch glades.
 
Jan. 30, 2013
Overcast, -8'C, ~30km/h wind (calm at valley bottom)
Dug pit in "Chill Bowl" (bowl to the immediate west of Sellar Brook Pond near SW Gulch cabin) in the Tablelands, Gros Morne. The pit was on a SE aspect (157'SE) at 530m, on an open slope of ~30' pitch.
Snowpack depth was 195cm, consisting of wind-packed, fine-grained powder that increased in density with depth. There was a distinct, 4cm thick rain crust at 50cm depth, with a 3cm layer of soft snow (4 finger) directly under it.
Extended Column Test: ECTN
Compression Test: Medium (13 taps)
Shear Quality: Q2 (determined from Shovel Shear Test and Comp.Test)
Although the ECT results indicated a stable snowpack, the Medium score of the Comp. Test, along with the described structure of the snowpack indicated a potential, though small, for slab avalanches. As a result, we felt confidant that the steep, SE face that we were planning on skiing would be safe. As we did not have time to check stability of other aspects, we limited our route to slopes of either a SE aspect or those less than 25' in pitch. The top of our descent line had no cornice that could be cut so we further tested the slope by rolling a few 50-70 pound rocks down the far side of the slope (obviously not as effective as dropping a 300+ pound cornice onto the slope!) with no result. Unfortunately, the wind and flat-light made it a less-than-ideal run, despite the soft and consistant snow conditions. We spent the remainder of the day skiing off Crouchers Ridge.

 

March 25,2013- I just received these photos from Selby who forwarded some impressive photos of a large avalanche in Gros Morne National Park. This avalanche is unusual since it was very large and slid to ground. As you can see, one side of the avalanche is of close to 4-5 meters thick. Selby took these on March 19 and there were 2 days of very warm temperatures ( 9 C and 10 C in Corner Brook) a few days before and that was the likely trigger. As unusual is the odd fracture pattern seen at the top left hand corner in the second photo below. There are more details in my blog at: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2013/03/avalanche-season-not-over-yet-in.html

April 10, 2013- Yesterday John Moores and I headed up to the face of Blow me down Ridge to see how the recent storm snow had bonded to the rain crust. On Saturday April 6 quite abit of snow fell in Corner Brook accompanied by strong winds. Late snow falls are always a snow safety concern since once the sun hits this snow it can quickly raise its temperature to 0 C  and avalanches will start to come down on any rain crust that has previously formed. We decided to head to Blow me down ridge to see how this snow was bonding and to check some snow depths along the way. We found anywhere from 80 to 140 cm of snow in the gullies leading to the ridge and the snow seemed to have bonded well in the areas we skied. More in my blog at: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2013/04/ski-touring-to-blow-me-down-ridge.html.


 

April 17, 2013- Yesterday Jim Ryan, Steve Howlett and myself headed to the Tablelands to check out the snow stability and an avalanche that had occurred there fairly recently. The avalanche was certainly large enough to injury a person or possibly bury a person. The avalanche likely involved the storm snow that fell April 6 and the slab slid on a rain crust. Snow was certainly stable the day we were there probably due to the cool temperatures. You can see in the middle photo below that a previous avalanche occurred in the same area earlier in the winter. The third photo shows the fresh avalanche debris with Bonne Bay in the distance. More in my blog at: http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2013/04/ski-touring-in-tablelands-in-gros-morne.html  

  Tuesday, April 23 -The weather forecast predicted sunny skies and temperatures reaching 9 C in Corner Brook so a group of us decided to head to Gros Morne National Park to explore some of the steep couloir skiing into Winterhouse Brook Gorge.  Winterhouse Brook Gorge is adjacent to the popular “Tablelands Bowl” which attracts skiers and riders from across Newfoundland and beyond for late season skiing. We were also interested in checking out the snow stability and likely cornice fall that had been associated with the previous weekend’s double digit temperatures (it reached 17 C in Corner Brook on Saturday). As we skinned into the bowl we could see the results of 2 large avalanches that had recently occurred.  These recent avalanches were on the eastern side of the bowl and were likely the result of 2 events-fresh snow on Wednesday, April 17 which slid shortly after the storm. This avalanche was quite extensive and covered quite abit of the eastern side of the bowl. But more impressive was the cornice fall and resulting slab avalanche that was likely produced during Saturday’s very warm temperatures (17 C). . Some of these chucks were easily the size of cars and the debris, although less extensive than Wednesday’s avalanche, was piled much deeper. You wouldn’t have wanted to be hit by either avalanche but Saturday’s avalanche would have been deadly for anyone in its path. More info in my blog:http://keithnicol.blogspot.ca/2013/04/steep-backcountry-skiing-in-tablelands.html