Trip Planning for Northern Gallatin

as of 5:00 am
Feb 110″ | 25-60 W
Feb 10 0″ | 20-35 W
Feb 9 0″ | 20-35 W
9980′     03/31 at 16:00
42.4℉
NW - 0mph
Gusts 0mph
8100′   05/20 at 09:00
26℉
Depth
Bottom Line:

Past 5 Days

Tue Feb 8

Low
Wed Feb 9

Low
Thu Feb 10

Low
Fri Feb 11

Low
Thu Apr 21

None

Relevant Avalanche Activity

Northern Gallatin
Mt Blackmore
Small, Skier-Triggered Avalanche Blackmore
Incident details include images
Mt Blackmore
L-ASu-R1-D1
Coordinates: 45.4444, -111.0040
Caught: 0 ; Buried: 0

From Obs: "We skied into Blackmore late yesterday with chief concerns of the weak layer @ around 110cm and wind loaded new slopes. We dug two pits and found no failures in our column or ECTs. With the wind on the ridge we dug a hasty pit near the ridge to see how it was bonding. Again no results.

We decided to ski our lines taking care to avoid potential trigger zones and particularly loaded slopes. About half way down, I took a turn to the skier's left of a spine and the skier's right side had a small surface-level release. This would probably not have buried a skier, but likely would have taken them or a ride above the cliff band."


More Avalanche Details
Northern Gallatin
Flanders Creek
Small Natural Avalanche, Flanders
Flanders Creek
SS-N-R2-D1
Aspect: E
Coordinates: 45.4402, -110.9310
Caught: 0 ; Buried: 0

Climbers on the big sleep on Saturday reported strong wind and blowing snow. They witnessed a wind slab that broke above the climb, and estimated that it was large enough to bury, injure, or kill a person. 

From obs 2/5/22: "We hiked into Flanders to check out the Big Sleep ice climb. It was super windy with lots of blowing snow and the ice was thin so we decided not to climb it.

We witnessed a sizeable wind slab or sluff pour over the big sleep. It covered the whole climb for a second and probably would've slammed a climber off the route. Maybe 20 x 20 x 6 in slab but thats loose estimate."


More Avalanche Details
Cooke City
Goose Lake
Partial Burial on Sawtooth Mountain near Goose Lake
Incident details include images
Goose Lake
SS-ASu-R2-D2-O
Elevation: 10,800
Aspect: SE
Coordinates: 45.1437, -109.9040
Caught: 1 ; Buried: 1; Killed: 0

This morning while ascending a line on Sawtooth Mountain (Lower Novocain) we triggered an avalanche (ASu-SS-R2-D2-O)  that caught and carried my partner an estimated 180M and partially buried him. His leg and hand were unburied and excavation of the head was done in less than 2 minutes of the incident. The avalanche only involved new snow from the last 48hrs and was triggered on a MF crust/facet combo 30cm down(formed 1/30/22). The avalanche was 30cm at its deepest and 20-30M wide and ran 250M. We were lucky to find both skis and poles a little ways downslope. No injuries were sustained.

We both agree that we were trying to outsmart the instability that was present on steeper S facing terrain and should have turned around much sooner, we were very lucky. There was 30+cm HST in favored areas and the high winds from 1/31/22 formed some sensitive windslabs in specific areas. 

 


More Avalanche Details

Relevant Photos

Displaying 1 - 40
  • Chris Hericks, snow ranger on Beaverhead Deerlodge NF, points to the lower of two surface hoar layers. We are finding similar layering throughout our entire forecast area. The top 18" of the snowpack is weak and will quickly become unstable when it snows. Photo: GNFAC

  • The crown is not visible (it is down and right) but the X marks the approximate spot the rider was found. Photo: GNFAC

  • The crown was measured 4-11 inches deep and 75 feet wide. Photo: GNFAC

  • Looking at a weak layer of facets that the avalanche propagated on. Photo: GNFAC

  • Looking at the crown from below. Photo: GNFAC

  • On Sunday, February 6, Gallatin Country Sheriff Search and Rescue and the GNFAC responded to a avalanche in Lionhead. A snowmobiler was killed on a small steep slope when a shallow avalanche carried him into a terrain trap of trees. Photo: GNFAC

  • From obs on Divide Peak (2/4/22): "On the way out a surfed over a steep roll over that fractured and slid. It appeared to have slid on the new snow interface." 

     

     

  • From obs (2/4/22) on Divide Peak: "the wind was cooking for most of the day and each lap the skin track was covered in places. There was wind loading along the ridge the snow was pretty cohesive and wanted fracture and propagate but I was not surfing steep enough slopes for this to happen"

     

  • This morning while ascending a line on Sawtooth Mountain (Lower Novocain) we triggered an avalanche (ASu-SS-R2-D2-O)  that caught and carried my partner an estimated 180M and partially buried him. His leg and hand were unburied and excavation of the head was done in less than 2 minutes of the incident. The avalanche only involved new snow from the last 48hrs and was triggered on a MF crust/facet combo 30cm down(formed 1/30/22). The avalanche was 30cm at its deepest and 20-30M wide and ran 250M. We were lucky to find both skis and poles a little ways downslope. No injuries were sustained.

    We both agree that we were trying to outsmart the instability that was present on steeper S facing terrain and should have turned around much sooner, we were very lucky. There was 30+cm HST in favored areas and the high winds from 1/31/22 formed some sensitive windslabs in specific areas. 

     

  • Graph of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) at SNOTEL sites in the GNFAC forecast area from October 1, 2021 to January 30, 2022. It highlights the extended dry conditions in January that contributed to weak layers forming at the top of the snowpack. GNFAC

  • From Obs 1/23: "While on the ridgeline on the way up we triggered many small wind drifted pockets."

  • A view of Sacajewea Peak from the Fairy Lake road. Evidence of winds are seen on the right shoulder of the peak. Photo: GNFAC

  • Slopes on Hardscabble Peak in the northern Bridger Range show bare slopes that got blown clean by wind. Photo: GNFAC

  • In the northern Bridger Range we dug a pit at 8700 feet on a north facing slope before skiing the chute into the basin. Our stability tests did not break and all evidence pointed to a LOW danger. Photo: GNFAC

  • Settlement rings around the base of trees near Cooke City, January 15, 2022. Photo: B. Fredlund

  • Looking up at the Fat Maid from Maid of the Mist basin. Strong winds over the last week have scoured the alpine, exposing lots of rock. Photo: GNFAC

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • From email 1/9/22: "Skier triggered cornice failure avalanche. Broke at skis 10-12 feet from the lip. No one caught or injured."

  • It was easy to crack the thin wind slabs that formed from strong wind the last 2 days. They were not propagating, but cracking indicated potential instability on wind drifts. Photo: GNFAC

  • Strong wind in the previous 2 days sculpted the snow surface into waves of sastrugi. Photo: GNFAC

  • Wind in the last 2 days gusted 45-70 mph and stripped some starting zones down to dirt in Beehive Basin. Photo: GNFAC

  • We intentionally triggered this 6-8" deep wind slab on Saddle Peak on December 23, 2021, E aspect at 9,000'. It showed us that recently formed wind slabs were still reactive. This hard slab formed over low density new snow which made it unstable. While not large, these slides will easily push you down and can be harmful if they push you into hazardous obstacles or terrain traps. Photo: GNFAC

  • Pit from 12/22/21 at 9,850' on the NE face/shoulder of Mt. Blackmore. Snow depth was 111cm, first ECT was ECTN10 below the wind slab then ECTN22 on facets at 70cm. A second test was ECTN17 on that facet layer, then ECTP20 on depth hoar at 35cm. A third ECT was ECTP17 on the facets at 70cm, then a fourth ECT was another ECTP17.... I was moving into shallower snow as I got more unstable results, down to about 90cm HS. These weak layers are not easy to trigger or showing obvious signs of instability, but we will need to be careful when we get more snow, especially during large cumulative loading or big wind events. Photo: GNFAC

  • North face of Mt. Blackmore on 12/22/21. South-southwest winds were moderate-strong and scouring more than loading it seemed like, but isolated slabs and whales of snow could be found. We did not get any drifts to crack or collapse. Fresh wind slabs were 2-4" thick, 1f-P hard, and not very continuous. Photo: GNFAC

  • Cornices that formed mid-slope, indicating recent heavy wind-loading in the Bridger Range. Strong southwest wind between 12/18 and 12/19/21 drifted recent snow into hard, pillowy drifts. We avoided these drifts on steep slopes to give them a day or two to stabilize. Photo: GNFAC

  • These pillowy, hard drifts formed from strong southwest wind overnight between 12/18 and 12/19/21 in the Bridger Range. We saw minimal signs of instability, lke whumphing or cracking in these drifts, but avoided these features on steep slopes until they have more time to gain stability. Photo: GNFAC

  • From obs 12/18/21: "95cm Snow depth at around 9400’ 40cm of new snow on early December ice crust Ectx18 Will have to see with more loading on early December interface if it becomes reactive All alpine terrain was heavily stripped from the wind."

  • On 12/16/21 A skier in a group of three triggered and was caught in this avalanche next to The Apron at Bridger Bowl. The ski area is closed and backcountry conditions exist. Nobody was injured.

    From e-mail: "We had a group of three skiing up at the Bridger Apron today. We skied a more main slope in the field north of the slope with hidden couloir, snow was very stable and has been getting a lot of tracks. For a second run we skinned up the main slope under hidden and started our run in the trees slightly south of this slope. Not many tracks over there and not a good enough evaluation of the snowpack. We were planning on skiing a northeast facing chute through the trees that had very nice looking snow similar to what we had skiied earlier. I skiied in and had about 3 amazing turns, definitely partially due to the wind loading at this aspect. After three turns my feet were taking out from under me and I got caught in a slide keeping skis perpendicular to slope for 15-20’. This avalanche carried me rapidly and cleared the snow to the rocks below in which I was able to come to a hault and watch the rest of the sluff slide past me. After looking at the conditions after, this windy aspect seemed to have a very faceted layer about 8” down that acted as the crown. No injuries, a lost ski pole in the runout which extended down the slope maybe another 40’. The wind scoop on top and seeing these facets should have been a clear sign prior to skiing. Must be more diligent even in areas of high traffic. When dropping in to ski on first turn or so I remember hearing a possible whumpf."

  • Skiers up the East Fork of Hyalite Creek observed this small avalanche on a road cut. Photo: S. Reinsel

  • From IG 12/12/21: @montanamountainmedicine

  • From obs: 12/12/21: "Shooting cracks and whoomphing in wind loaded areas. An approximately 15x30ft wind slab cracked along the base of a rock band and settled at the base of P2 on high fidelity. Was triggered while traversing along the rock band to gain the second pitch, 1-2 inches of facets on the ground. Wind slab of 6-36in in the gullies." Photo: M. Hearley

  • In the Bridger Range on December 10, 2021 2-3" of low density new snow was drifted into small soft slabs that were easy to trigger. Photo: GNFAC

  • This pit was dug in Hyalite Canyon near Twin Falls. It showed 2 mm facets (sugar snow) underlying the snowpack. This layer did not break in stability tests, but anticipate these grains will get weaker with time. Photo: GNFAC

  • For the Bozeman Ice Fest we investigated the Silken Falls and Avalanche Gulch gulleys. They were wind-loaded and had weak snow mid-pack that was unreactive. Avalanches in these gulleys would be deadly, so be extra vigilant in your assessment before crossing. Photo: GNFAC

  • For the Bozeman Ice Fest we investigated the Silken Falls and Avalanche Gulch gulleys. They were wind-loaded and had weak snow mid-pack that was unreactive. Avalanches in these gulleys would be deadly, so be extra vigilant in your assessment before crossing. Photo: GNFAC

  • We found 80 cm (2+ feet) of snow on a NE facing slope at 8,000 feet outside Bridger Bowl's Boundaries. The snow was supportable with a weak layer at the blue card. Faceted, weak, sugary snow is the layer of concern, but it was not that bad...yet. We'll be watching to see if it gets weaker. Photo: GNFAC

  • Monday night's new snow formed wind slabs from the strong wind on Tuesday. We are finding these throughout southwest Montana. Photo: D. Britt

  • New snow was blown into thick drifts that can be triggered by skiers or riders. Cracking like this is a sign that drifts are unstable and could slide on steeper slopes. Photo: GNFAC

  • This post and picture was on the FB ice climbers page. This is from Comet Alley, a steep gully off the East Fork Road:

    Today we found that this gully has some significant loading. We triggered a few wind slab slides on the approach. We managed to get a quick lap on the route and got out before it got loaded more. TBH with more unconsolidated snow I’d reconsider going there.

  • From email (12/5/21) : "Small avalanche triggered while approaching ice climb in East fork of Hyalite basin. 

    Another D1 natural avalanche was observed later in the day similar aspect/elevation

    NE @7600’
    SS-AFu-D0.5-I"

    Photo: A. Schoening

WebCams


Bozeman Pass, Looking SE

Snow Observations- Northern Gallatin

Northern Madison
Mt Blackmore
Small Skier Triggered Release at Blackmore
Incident details include images

We skied into Blackmore late yesterday with chief concerns of the weak layer @ around 110cm and wind loaded new slopes. We dug two pits and found no failures in our column or ECTs. With the wind on the ridge we dug a hasty pit near the ridge to see how it was bonding. Again no results.

We decided to ski our lines taking care to avoid potential trigger zones and particularly loaded slopes. About half way down, I took a turn to the skier's left of a spine and the skier's right side had a small surface-level release. This would probably not have buried a skier, but likely would have taken them or a ride above the cliff band. 

Full Snow Observation Report
Northern Gallatin
Alex Lowe Peak
Alex Lowe Peak

I toured out to Alex Lowe Peak today, and thought I’d share my observations. The wind was blowing fairly hard today, but was not transporting a great deal of snow anymore. I did not observe any natural activity, collapsing, or cracking, but there are some things to keep an eye on. A pit on an east aspect at 9500’ was 145cm deep, and an ECT failed at 12 on the new/old interface 15-20cm down. It would not propagate, and after 30 hits I tipped over the meter or so of column without it coming apart. The surface it bonded to is variable, though, so I would hesitate to make generalizations off of a single pit. 
Another observation worth noting is that standing in my snow pit, I sank pretty much to the ground in the weak, faceted, lower portion of the snowpack. I experienced this again stepping off my skis at 8200’ along south cottonwood creek, when I promptly sank to my thighs. I imagine some areas will react poorly to a substantial load, but that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast. 

Full Snow Observation Report

Snowpit Profiles- Northern Gallatin

 

Select a snowpit on the map to view the profile image

Weather Forecast Northern Gallatin

Extended Forecast for

14 Miles SE Gallatin Gateway MT

  • Today

    Today: Snow before noon, then snow showers, mainly between noon and 5pm. Some thunder is also possible.  Patchy fog before 11am. High near 30. North northwest wind around 16 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 90%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

    Snow and
    Patchy Fog

    High: 30 °F

  • Tonight

    Tonight: A chance of snow showers before 9pm, then a chance of snow between 9pm and midnight. Some thunder is also possible.  Areas of fog after midnight.  Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 16. North northwest wind 7 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow
    Showers then
    Areas Fog

    Low: 16 °F

  • Saturday

    Saturday: A chance of snow between 10am and 3pm, then a chance of snow showers after 3pm. Some thunder is also possible.  Areas of fog before 9am.  Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 37. North wind 7 to 11 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 40%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow
    and Areas Fog

    High: 37 °F

  • Saturday
    Night

    Saturday Night: A 30 percent chance of snow, mainly before midnight.  Mostly cloudy, with a low around 21. Northeast wind around 10 mph becoming south after midnight.  New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow

    Low: 21 °F

  • Sunday

    Sunday: A slight chance of snow before noon, then snow showers likely after noon. Some thunder is also possible.  Mostly cloudy, with a high near 41. South wind 5 to 7 mph becoming north in the afternoon.  Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

    Slight Chance
    Snow then
    Snow Showers
    Likely

    High: 41 °F

  • Sunday
    Night

    Sunday Night: A 30 percent chance of snow before midnight.  Mostly cloudy, with a low around 25. Northeast wind around 6 mph becoming light and variable.  New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    Chance Snow
    then Partly
    Cloudy

    Low: 25 °F

  • Monday

    Monday: A 20 percent chance of snow after noon.  Mostly sunny, with a high near 45. Southwest wind 5 to 7 mph becoming west northwest in the afternoon.

    Mostly Sunny
    then Slight
    Chance Snow

    High: 45 °F

  • Monday
    Night

    Monday Night: A chance of snow, mainly before midnight.  Mostly cloudy, with a low around 28. Northwest wind around 7 mph becoming south southwest after midnight.

    Chance Snow

    Low: 28 °F

  • Tuesday

    Tuesday: A chance of snow before noon, then snow showers likely after noon. Some thunder is also possible.  Partly sunny, with a high near 45.

    Snow Showers
    Likely

    High: 45 °F

The Last Word

We completed our investigation of the avalanche fatality at Ski Hill in Lionhead. A detailed report is HERE, the field video is on our YouTube channel and the incident is recorded on our Accident Reports page.