Beware of roofalanches as the spring sun starts to heat all of that snow that accumulated on your roof this winter. As the name implies, a “roofalanche” is a snow slab on your home’s roof sections that can without warning slide off with velocity, crushing anything that lies in its path below the roof line.
Pinebrook residents and their travel companions (human and canine) traveling by skis, board, snowshoes, or hiking boots into the neighborhood’s immediate back country need to be extremely suspicious right now of the snowpack — and be on the watch for overconfidence due to Pinebrook area terrain familiarity.
Give ridges and other areas with cornices — an overhanging mass of wind-deposited snow — a very wide berth right now, remembering that cornices fail farther back from their overhang edge than one might expect. The recent snow and wind from the last few storms has also in some cases buried or obscured the cornices in the backcountry, transforming them into harmless looking, pillowy terrain. They are the opposite of harmless. A buried “cornice crevasse” — a crack that runs parallel to the cornice’s overhanging edge — was discovered on Monday 4/3 along the northeast ridgeline of Pinebrook Peak with an unknown length and estimated depth of at least 10 feet. This photo shows an exposed cornice crevasse that is not hidden; the one on the east face of Pinebrook Peak, just below the ridgeline, lies hidden under a layer of wind-blown snow:
There is another reason to not travel immediately below or on terrain with suspected cornices: on steeper slopes (typically, but not always, steeper than 30 degrees), a broken cornice slab can trigger an avalanche starting at the point where the slab impacts the slope immediately below.
It is not uncommon now to find 5-7 foot deep tree wells, those funnel-shaped gaps between the snowpack and the base of a tree. They are surprisingly easy to slide into and extremely hard to escape without assistance. A similar void in the snow can also form between the snowpack and the trunk of a fallen tree.
Finally, even though avalanches are not something associated with Pinebrook’s backcountry, the massive snowpack and steadily increasing daytime temps means that traveling below, above or adjacent to terrain that is steeper than 30 degrees right now means heightened risk.
Know before you go.