Public Observation - Variety pack of surface snow on two Essex area peaks

Location Name: 
Public Observation - Essex and Snowshed Mountain, Flathead Range
Flathead Range - Middle Fork Corridor
Date and time of observation: 
Fri, 03/04/2016 - 14:30
Location Map: 

Red Flags: 
Recent loading by new snow, wind, or rain
Obvious avalanche path

Observation made by: Public
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

On both Essex Mountain and Snowshed, skin track tests in steep wind loaded N and NE-facing slopes above 6500' revealed two slab/weak layer combos within the top 30 cm of snow.  In both cases, the weak layer was graupel, with one layer about 10 cm from the surface and the other 30cm down.  Since much of the F to F+ slab was also graupel, it may have been more of a density change phenomenon.  Neither of these layers happened to fracture in my stability tests.

On a  33 degree NE-facing slope at 7450' just below the summit of Snowshed at 2:30pm I dug a test profile and did two tests:

ECTN 30 @ 55cm on facets above 1cm crust in photo.

CTH 23 Q2 @ 55cm on facets above 1cm crust in photo.

No recently buried surface hoar layer was apparent in this location.

Ski penetration: 10cm.  Boot penetration: 30cm.

Recent wind loading from the SW was apparent, as tracks from Thursday morning were totally filled in and small new cornices had developed in the last 24 hours. 

With the exception of small wet, loose activity in the S-facing chutes above Essex Creek, I saw no natural avalanches, and no obvious signs of instability.

On the morning tour we descended the ridge down Essex Mountain in boot-top powder and skied some N-facing slopes up to 40 degrees in the crust below 5800' without incident.   On Snowshed in the afternoon the best skiing was in the trees between about 7200' and 6200'. 

Note to breakable crust aficionados:  in the late afternoon there was a 1-2 cm breakable crust at the surface on N-facing slopes between approximately 5800' and 4500'. 

Below about 4800' I found the snowpack to be characteristic of a mature, uniform late Spring/Summer snowpack that supported a skier even without a surface crust.

Snowpit or crown profile photo or graph: 
Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Calm (No air motion)
Air temperature trend: 
More detailed information about the weather: 

The day began with 7/8 cloud cover and 34 degrees F in Essex at 5:00am.  At 6800' on Essex Mountain at 7:30am it was 24 F, calm, with broken clouds.  Clearing continued, and a bit of valley fog developed.  At 9:00am it was 32 degrees in Essex with dissipating light fog and scattered clouds.  Above 6200' or so on the North-facing slopes of Snowshed Mountain the air temp remained below freezing all afternoon, being 28 F in the shade at 6800' at 3:00pm under clear skies..  On the summit of Snowshed at 7500' at 1:00pm winds were calm with light gusts from the SW.  At 4:00pm in Essex it was in the mid 40's under clear skies and plentiful sunshine.

High Temp. (C): 
Low Temp. (C):