Soft cornices.

18th January 2010

Last nights wind and snow has formed some large and fragile cornices. These are prone to collapse both spontaneously, or if disturbed, and can easily release the windslab on the slope below. Unfortunately the light was very flat, and you can’t see much in any of the pictures that I took of the cornices. However, the picture shows the side/crown wall of a cornice triggered slab avalanche (notice the rope, I approached this safely via a short abseil from the top). Although this was not a large avalanche in the grand scheme of things (the release area was about 8m across), it would have easily have sent you tumbling should you have been climbing/walking below. Another such crown wall was just visible further along.
If climbing in these conditions it is wise to consider what is above you what is above your route, and avoid gullies with big cornices/areas of windslab above. With a bit of consideration and forward planning (some local knowledge helps as well though) routes which are safe from such objective dangers can almost always be found.

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