Avalanche danger at extreme levels in Cascade Range

  • Fri Jun 11th, 2010 11:12pm
  • News

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

Finally, forecasters are predicting a few glorious spring days here in Snohomish County.

For the first time this month, no rain is expected clear through to next week. Instead, temperatures are likely to reach the highest mark set this year, officials said.

While the warm and dry weather is welcome, it also is expected to bring extreme avalanche danger to the high Cascades.

“Snow at higher elevations is exceptional for June,” said Garth Ferber, a meteorologist with the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. “Heat it all up and it’s going to come down the mountain sides.”

The greatest risk is to climbers on taller peaks, especially above 6,000 feet, Ferber said.

An Olympia man, 27, is presumed dead after he was caught in a June 3 avalanche on Mount Rainier. Unstable snow has prevented recovery efforts, officials said.

“This is an unusual spring,” Ferber said.

The warm weather also creates instability in snow at lower elevations along Snohomish County’s popular trails, Everett Mountain Rescue spokesman Oyvind Henningsen said.

“People should be wary traveling under cornices and too close to cornices on ridgelines,” he said.

Glacier Peak, Snohomish County’s only volcanic peak, is remote and climbers generally wait for a stretch of clear days to hike in.

This weekend’s forecast is the first time a summit window has opened up this season, Henningsen said.

“People hoping to summit are going to need to follow conditions closely,” Feber warned.

Melting snow also is going to swell area rivers. The rushing, cold water may look refreshing, but it can be dangerous, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.

“Water safety, water safety, water safety,” she said “A little bit of preparation and a life jacket will go a long way.”

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Stay safe

If you’re planning a hike or climb in the Cascade Range, check weather and avalanche forecasts prior to hitting the trail.

The website for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center is www.nwac.us.

On the water, wear a life jacket and follow water-safety guidelines in the region’s rivers.