I observed a few older slides that likely occurred nearly a month ago. The Soldier Mountains have not received much new snow since the storm cycle in mid-January. The wind has sculpted upper elevation slopes into a patchwork of icy drifts and scoured ridges. The same can be said for low elevations in the foothills near Fairfield. Beyond Couch Summit, I found much more inhabitable conditions and even soft (faceted) snow.
Beyond the icy, surfaces that one might expect in wind-affected areas, a concerning crust and facet layer sit near the surface on most slopes. I expect this interface to be touchy when loaded with a sufficient slab.
Cold in the morning but quickly reaching near freezing at the trailhead. Snow surfaces stayed cool. There were only a few clouds in the Soldiers, Pioneers, and western Smokys. The wind blew light from a variety of directions.
Soldier Mountain Crest
|D2||U||Old slide initiating from the Soldier Mountain Crest.|
|D2||HS||Heavily cross-loaded pocket lee to north wind. Put 5' of debris across the road.|
No recent avalanches.
The "front-country" of the Soldiers to about Couch Summit were raked by the wind. Large, icy, dune-like drifts sat over a shallow faceted snowpack. There was lots of vegetation to be seen poking through on most slopes.
Beyond Couch Summit, snow depth ranged from 100-140 cm. Snow surfaces were weak. The most concerning was a facet and MFcr combo that I found on all aspects and slope angles below about 8800'. The crust formed at the start of February (2/2). Since then, minimal snowfall has faceted and shady slopes boast a healthy batch of surface hoar. The mid-pack was generally strong, but weak facets sit near the ground.
I didn't encounter an avalanche problem today.
The wind slabs I stomped on were old and unreactive. I imagine you'd need a steep, alpine, icy surface for the chance to find one that may do much.
In the "front-country" closer to Fairfield, I'd describe these drifts to be more of a persistent slab problem with stiff rock-hard slabs sitting on a shallow faceted snowpack. I stomped around on several of these slabs and It seemed hard to imagine triggering a slide.
Solo mission. I generally stuck to low-consequence avalanche terrain and smaller features.