Warning Signs of an Avalanche That You Should Know

A snow covered mountain

If you are to go climbing on a snowy mountain it’s important to be on the lookout for the signs of an avalanche. But how do you know if the mountain you’re climbing is prone to an avalanche? Luckily for you, we know the telling signs of an avalanche.

Keep in mind that the more of these signs are present, the higher the risk of an avalanche will be. But don’t let these signs of an avalanche stop you from climbing a snowy mountain though, you just need to proceed carefully and plan accordingly with the risks in mind.

With that said, here are the 5 warning signs of an avalanche.

  • Recent Avalanche Activity

You need to know about the most recent avalanche activity of the mountain you’re about to climb. It’s quite easy to tell the instability of a mountain if you simply look at its avalanche history.

Get a good view of the whole landscape before you proceed. If you can see some evidence of a recent avalanche, take note of that especially its altitude and type. You can also try to gauge when was the most recent avalanche by taking a close look at the freshness of the debris. When there is a recent avalanche, the snowpack is usually unstable.

  • There is Cracking, Blocking, or a Whooping Sound

If you can hear a cracking or blocking sound, it might be a good indication of a wind slab (an unstable form of snow). Be on the lookout for cracks especially if you are on a slope as it indicates instability. When you hear a crack, get off the slope immediately.

You might also want to be aware of whooping sounds from the snowpack. As it could mean that the snowpack is unstable and is on the verge of collapsing. Whooping sounds are often caused by the weight of climber or a skier. Get off the slopes immediately, especially the ones that are steep once you hear a whooping sound.

Signs of an Avalanche:  Heavy Snowfall Within the Last 24 Hours

Heavy snowfall can also cause an avalanche. Snow becomes permanently unstable especially if it hasn’t had enough time to become compact. And, if new snow is added to it, it can lead to an avalanche. In fact, most avalanches are triggered by climber and skiers after the first day of snowfall since people are so keen to get on fresh snow.

What they don’t know is that new snow plus strong winds can lead to instability and eventually an avalanche. It’s also worth noting that rain on top of a fresh now causes them to slide so easily.

Warning Signs of an Avalanche

An avalanche captured from a distance.

Signs of an Avalanche: Strong Winds

As mentioned earlier, strong winds are responsible for unstable wind slabs. Snow is often blown by the wind and bonded and compacted. If the wind is blowing really hard, it’s probably best to get off the slopes fast as there’s a great chance that an avalanche is bound to happen.

Strong winds tend to happen during or after heavy snowfall. Best to delay your climbing or skiing schedule for a couple of hours after a significant snowfall.

Signs of an Avalanche: Temperature Rise

The last of the warning signs of an avalanche is the rise of the temperature. The rise in temperature usually happens near the end of the ski season. Avalanche can happen where there are rapid changes in the temperature within the snowpack. It causes the snowpack to melt up quickly and make the snow structure unstable. Once the snow melts up it becomes heavier and more mobile which then results to an avalanche.

Direct sunlight is often the cause of the temperature rise within the snowpack. So, it’s best not to go on skiing or climbing anymore when the season is over.

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