White River Snowshoe and an Epic Avalanche Exploration

Tuesday, April 24th, 2023:

This was to be a rather pedestrian hike but as we progressed up the White River a very unusual sight caught our attention: An avalanche! It appeared to have happened very recently, perhaps as recently as the past weekend when there was a heavy rain event that could have triggered it. The Snotel site recorded a period of above freezing temperatures for the 21st to the 23rd and about three inches of precipitation over that time. Enough, apparently, to trigger this avalanche.

The slide went down the west branch of the White River canyon from the White River Glacier and ended under the powerlines to Meadows. The genesis, apparently, from a huge broken-off slab below and cornice about a third of a mile east of Silcox Hut at about the 6,800 foot level. The final runout is at 4,650′ elevation. Distance between these two points is about 2.3 miles as near as we could determine.

Once as far up-canyon as we could get without going out onto the slide, (Kel didn’t want any part of that!) I decided to trek out onto the ice and do some exploring. I made my way, with some difficulty, along the top of the slide for 3/4 miles until I reached its terminus, recording what I saw. This was a fun adventure but now I have a major sunburn to deal with! My bad!

3.5 miles, 781′ EG. Hike #46 for the year.

A few photos of the adventure:

Columns of snow pushed up 12 to 15 feet high at the sides of the slide.

Here’s where I went over the edge of the slide and started exploring down its length. The apparent start of the slide in the upper right. I was able to gauge its location and elevation by lining my map up with Illumination rock in the distance.

On other snowshoe treks, we’ve crossed into the canyon here to continue up. Glad we weren’t here when this happened!

I’ll bet much of this won’t melt this year – or maybe even next year!

Looking up-canyon from where I went over the edge of the slide.

This was very difficult terrain!

Getting across this made off-trail bushwacks seem like a piece of cake!

In a few places, the slide took out some pines that lined the canyon edges. You can see their remains in this photo.

The above serac is over 15 feet high.

The final run-out of the slide:

It’s hard to gauge the scale – this thing is about 15 feet high, maybe more.

Slide terminus. You can see the Mt. Hood Meadows powerlines above. This is .95 mile from the snow-park and 1.1 miles from the Hwy 35 bridge.