Risk of collapsing cornices, avalanche danger high in North Shore mountains

North Shore Rescue is warning anyone heading into the mountains this weekend to beware of dangerous cornices and avalanche conditions.

North Shore Rescue service manager Doug Pope said the extended cold this spring combined with rapidly warming temperatures expected over the next several days could create deadly conditions in high-elevation areas.

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Fresh snow has fallen in the mountains over the past 10 days, said Pope. But warming temperatures will make that snowpack unstable.

Avalanches are possible in the North Shore mountains anywhere above the snow line, said Pope – even without human activity to trigger them.

“We have a high elevation risk this weekend,” he said Friday afternoon. “People should be staying out of avalanche terrain this weekend.”

Another danger to watch out for, because of the heavy snowpack, are large cornices – unstable snow overhangs – along ridge lines and mountain summits.

Often cornices aren’t obvious to those on top of them.

“This year especially we have very large cornices,” he said. “People have to be really wary of where they’re travelling.”

Last month, five hikers died on Mount Harvey near Lions Bay when a cornice on the mountain collapsed.

Pope said with balmy temperatures expected at lower elevations, those heading into the mountains might be surprised to discover full winter conditions at higher elevations – where both travel and navigation are still difficult.

Pope said a smarter idea is for those heading into the mountains this weekend to stay on trails below the snow line.

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