HATCHER PASS — Monday night update: The Alaska Department of Transportation closed Hatcher Pass Road between milepost 14 and independence mine. The DOT posted that "avalanche specialists are monitoring the area and the road will reopen when the snowpack stabilizes."
Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center listed avalanche danger as considerable at all elevations in their March 29 forecast.
Hatcher Pass Road reopened just before 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation.
A large, remotely triggered avalanche had occurred in Hatcher Pass and covered the road around 12 p.m. on Friday, Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center reported. HPAC posted photos of the avalanche around noon on Friday and said that the road would likely be closed at the Gold Mint parking lot. The avalanche that occurred did not carry any people and was rated to be D2-2.5 by HPAC staff.
In the midweek forecast posted on the morning of March 25, HPAC staff warned of an increased avalanche danger due nearly a foot of new snow on the slopes, listing persistent slab problems and storm slabs as a likely trigger. Later that day, three observations of small avalanches were posted to HPAC. Last year in early March, a high school student died as a result of a persistent slab avalanche.
"It was very similar to the avalanche last year," said HPAC Board Chair Andy Dennis. "No one was caught or carried it was people skinning on the standard Marmot uptrack and triggered a smaller avalanche and then it stepped down to the deeper layers in the snowpack."
HPAC staff were among those who alerted the Department of Transportation and State Parks to clear the road, which was closed at the turn near the Gold Mint parking lot. Throughout the winter, numerous skiers have been caught is small avalanches but none have been buried and there have been no fatalities in Hatcher Pass. Palmer Fire and Rescue assisted multiple agencies in a rescue in Hatcher Pass on March 21.
"As we come into spring I think we have a tricky snowpack, so any new load is potentially going to awaken the persistent slab problem .These cold temperatures have not allowed the snowpack to heal at all and really just trying to make sure people are heads up coming into the longer, warmer days. It's going to be A little bit delayed in terms of kind of the snowpack stabilizing," said Dennis. "We’ve got a couple crust layers that are going to, what we're thinking is most likely going to prohibit fast healing."
The avalanche occurred just after 12 p.m. and the road was cleared at around 6 p.m.
Backcountry enthusiasts can visit https://hpavalanche.org/ for more information on snow conditions in Hatcher Pass.