Sierra Nevada Avalanche Information and mountain conditions
As an aid to climbers, mountaineers, ski tourers and walkers for this
winter season, we are aiming to produce an Avalanche Information System
based on the highly successful Scottish service that has been in use for
As we are in the hills most days during the winter and are
consistently in a position to evaluate the danger, this safety information
will be made available to all interested parties through our Snow, Avalanche and Mountain Conditions forum and also regularly post mountain conditions and trip reports on our News Site. This service is in operation from mid-December
each year and will be updated as and when conditions materially change.
We welcome any comments or remarks about the conditions.
Latest Weather and Mountain Updates
Avalanche blackspots in the Sierra Nevada
There are, of course, avalanches all over the Sierras,
but there are 3 major blackspots that people venturing into the hills
need to be aware of. They are blackspots because they cross normal walking
or hiking trails that people use. They are:
- The track from the Elorietta to the ski centre just west of the Tajos de la Virgen ridgeline. This paths crosses steep and dangerous avalanche terrain just after leaving the Elorietta hut heading NNW. The proximity to the ski centre increases human traffic in this area. This is where the recent death occurred. For experienced mountaineers the ridge of the Tajos de la Virgen is safer or the whole can be avoided by an easy and safer snow ascent up the Cartujo via the bowl west of the Arista del Cartujo
- The SW slopes of Mulhacen above the normal walking track up the Rio Mulhacen. In particular the old road above this area can be very dangerous. Give this a wide berth westwards on the approach to the west flank route up Mulhacen or the Col de Ciervo
- The south side of Cerro de Los Machos where the old road cuts through a small pass. This area is normally heavily loaded with snow. This path is used as a quick and easy approach from the Cariguela to Mulhacen or the Poqueira/Caldera areas. If heading for the Poqueira hut a safer descent is via Loma Pua, Pico de Sabinar and cut through the Terreras Azules below the Pico del Pulpito
Of course, normal good mountaineering and avalanche awareness practices must be observed on all routes in the high mountains, but the above blackspots can and should always be avoided or by-passed.
Latest News and Conditions
Avalanche Hazard Scale
Degree of hazard - 1 LOW
- Snowpack stability - The snowpack is generally well bonded and stable
- Avalanche probability - Triggering is possible only with high additional loads (note 2) on a few very steep extreme slopes (note 4). Only a few small natural avalanches (note 6) possible
- For off-piste & back-country activities - Virtually no restrictions on off-piste & back-country skiing & travel
Degree of hazard - 2 MODERATE
- Snowpack stability - The snowpack is moderately well bonded on some (note 1) steep slopes (note 3), otherwise generally well bonded
- Avalanche probability - Triggering is possible with high additional loads (note 2), particularly on the steep slopes (note 3) indicated in the bulletin. Large natural avalanches (note 6) not likely.
- For off-piste & back-country activities - Generally favourable conditions. Routes should still be selected with care, especially on steep slopes (note 3) of the aspect (note 5) and altitude indicated.
Degree of hazard - 3 CONSIDERABLE
- Snowpack stability - The snowpack is moderately to weakly bonded on many (note 1) steep slopes (note 3).
- Avalanche probability - Triggering is possible, sometimes even with low additional loads (note 2). The bulletin may indicate many slopes which are particularly affected. In certain conditions, medium and occasionally large sized natural avalanches (note 6) may occur.
- For off-piste & back-country activities - Off-piste and back-country skiing and travel should only be carried out by experienced persons able to evaluate avalanche hazard. Steep slopes (note 3) of the aspect (note 5) and altitude indicated should be avoided.
Degree of hazard - 4 HIGH
- Snowpack stability - The snowpack is weakly bonded in most (note 2) places
- Avalanche probability - Triggering is probable even with low additional loads (note 2) on many steep slopes (note 3). In some conditions, frequent medium or large sized natural avalanches (note 6) are likely
- For off-piste & back-country activities - Off-piste and back-country skiing and travel should be restricted to low-angled slopes; areas at the bottom of slopes may also be hazardous.
Degree of hazard - 5 VERY HIGH
- Snowpack stability - The snowpack is generally weakly bonded and largely unstable
- Avalanche probability - Numerous large natural avalanches (note 6) are likely, even on moderately steep terrain
- For off-piste & back-country activities - No off-piste or back country skiing or travel should be undertaken
- 1 Generally described in more detail in the avalanche bulletin (e.g.altitude, slope aspect, type of terrain, etc)
- 2 Additional load: high - e.g. group of skiers, pistemachine, avalanche blasting.low - e.g. skier, walker
- 3 Steep slopes: slopes with an incline of more than 30 degrees
- 4 Steep extreme slopes: those which are particularly unfavourable in terms of the incline, terrain profile, proximity to ridge,smoothness of underlying ground surface
- 5 Aspect: compass bearing directly down the slope.
- 6 Natural: Without human assistance.