Watching the Snow Melt

By , September 1, 2011

Every year at this season, we keep an even closer eye than usual on The Mountain With No Name across Lynn Canal. We watch to see if the snow on the mountain lasts through the year.

Mountain on Lynn Canal, Alaska

The Mountain With No Name with the snow all but gone (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

It is not as high as its neighbor mountains in the Coast Range, most of which have already experienced a brief dusting of snow earlier in August. It’s mostly bare rock on the summit and shoulders on our side. I would think that the summer sunshine on the dark rock would heat it to a temperature that would melt the snow, but one or two spots always seem to survive until the autumn snows return. Rain seems to be more affective in removing snow than sunshine, and we’ve gotten quite a bit lately.

The dominant feature of our side of the mountain is a deep cirque, a steep-sided depression. Avalanches flow off the steep mountain face all winter and spring, collecting tons of snow in the pocket below. This pile almost always lasts through the summer, then gets covered by fresh snow in autumn.

As the snow melts, it creates familiar patterns that we watch through the summer months. There’s the “salmon moose,” that morphs into a prancing stallion toward the end of its life, and there’s a teddy bear. Both have completely disappeared this year.

All of the snow in the cirque has disappeared. Only two patches remain, on the north shoulder of the mountain, and they shrink visibly day after day, as they are concealed, then revealed by scudding clouds.

It’s likely we won’t see for sure whether the last of the snow holds out until the first new snowfalls. We’re taking Aly south to college very soon, and will likely be gone in the days the balance tips. We’ll see.

2 Responses to “Watching the Snow Melt”

  1. Joe says:

    Everything ok? I hear there was an earthquake.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Yeah, I did too–on national news no less.

    It was in the Aleutians, which are miles from here. It didn’t even make it into the second Alaska news round up this morning.

    There was another quake in the last week somewhere–we never heard where that one was.

    So, all’s well here at least!

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