CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Rocky Mountain National Park advised backcountry enthusiasts to beware of weakening layers of snow this week.

Rising springtime temperatures have created visible cracks on the cornices that form crests along wind-swept ridges. The imposing winter creations are leaning toward their downhill demise, leaving anyone below them at considerable risk of injury.

Cracks form atop a cornice on the Continental Divide SE of Loveland Pass on Wednesday. (credit: Scott C. Garcia/14ers.com)

 

(credit: Scott C. Garcia/14ers.com)

The state’s avalanche danger remains at a moderate level as established by the CAIC.

“You can greatly reduce your risk by starting and ending your day early,” CAIC stated in Thursday’s advisory. “Approach steep and rocky, sun-exposed terrain with extra caution since wet avalanches are most likely in these areas.”

Earlier in the week, CAIC warned that “overhanging cornices are concerning and should be avoided. Small cornice fall is triggering large avalanches especially on east-facing slopes.”

Runout debris from a May 11 snowslide in the Dead Elk Couloir in Rocky Mountain National Park. (credit: CAIC)

RMNP experienced several avalanches last weekend, including one at Tyndall Glacier and two more on nearby Dead Elk Couloir. They were all human-triggered, according to park spokesperson Kyle Patterson. One occurred when a skier dropped into a steep snowfield above other recreationists.

There were partial burials of those involved, but no injuries — other than shattered nerves.

“It is important for those who recreate in the back country to be knowledgeable concerning safe travel in avalanche terrain,” the park stated in a press release after the accidents. “These users should also practice good situational awareness and decision making and be aware there may be other users above or below them.”

Cornices form on the ridges above Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park in April 2019. (credit: CBS)

Additional snowfall is expected in the high country this weekend, applying further weight to those already weakened layers.

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