Results of analyses of snow annual accumulation variability, density and crystal growth measurements in firn and ice cores recovered from the upper layers of the West Antarctic ice sheet during the US component of the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) are presented. Annual-layer structure was analyzed on the basis of the visible stratigraphy and electrical conductivity measurement record in each core. Annual accumulation varied appreciably between core sites and within cores at individual sites where undulating surface topography appears to be exerting a significant impact on the magnitude of snow deposition. All density profiles except one exhibited densification that was normal with respect to snow annual accumulation and 10 m firn temperatures. Snow annual accumulation was determined stratigraphically, and 10m firn temperatures were either measured in the holes drilled for cores or inferred using elevation changes relative to Byrd Station, the 10m temperature at Byrd Station and an assumed lapse rate. Measurements at the one exceptional location indicated that the firn had undergone extremely rapid densification to ice, with the transition to ice occurring at 35–36m depth. Furthermore, thin-section measurements of grain-size show that the growth of crystals accelerated below the firn–ice transition. The behavior at this one site is attributed to localized deformation in the upper layers of firn and ice. Enhanced crystal growth was also observed at another site. At all other locations where grain-sizes were measured, the rates of crystal growth were in accord with age–temperature relationships observed by other researchers in Antarctica and Greenland. Profiles illustrating pore–crystal structure changes with increasing depth of burial are also presented.