Avalanche Advisory for Monday, 1-21-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, January 21, 2013

Tuckerman Ravine has Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. The only exceptions to this are the Lower Snowfields and Little Headwall which have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

Huntington Ravine has Moderate and Low avalanche danger. Central Gully and Pinnacle Gully have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. All other areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

Yesterday was a classic example of how quickly weather can change. It was sunny, warm, and calm in the early morning, then, in an instant it turned into full-on winter conditions. Snow came heavily for a brief period as a cold front swung through. This system brought about 2” (5cm) of new snow and quickly pushed wind speeds in excess of 100mph at times and gusted over 90mph (145kph) on the summit for 6 consecutive hourly observations. After the frontal passage, winds remained strong (65-80mph/105-130kph from the west) while temperatures began to plummet. This morning is a brisk one; temperatures at Hermit Lake are currently -2F (-19C).

In Huntington, most of the new snow was pushed down through the gullies and is now lying in the woods below the ravine. The only snow that didn’t get transported out of avalanche terrain either was exposed to the winds, and therefore was hammered down into a firm, strong surface, or it was able to find a protected lee area where it could escape the punishing winds. In these protected lee areas you will find the greatest instability and have the best chance of triggering an avalanche. Pinnacle and Central Gullies both have enough terrain that fits this description to warrant a Moderate rating. In other areas rated Low, be suspicious of any pocket of snow that allows any boot penetration. The best stability will be found either on exposed old crust or on deep, stiff windslabs. Additional snow is blowing around the ravine, but appears to be having difficulty sticking and forming new slabs. Expect the tops of some climbs, e.g. Yale, Damnation, and North, to be scrappy. There is just not very much snow in there at this time.

As is often the case with strong winds, Tuckerman Ravine as a whole is responding similar to the protected lee areas of Huntington. There is much less of a scouring effect here than in Huntington. We’re starting the day with a range of conditions that all fall within the Moderate rating. The areas of most concern are the Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl, and Chute. (if you’re a regular reader of the advisory, this information should not be a surprise to you.) Currently windblown snow is keeping us near the upper end of the rating. The rate of loading should slow today as wind speeds continue to decline, but remember that cold temperatures tend to make newly developed slabs fairly “snappy.” That is to say that the potential for a slab to propagate a fracture does not diminish as quickly as it would on a warmer day. Outside of the middle of Tuckerman, you’ll find a mix of surfaces. Expect some old crust to be exposed in Right Gully, Lobster Claw, and the lower portion of Hillman’s Highway. In Left Gully and the top of Hillman’s you’ll find more strong wind-effected snow. As with Huntington, pay attention for softer areas that were protected from the strong winds. Thick, stiff slabs and exposed old crust are your best bets for stable snow.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 8:25am, January 21, 2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-01-21 Print Friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Sunday 1-20-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, January 20, 2013

All forecast areas of Tuckerman Ravine have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible.  The only exceptions to this rating are the Lower Snowfields and Little Headwall, which have Low avalanche danger. In these two locations, natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

All forecast areas of Huntington Ravine have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. The only exception to this rating is Escape Hatch, which has Low avalanche danger.

Change is the word of the day today, as in, the conditions on the mountain will quickly change during the day today. This applies both to weather and avalanche conditions. The AMC caretaker described the weather this morning as “deceptively benign,” and I definitely agree with his assessment. Winds are already increasing in speed and are expected to gust to around 100mph (162kph) by early afternoon. Temperatures will also be dropping, clouds will descend over the mountain, and snow showers will add some excitement to the day. In fact, in the time I’ve taken to write this advisory, this change has already begun.

As for avalanches, we’re starting the day with a Moderate rating in most areas. As the weather today deteriorates, new snowfall will mix with older snow that is being picked up from windward locations and redistributed into the lee slopes of Tuckerman and Huntington. This will create an increasing avalanche hazard, though we expect the overall hazard to remain in the Moderate range for most of the forecast period. Toward the end of the day, some areas will be at the upper end of the Moderate range, possibly pushing into Considerable if snowfall totals are at or exceed forecasted amounts.

In Huntington, the areas of greatest concern are the tops of Central, Pinnacle, and Odell. Approaching these climbs can put you into recently deposited windslabs before you even swing your tools into the ice. These locations would be the first to reach the upper end of Moderate today. North and Damnation lie on the other end of the spectrum. They are starting the day with a mostly wind scoured surface down low and only thin snow coverage at the top. New snow loading today will bring these areas up into the Moderate rating, but they are starting the day with low avalanche hazard. The overall lack of snow in the Escape Hatch leads to its Low rating. I wouldn’t recommend this route until we get more snow.

Tuckerman currently has a mixed bag of snow surfaces. There is exposed melt-freeze crust peppered around the ravine leftover from last weekend’s warmth. The largest areas of exposed crust can be found in the lower Sluice, above the Open Book, and above the Lip. In the Center Bowl and Chute, you’ll find deeper drifts formed as recently as last night. It’s a good bet that these softer drifts of new snow will have a greater likelihood of avalanching when subjected to an additional load. Skiers and snowboarders take notice, this is the snow you will want to ski or ride more than anywhere else in the ravine but it is also the most dangerous. Again, avalanche hazard will be rising today with new snow and blowing snow loading on strong W winds. On the whole, you should be trying to avoid protected lee areas where the loading will be most pronounced.

The Little Headwall is not in good shape for skiing or riding; it was a raging waterfall just last Monday. Reports from the Sherburne yesterday are overwhelmingly positive.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 8:45am, January 20, 2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-01-20v2 Print Friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Saturday 1-19-2013

Expires at Midnight 1-19-2013

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger.  Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely. Dangerous avalanche conditions exist which require careful snowpack evaluation.  Cautious route finding and conservative decision-making is essential. 

The forecasted 1-3” of new snow today is already getting close to being exceeded as of 7am. Between 2 and 3” of snow has fallen since midnight associated with a building west wind. Speeds began in the 40mph (64kph) area and have slowing been creeping up this morning. This trend should continue to the forecasted velocities of 70-90mph (112-144kph) before briefly subsiding late in the day. Snow is expected at higher elevations today and tonight with an additional 1-3” after dark bringing totals up to 6” by morning. All this data makes us believe we will have growing instabilities through the day and into tomorrow. Once again, we should see denser slabs deposited on top of the lighter unconsolidated snow that fell early this morning creating a new weak snowpack. New snow at our Harvard Cabin manual snowplot gave us an average snow density of 8%. In many strong lee terrain features of moderate W winds this thin loose 8% blanket of new snow should act as the dominate weak layer for today’s new slabs to fail on. Winds are currently gusting to 70-72mph (112-115kph) already, so instabilities have already been growing in the largest E facing snowfields like the Tuckerman Headwall and Odell and Central gullies in Huntington. As the day continues, E faces will lead the charge as the main concern for natural avalanche activity. We will also see cross loading occur on S and N facing slopes. Expect areas like Right gully which faces south and South gully in Huntington which faces north to linger behind the dominate instabilities of E facing aspects. Some outliers that are still a bit scrappy and peppered with brush, rock, turf and smaller snowfields will struggle to meet the Considerable ratings today. Specifically, Hillman’s Highway and the Lobster claw in Tuckerman and North gully in Huntington will be substantially behind E aspect instabilities, but will have growing unstable slabs through the forecast period.

Some key points to remember in the field today:  1. **Growing instabilities exist today due to new snow and a building high velocity wind reaching 100mph tonight.  These new issues are in addition to the left over unstable slabs from the 6” that fell on Wednesday and Thursday.  Although all areas have the possibility for natural avalanches with the avalanche forecast period, E faces will lead as the main concern while some others will become weak enough for natural failure quite late.  2. **Poor visibility and blowing snow will make quality route finding difficult to avoid instabilities whether you are ascending or descending.  It is also a busy Holiday weekend which means numerous human triggers may exist above you even though no telltale tracks can be seen.  3. **High winds and blowing snow above treeline may make navigation difficult.  Be open to changing your plans when new data makes it a wise a prudent decision.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin. Posted at 8:29am. This advisory expires at midnight. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger USDA Forest Service White Mountain National Forest (603) 466-2713  TTY (603) 466-2856

Print Version 1-19-2013

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, January 18, 2013

Tuckerman Ravine has Moderate and Low avalanche danger. Right Gully, the Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl, and Chute have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully to identify features of concern. Lobster Claw, Left Gully, Hillman’s Highway, Lower Snowfields, and the Little Headwall have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

Huntington Ravine has Moderate and Low avalanche danger. Yale, Central, Pinnacle, and Odell Gully have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. All other areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

In the last two days, Mt. Washington has received just shy of 6” (15cm) of new snow. 3.6” (9cm) of this fell yesterday, which was greater than the forecasted amounts. During this time, W and NW winds were quite strong, gusting into the 80’s and 90’s mph (130-145kph). These did a great job of moving snow around in the ravines and creating stability problems. One very lucky party was avalanched from the top of Central Gully late in the day as they climbed through this newly deposited soft slab. More details will be posted tonight on our Weekend Update section of our website and on our Search and Rescue page.

Bright blue skies this morning are allowing good visibility, though some new blowing snow is obscuring the very top of Central. This shouldn’t amount to much additional loading during the day, so this fact places the emphasis for today on the potential for human triggers. Currently, lots of old, gray snow is visible with fresh white patches of new windslab scattered around. These areas are in the lee of terrain features that often lower the windspeed enough for wind transported snow to be deposited but also in swales and other irregularities in the snowpack. Expect the usual strong degree of spatial variability as you move around today. Examples of the most windloaded locations include in Central Gully above the ice bulge, in pinch points in Odell and Yale, and all the snowfields in Tuckerman across the Lip and Center Bowl. This is not to say other areas are without hazard, so pay attention even in areas rated Low today.

Other areas to consider are the transitions from steep to flat where sluffing snow has accumulated at the base of ice and rock faces as well as at the near the tops of gullies. Given the rounded nature of our geologically elderly terrain, the tops of gullies are often less pronounced than more youthful mountains. So instead of an obvious overhanging cornice, you may encounter gradually steepening snow which has been deposited in the wind rotor created at the “edge” of the ravine. These areas are also features that you should assess very carefully and possibly avoid.

Cold temperatures last night, (-21F, -30C on the summit) have started freezing up the water running through drainage channels. I doubt that the process is complete so be on the lookout for ice dams if you brave the cold today to do an ice climb. The Little Headwall showed an open channel from top to bottom yesterday and snow is now skimmed over what is likely to be a thin veneer of ice. This condition is likely to be encountered on climbs like North, Damnation, Yale, Central ice bulge, Pinnacle…basically all the ice climbs in Huntington plus ice flows in Tuckerman.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 8:30a.m., Friday, January 18, 2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-1-18 Print friendly

 

Avalanche in Central Gully

On Thursday, January 17, 2013 a party with a total group size of 12 was ascending Central Gully in Huntington Ravine when one rope team triggered a soft slab avalanche from the top of the route. The avalanche swept over the three other rope teams, carrying one team of three to the bottom of the gully. This team was not buried, but sustained injuries. The remaining three teams were able to rappel the route.

Weather Summary:

The weekend prior to the incident was incredibly warm. Mt. Washington set an all-time record high temperature for the month of January during this time, at 48 degrees Fahrenheit. On Monday, temperatures across the mountain began to fall back below freezing and by Tuesday morning, all snow surfaces in Huntington had frozen into a very firm crust. On Wednesday, snow began to fall with strong W and NW winds. The Mt. Washington Observatory reported 2.3” of light density snow from this weather system. On Thursday morning, the Observatory forecasted a trace to 2″ of new snow with isolated higher amounts possible, and W and WNW winds increasing from 60mph to 80+mph with higher gusts. Thursday’s wind and snow played out as forecasted. Most of the snow fell between 7am and 1pm; total snow accumulations of 3.6”  exceeded the forecasted amount.

Snowpack Summary:

The melt freeze crust that developed Monday and Tuesday created a slick bed surface for future avalanche activity. This was noted in avalanche advisories Wednesday and Thursday. On top of this icy layer, new soft slabs began to form on Wednesday while winds were blowing 30-40mph. As additional snow fell Thursday with increasing wind speeds, slightly denser slabs were deposited above the weaker slab and the crust. The climber who likely triggered the avalanche stated that, at the time of the avalanche, he was climbing through soft snow about thigh-deep or waist-deep. However, other reports were that the slab that released was only 8” deep and between 25-35ft across. We believe that failure occurred in a weak layer interface somewhere within the new snow, rather than at the crust.

Avalanche Summary:

The avalanche was a soft slab, artificially triggered by foot penetration, which in the professional avalanche lexicon means that it was triggered by a person climbing or hiking, not by a person traveling on skis, snowboard, etc. The slide is further classified as D1.5, R2 . This is a measure of the destructive force of the avalanche and the size of the avalanche relative to the specific avalanche path’s potential. Compared to the size of avalanches Central Gully can produce, this was on the smaller side. The debris was examined by a Snow Ranger, who estimated its size as 5-7 meters wide, 60 meters long, and 30-60cm deep.

Events Leading to the Incident:

An organized group of twelve climbers planned a promotional climb to draw awareness to their organization’s mission. They had been training for the climb in the days preceding the event, which included ice climbing in Crawford Notch. The group was organized with a variety of experience and skills, from novice to experienced mountaineers. In addition, a film crew was included in the group.

The group of twelve arrived at the Harvard Mountaineering Club cabin on Wednesday afternoon and spent the night in the cabin. Thursday morning, after receiving the weather forecast from the Mt. Washington Observatory they had decided they would climb Central Gully. Before departing, a USFS Snow Ranger arrived and talked with the group about weather and avalanche conditions. Despite this discussion and warnings about increasing avalanche danger through the day and that Moderate avalanche danger means that “human triggered avalanches are possible,” the group decided to stick with their plan. They departed from the cabin at 8:30am.

Approximate location of climbers at time of avalanche

Four hours after leaving the cabin, they arrived at the start of the climb. The group split into four rope teams of three people each. They ascended to the ice bulge in the gully, then one by one they climbed the bulge on belay. Above the ice bulge, the teams began simul-climbing. They reported that they had been skirting the newly deposited snow and trying to stay on the older crust. Just prior to the avalanche, the lead team allowed the second team to pass them, so that they could get better set up for filming. At the time of the avalanche, there was one team nearing the top of the gully, another was slightly below them and positioned in the center of the gully. The other two teams were lower, hugging the climbers left side of the rock wall. During the time the teams were in avalanche terrain, snow continued to load into many areas, including the top of Central Gully.

The Avalanche:

The details we received about who was where and what happened when the avalanche hit don’t give us a 100% clear view. The picture indicates our best estimates of where the rope teams were located at the time of the avalanche. It was approximately 4:30pm when the avalanche was triggered. The party at the top was not caught or carried, though they may have slid a short distance. The second-highest team was caught and carried over the ice bulge to the base of the gully. They came to rest in the debris, which terminated at roughly the elevation of the base of Pinnacle Gully. A third team, located to the side and away from the path of the greatest debris flow had started to be carried, but was able to avoid being carried downslope by the bottom climber arresting the fall with his ice axes. The fourth team was carried downslope, but they stopped moving when their rope was caught on an exposed rock.

After the accident happened, the three teams remaining on the route took a quick inventory of who was present. It quickly became apparent that one rope team, including the lead guide, had been swept down off the route below all the others. At this time, the remaining members of the group reorganized and began to descend on rappel. At all times, all members of the descending party were either clipped into a rock or ice anchor or were actively on rappel. They stated they were unable to make contact with the three people who were carried down with the avalanche, either by voice, visual, or their family-band radios. They attempted to call for help via cell phone, but were unable to do so because their batteries had died. They also had a satellite phone, but were unable to sufficiently connect with satellites.

The team that was caught and carried down to the base sustained some injuries. Of the three, two had lower leg injuries and the third initially complained of pain in his shoulder. They were carrying a radio that operates on the same frequency as the Mt. Washington Observatory, Appalachian Mountain Club, and HMC cabin. With this radio, the lead guide was able to contact Rich, the caretaker at the HMC cabin. While Rich worked with the AMC Hermit Lake caretaker to notify USFS Snow Rangers, the injured climbers began sliding along the snow, working their way down the fan to toward the base of Huntington Ravine.

The Rescue:

USFS Snow Rangers were notified of the incident at approximately 5:22. In addition to the USFS, AMC, and HMC, the volunteer Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) was called for assistance. They responded with 18 skilled mountaineers for a total rescue team of 25 people. The first two Rangers arrived at Pinkham Notch at 6:00pm. One immediately left on snowmobile for the ravine while the other stayed behind to organize other rescuers who began arriving shortly afterward.

The first Snow Ranger and HMC caretaker parked the snowmobile near the first aid cache at the base of Huntington. At 6:20pm, approximately 200 yards uphill from the cache, they encountered the injured climbers slowly working their way down the trail. They briefly questioned the group about what had happened and if they had any information about the rest of the team. Knowing there were more rescuers who would be arriving soon, they did not want first aid at this time. At the request of the lead guide, the hasty team continued up into Huntington where they could see headlamps slowly descending the gully. They climbed up the fan, careful to avoid the avalanche runout path from Odell, Pinnacle, or Central Gully, until they were able to make contact with the remaining climbers and determined that they were doing OK. The group continued to rappel out of technical terrain.

The second Snow Ranger on scene and one member from MRS arrived and began treating the team’s injuries. The two most seriously injured climbers were treated and packaged into rescue litters. As they did this, more MRS members arrived and began to transport them to the Harvard Cabin where the USFS snow tractor was waiting to transport them to ambulances while the third waited for rescuers to return and transport him in a litter. This group arrived at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at about 9:15pm. Meanwhile, the remaining MRS members and the hasty team assisted the group of 9 uninjured climbers’ rappel to the talus and then down from the top of the fan to the Harvard Cabin. Of this group, one sustained minor frostbite injuries to his toes. The entire group was transported from the Harvard Cabin 2 miles to Pinkham on the snow tractor, arriving at the base approximately 11:30pm.

Analysis:

The information and timeline described above are the facts as best as we have been able to gather them. The facts presented are as accurate and objective as possible. The discussion that follows below is our analysis and interpretation of the situation. It is a subjective analysis of what took place the day of the incident and represents the collective professional knowledge and experience of our team.

With the value of 20/20 hindsight, any accident can be picked apart by someone looking to place blame or find mistakes that may have been made. This is not our intent here. The purpose is to try to determine what lessons can be learned from the decisions that led to the accident so others can learn from these experiences and avoid making similar choices.

Every accident in the mountains is unique, so understanding the context surrounding decisions and actions is an important component. Doing this helps us understand the “decision crossroads” that led to this incident and other similar historical mountain mishaps. Whether as Snow Rangers or as recreational climbers, we have each faced decisions points where we need to assess the interaction between a wide variety of factors and choose a course of action. Things such as turnaround times, changing weather, changing avalanche hazard, group decision making dynamics, evaluation of the group’s skill and experience, etc. all provide context from which we can reflect and learn.

In this incident, there were many factors involved that added risk to the overall situation. When considered individually, each one may not seem like a catastrophic error or miscalculation. However, we believe the accumulation of these overlapping factors led this group to being in a dangerous situation, and moreover, to continue moving forward with their plan when other groups may have chosen another course of action. We believe this incident was not a freak natural event completely outside of the control of the party. Avalanches are a common natural phenomenon in Huntington Ravine and this event became an incident because the group made decisions and took actions that placed them in a precarious position.

Motivation and Commitment:

A frequent contributor to avalanche incidents worldwide is the motivation and commitment level of a group. Once a group invests themselves into an objective, it becomes more difficult for the group to retreat from the objective or alter their plan. This is a heuristic trap that is commonly taught in basic avalanche classes. No person, from the novice to the avalanche professional, is immune from it entirely. The trick is to know how to recognize its influence on one’s decision making and try hard to minimize the effect.

This group was heavily invested in success in many ways. They were organized as a charity for a very worthwhile cause. The team members had all donated significant amounts of time. The climb was being filmed by a professional filmmaker for a documentary. There was a strong media campaign to draw attention to the climb…these all increase the level of commitment beyond what might be normal for a purely recreational climb. An increased acceptance of risk comes often comes with an increased level of commitment. There is no way for us to know how much of a role this factor played in the incident, if it played a role at all. It is our assumption that for at least some members of the team this was a contributing factor to their acceptance of the risks they faced.

They also had pre-arranged to spend the night at the Mt. Washington Observatory. Whereas for most climbers the summit is the halfway point for their entire climb, in this situation the group had extra incentive to push through to their final destination. When groups are planning to return to their starting point, they will often set a turnaround time. Regardless of where they are when the time comes, they will stop climbing and head back down. Establishing protocols such as these are a time-tested method for helping keep climbers out of trouble and mitigating risk. Staying flexible and watching for reason to turn around earlier, as an example, is an excellent decision, but sticking to predetermined protocols is essential. On a one-way trip, deciding to turn around and descend is a very difficult decision to make.

Avalanche hazard:

A fundamental challenge for avalanche forecasters is to convey the meaning of each different rating level. Understanding the rating scale is a critical first step in understanding how much risk you are accepting. Often people think that Moderate conditions equate to a risk level that they are comfortable with since moderate ranks second on a scale that goes from one to five. It’s easy enough to understand the degree of risk from Extreme or High avalanche danger. The risk of traveling in the lesser-rated terrain drops from there. Read the definitions carefully and you’ll see that even a Low rating indicates some risk of encountering pockets of unstable snow. A “moderate” rating means that “human triggered avalanches are possible.” Not only should people think about the probability of an avalanche, but the consequences of such an event must not be ignored. In Huntington, particularly in lean snow cover, avalanches run out into boulder fields. Within the United States, New Hampshire has the highest percentage of avalanche fatalities due to trauma as opposed to asphyxiation due to being buried.

In this incident, the group made the decision to climb Central Gully after receiving the weather report at the Harvard Cabin. When a Snow Ranger arrived at the Harvard Cabin shortly thereafter, the group had already decided they would climb Central. The Snow Ranger attempted to discuss snow stability with a gathering of several group members, but the group deferred judgment to the group leaders who were inside the cabin at the time. He then went inside and discussed the rating, the incoming snow, and the increasing danger with the leaders, who confirmed that they would move forward with their plan to climb Central. Later, when one of the injured climbers recognized the Snow Ranger rendering first aid as the one who had spoken with the group in the morning, he stated that this was the Snow Ranger “that thought we were idiots for climbing Central” that day. Of course these aren’t the words that were used, but the statement demonstrates that at least one member of the group understood the risks described by the Snow Ranger.

The avalanche hazard was known to be on the rise during the day. This was described in the morning avalanche advisory and as snow was forecasted to fall heavily at times. By early afternoon, hours before the avalanche occurred, snow accumulations had exceeded the weather forecasted totals by 1.6”. This snowfall event brought 0.4” of snow-water equivalent (SWE) to the summit, 90% of which was recorded between 6am and 12pm. In afternoon hours, snow continued to fall at a much lighter rate, but snow was being actively transported into Central Gully due to high winds and forming soft slabs. These slabs were recognized by the group leader, as he stated he had been trying to avoid them all afternoon. This evidence indicates increasing avalanche hazard, and is commonly considered to be “bulls-eye data” or a “red flag.”

Regardless of the forecasted rating, it is very important to be capable of assessing snow stability during a climb. In this case, the lead guide had been doing this. He stated he had been “skirting a slab all afternoon.” Indeed, avoiding areas of unstable snow and staying on hard old surfaces is a recommended way to avoid triggering an avalanche. However, it was not the lead guide’s rope team that triggered the avalanche. Another team had moved out above this team to get better set up for filming. This group had an experienced climber in the lead for most of the climb, but just before the final pitch they “swung leads,” so that the person who had been at the bottom of the rope was now leading. This person initially stated that the snow he was climbing through was thigh or waist-deep. The depth and softness of the snow would be another “red flag,” which should trigger another decision point where the climbing team can reassess the plan to move forward. Even at this point near the top of the gully, descending was still a viable option, albeit a challenging one.

We believe that the overall confidence in the leader’s ability and experience may have led to some group members withholding from the entire group avalanche concerns they may have had. This confidence was stated by one group member as a reason for not carrying avalanche rescue gear (i.e. beacons, shovels, and probes). While we don’t condone the practice, it is not uncommon for climbers in Huntington to travel without avalanche rescue gear. We understand that there are times when the risk of being buried in an avalanche in Huntington is much less than the risk of being severely injured or killed by the fall itself. However, leaving this equipment behind significantly reduces your safety margin should an avalanche occur. This life-saving equipment should be seen as an important part of an overall safety system. It’s the final defense, to be used only when objective hazards are not avoided through decision-making. Without it, the chances of rescuing a buried victim in time are reduced to unreasonable odds. We recommend carrying avalanche rescue gear when traveling in avalanche terrain, because we believe it is the right thing to do.

With the benefit of hindsight, we do not think climbing Central Gully would have been a poor choice for every group on this day. Given the weather conditions and increasing avalanche hazard, an early-rising, fast-moving team of climbers comfortable with the terrain could have climbed through the gully before instabilities developed very far. If snow stability during the climb had deteriorated too much, they could have downclimbed, rappelled, or traversed out of the gully into the rocks on the right before they developed to the point where they might naturally release. This group’s pace certainly contributed to the accident, as they arrived in avalanche terrain four hours after leaving the Harvard Cabin. It was during these hours that most of the snow had fallen, and the group continued to climb into worsening avalanche conditions.

Group Size:

Twelve people on a climb such as Central is not completely unreasonable, but it does create some challenges and risks. Managing avalanche hazard, choosing appropriate technical climbing techniques and the pace of travel are all affected by the large group size.

One of the fundamental concepts of traveling with others in avalanche terrain is to minimize the exposure to avalanche hazard at any time. For skiers, this most often equates to skiing a slope one person at a time. For climbers in Huntington, the one-at-time maxim is very difficult since the gullies are fairly narrow slide paths without many “safe zones” between which a group can move. In such cases we often advise roped parties moving through potentially unstable snow to protect their route with rock and ice gear. With the exception of descent this is one of the only ways for climbers to mitigate avalanche risk when ascending narrow steep slopes. Three distinct ways the group size added to their exposure to the hazard are 1) the sheer number of people on the same slope at the same time, 2) it slows the pace and therefore lengthens the duration of exposure, which is particularly a problem during increasing instability, and 3) more people on a slope increases the likelihood that someone will climb over a weak point and trigger a slide.

The pace of climbing is also related to group size. Generally, larger groups move more slowly than smaller groups. Other factors can slow a group down. With this group, one climber was using a prosthetic device that had a smaller footprint than a standard boot. This slowed the climbing greatly, as he would break through the crust where others would not. There is no doubt about this climber’s physical fitness and endurance, it is simply more difficult for anyone to move fast when he or she is breaking through an established boot pack. The temperatures on Thursday dropped down to around 0F during the afternoon in the ravine and -10F on the summit. In temperatures such as these, speed and efficiency are important safety measures.

Related to the pace is the choice of how to travel as a group in steep terrain. There are many techniques available to climbing teams and no one way is right for every situation. In this situation, the group was divided into four separate teams, each tied together with 60 meter ropes with one climber tied to the middle. At times earlier in the climb, the teams had used protection and anchors to belay climbers over the ice bulge. Sometime after this, most teams had begun climbing without the benefit of snow, ice, or rock protection. They were belaying at times, using “snow thrones” backed up with ice axes planted in the snow as their anchors, but otherwise there was no protection between anchors. This technique exposes climbing teams to a significant amount of risk. If one climber falls, the other two climbers must arrest the fall to prevent the entire team from falling. In steeper terrain and on icy surfaces, arresting falls becomes increasingly difficult. If one team falls together or is caught in an avalanche, there is a chance that their rope will catch other climbing teams and cause them to fall as well. Here, the topmost rope team triggered the avalanche but fortunately did not get carried downslope. The team that was caught and fell +/-800ft was located farther out into the center of the gully than the others. The other two teams did get carried at least a short distance. One team was able to arrest their fall, but the fourth did indeed fall until their rope became hung up on an exposed rock just above the ice bulge. It could be argued that they would have fallen all the way if they weren’t tied to a rope, but the rock essentially served the same function as ice, snow, or rock protection would have in this instance. We believe using protection is a safer option when using roped techniques in this terrain. Of all the options available, the chosen method for this climb on this day would be among the least desirable techniques.

Lastly, related to the group’s pace, is the method of descent. Once the avalanche passed, the group was able to account for those still on the slope and knew that one team of three had been swept downslope. The team reorganized and made the decision to descend the route which we believe was the correct thing to do. However, when dealing with an avalanche accident you are in a race against time because statistics show you have 15-30 minutes before most incidents move from rescue to recovery in the case of full burial. The speed of the companion rescue is a key factor in preventing fatalities. Although no one was fully buried in this incident, the remaining teams in the gully were unaware of the fate of the others until rescuers arrived. With 9 people in the group, descending on rappel one at a time is a very slow process, though it is also a very safe method. Had the fallen team been buried, received more serious injuries, or not been intercepted by rescue teams, the delay in treatment would have been life-threatening. Because the terrain in Central is not overly technical it is commonly used as a descent route for parties who have climbed another route. In a group of 9 skilled and experienced climbers, it would be reasonable for some in the party to downclimb more quickly to initiate a rescue, while the others continue to rappel.

In conclusion, this is clearly a complex situation where a lot decisions needed to be made as the day unfolded. We believe that this was an avoidable accident that fortunately resulted in very minor injuries considering the magnitude of the incident. We have the benefit of hindsight and were not involved in the group’s decision making process, so it’s impossible to know all the factors and how they were considered. Again, the intent of this analysis is not to place blame, but to allow others to learn from the experiences of their fellow climbers. We wish group members the best in their admirable cause and in their future mountaineering endeavors. We look forward to seeing them again in the hills pursuing climbs with new lessons learned under their belt.

Avalanche Advisory for Thursday 1-17-2013

Expires at midnight Thursday 1-17-2013

Tuckerman Ravine has CONSIDERABLE, MODERATE, and LOW avalanche danger.  The Lip, Center Bowl and Chute have Considerable avalanche danger.  Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely.  Right Gully, the Sluice, Left Gully, and Hillman’s Highway have Moderate avalanche danger.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. The Lobster Claw, the Lower Snowfields, and the Little Headwall have Low avalanche danger.  Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features. 

Huntington Ravine has MODERATE avalanche danger.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible.   

The mountain picked up a few inches of snow yesterday with up to another couple forecasted today.  We anticipate some brief shots of high intensity squalls this morning before getting into a clearing trend later in the afternoon.  SW and W winds between 40-60 mph (65-96kph) overnight were perfect loading speeds for our east facing Ravines.  These W winds will increase in velocity to 60-80mph (96-129kph) before retreating to 50-70 (80-112kph) later.  This all translates into an increasing avalanche danger that began yesterday and should peak at the tail end of today’s regional snow squalls.  The areas of most concern are the largest E facing slopes of Tuckerman’s Center Bowl.  As you move away from the center towards the Chute and the Sluice you will likely find more variability with both old icy surfaces and freshly deposited slabs.  In Huntington you should find a tremendous amount of spatial variability within each gully.  The recent thaw turned several gullies into shoe string ribbons going up the Ravine.  Therefore, it won’t take a lot of snow to generate pockets that are wall to wall in multiple pinch points that will be difficult to avoid.  So prepare to be on hard icy surfaces one minute and into new slab the next.  Expect all snow that is not the old concrete from the recent warm up to be harboring weak layers and varying degrees of instability.  Also anticipate bonding at the interface between the icy surfaces and the new low density slabs to be poor.  With increasing winds and more snow today I would also be ready for new crystals to become beat up and fragmented packing into denser slabs over pockets of unconsolidated snow that were deposited yesterday. Due to the slick nature of the old bed surfaces you can expect frequent spindrift sluffing again today perhaps build into slabs on mid-slope benches such as in Odell, Pinnacle and Central.   Because of all this you will probably find some slopes on the upper end of the Moderate rating in several locales in the Huntington gullies. 

In addition to the hazard of avalanches also keep in mind the potential for long sliding falls on the hard slick surfaces found in many locations.  As mentioned yesterday, if you fall anywhere expect to gain speed quickly and hit earthly objects because clear run-outs just don’t exist.  Also be ready for an arctic blast of very cold air bringing the mercury down to -10 F (-23C) today and -20 F (-29C) tonight.  Climbing in these conditions is rugged and where one small issue can snowball into something much worse.  Although this isn’t a recommendation for soloing I am personally quite wary of doing anything roped in these temperatures, because no matter how fast you are “roped = slow” for most of us.  A slight temperature reprieve for the first half of the holiday weekend should occur before diving back into very cold air Sunday night for several days.

 

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.Posted 8:23a.m. 1-17-2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

01-17-2013

 

 

 

 

Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday 1-16-2013

Expires at midnight Wednesday 1-16-2013

Tuckerman Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger.  The Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl, Chute, Left Gully and Hillmans’s Highway will have Moderate avalanche danger today.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible.  The Lobster Claw, Right Gully, Lower Snowfields and the Little Headwall all have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

Huntington Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger.   Central Gully, Pinnacle, Odell, and South will have Moderate avalanche danger today.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible.  North Gully, Damnation, Yale and the Escape Hatch have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

If you haven’t already seen the pictures Jeff posted yesterday on our website please do so.  These are a testament that a picture is worth a 1000 words in regards to how much snow we lost in our recent thaw.  The result of several days of melt is a variety of left over snow fields that differ in size from the football field to the postage stamp bushwhack.  How does today’s expected 3-5” (7.5-12.5cm) of snow effect this new situation?   Well, all of these areas have similar icy bed surfaces that new snow will be challenged to bond with at the interface.  Although current surfaces are textured and rough in most locales, the new snow falling with temperatures in the teens F will be cold enough to limit much adhesion.  The true bulls-eye data today will be a combination of total snowfall, what aspect your slope is facing, its size, and the amount of anchors that exist.  Today’s SW winds will bring new snow mostly into NE aspects. The obvious locations would usually be a watch out situation for the top of Odell, and South Gully in Huntington and the tops of The Chute, Left Gully, and Hillman’s in Tuckerman.  However they are currently very broken up with multiple anchors in the form of bushes, rocks and Cliff walls.  This will limit the problem compared to the same weather event under better conditions, but due to the poor bonding I would use caution on all steep slopes that receive newly loaded snow.  The potential of a human triggered avalanche is possible in many areas albeit it a smaller slide than under traditional mid-winter conditions.  With this said no matter what the size I would not want to be swept off my feet at the top of any gully right now as a full pin-ball environment exist pretty much everywhere.  This hazard pertains to a fall on icy slopes as well.  If you fall anywhere expect to gain speed quickly and hit earthly objects because clear run-outs just don’t exist.

The key points today and tonight:

1.**Snow pit stability tests will likely give you poor stability results in newly deposited windslab.  This should give you a good heads up for potential hazards. But realize there will be great variability in triggering potential within the Moderate rating depending whether you go to large open slopes such as the Tuckerman Headwall or bushy small slopes like the top of South Gully.

2. **Although many bed surfaces are quite small 3-5” of new snow today with an additional 1-3” tonight will create new instabilities on the mountain.  Precipitation associated with SW winds from 15-40mph, shifting to the W tonight, ramping to 90mph will give us an “upside down” snowpack with denser new slab over lighter unconsolidated snow in a variety of locations.

3. **Expect an increasing avalanche danger from Low, as of 7am today, through Moderate and perhaps towards CONSIDERABLE tonight.  The Center Tuckerman Bowl followed by its outlying neighbors, the Chute and Lip should be the leaders in today’s instability and concern.   Watch snow fall amounts, expect frequent sluffing on steep slopes and building up on mid-slope benches, and anticipate many areas to be at the upper end of the Moderate rating definition this afternoon.  A greater potential for natural avalanches being possible before the overnight hinge on the snow intensity rates, if the forecasted snow amounts are exceeded, and more importantly exactly how fast winds become today and the timing of the shift to hold from the W.  The later you are out today the more you will need to be wary of increasing danger.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.Posted 7:23a.m. 1-16-2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

01-16-2013 Print Version

Avalanche Advisory for Tuesday, 1-15-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, January 15, 2013.

All forecast areas of Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine have Low avalanche danger today. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

Well there isn’t really all that much to say about snow stability today. Friday through Monday of this past weekend were incredibly warm. In fact, Mt. Washington Observatory reported a record high temperature for the month of January on Sunday when it reached 48F (9C) at the top of the mountain. Relief from the January thaw came yesterday as temperatures began to fall back below freezing. Currently we’re at 18F (-7.6C) at Hermit Lake while the summit sits at 10F (-12C). The water that had been in the snowpack has refrozen and stabilized the slopes as well as just about anything can.

Overall snow stability is very good, so spend your time thinking about some of the other hazards you’ll encounter, such very slick and often hard snow surfaces. Long sliding falls are often a big problem with these conditions, but given the thin snow cover there are only a few locations where you’d slide a long ways before hitting something. A fall in steep terrain today would more appropriately be described as a rapid acceleration, high speed, tumbling fall with a high probability for blunt force trauma to result. If you plan to climb in steep terrain, which does include the Lion Head Winter Route, you might want to consider using rope and a belay to protect against the risk of falling.

Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, possibly 3”-5” (7.5-12.5cm), which will be landing on slick bed surfaces. Be sure to read tomorrow morning’s advisory before heading out, because it will likely be a different danger rating than we have today.

I’ll do my best to get out into all of our terrain today to check out the damage. Look for photos to be posted to our website this afternoon. From what I’ve seen so far of the lower part of the mountain, I would expect the Sherburne Ski Trail to be a very fast, icy trail with some possible water crossings at drainages.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 7:55am, January 15, 2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-01-15 Print Friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Monday, 1-14-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, January 14, 2013.

Tuckerman Ravine has Considerable and Low avalanche danger. The Sluice, Lip, and Center Bowl have Considerable avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely. All other forecast areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features. This is an unusual day as far as avalanche potential goes, so please read on for details.

Huntington Ravine has Moderate and Low avalanche danger. Central Gully and Pinnacle Gully have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. All other areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

Well, it sure is an interesting morning to be an avalanche forecaster. Hermit Lake is hovering just shy of 50F (10C) right now with thick fog up in the ravine. It’s been this way since early last night, and temperatures have been above freezing in the ravines since Friday. Yesterday, I thought we might escape without too much damage to an already thin snowpack, but the difference between yesterday and this morning is significant. The Cutler River leading out of Tuckerman has opened up completely and the Little Headwall is now a torrent of falling water. Today, temperatures will begin to fall back into normal winter numbers. The summit temps should go below freezing late morning and the rest of the mountain will follow in the early afternoon. This will begin a process of freezing the saturated upper layers of snow, but this process will take some time. Until then, we will continue to have free water within the snowpack percolating downward, finding small channels, and working its way into larger streams.

Today’s biggest avalanche problem is the potential for water in these streams to rise up into the snowpack and release wet avalanches. These may be wet slabs or loose wet avalanches, but either can be very dangerous due to their incredible mass. The locations where streams tend to flow all year and drain larger areas of the terrain hold the greatest potential for streams to exceed their capacity and overflow into the snowpack. The best examples of where we might see naturally triggered wet avalanches include the Lip, the Center Bowl, Sluice, Pinnacle, and Central Gully.

The avalanche potential in the rest of the forecast areas is lower than in these five slide paths, but remember that Low danger does not mean no danger. In many of these areas, there is less snow overall and less water draining down the gullies. I believe the probability that we’ll see avalanche activity here is at the level where “unlikely except in isolated terrain features” is the best way to describe the problem. The snowpack has already weathered a prolonged period of warm weather, so many of the potential weak layers have already been tested. Look at locations with pockets of deeper snow to be the ones that maybe have not been fully tested. Examples where I’d be on the lookout include the lower portions of the gullies in Huntington, also up high in Hillman’s and Left Gully, and in the mouth of Right Gully.

Ok, moving on from avalanches…today the mountain will begin to freeze up. Once this happens, conditions on steep snow will become treacherous. A slip, trip, or fall in steep terrain will need to be arrested immediately, and depending on how hard the crust sets up, this may be nearly impossible for even the most skilled mountaineer. Over the years we’ve seen enough of these lightning fast long sliding falls to know that they are not something to take lightly. Consider your terrain choices carefully this upcoming week. There are currently few locations where the runout of a long fall does not involve significant consequences.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 8:45am, January 14, 2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-01-14 Print Friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Sunday, 1-13-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, January 13, 2013.

Tuckerman Ravine has Considerable, Moderate, and Low avalanche danger today. The Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl, and Chute all have Considerable avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely. Lobster Claw, Right Gully, and Left Gully have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Hillman’s Highway, the Lower Snowfields and Little Headwall have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

Huntington Ravine has Moderate avalanche danger. Central, Pinnacle, South have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. North, Damnation, Yale, Odell, and the Escape Hatch have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.

It looks and feels like spring this morning on the mountain.  Summit temperatures are forecasted to be near 50F degrees (10C) today with an all-time January record of 47F (8C) hanging in the balance as southwest flow and morning sunshine collaborate to drive up temperatures. It is this warming that creates our avalanche concerns today.  As the heat penetrates our snowpack, any weak interface between layers could release its grip on layers above leading to a wet slab avalanche. This type of instability is really hard to predict for many reasons, both from a weather based forecasters position as well as from the climber or skiers perspective while traveling in steeper terrain. Areas of concern are those with deep deposits of snow and especially deep deposits of snow which sit in direct sunshine.  Bear in mind that tracks leading through these locations in no way guarantee stability.

A lot of melting as occurred in the last 36 hours which is creating some other situations to be wary of. Not only does free water in the snow pack distribute heat and lubricate bed surfaces, it also flows behind ice and builds in pressure and depth and occasionally bursts and sometimes only forms a deep pool of water best avoided. The typical spring melt-generated ice and rock fall reappear as potential hazards today after a long hiatus. Some areas below sunny buttresses and ice flows deserve a wide berth. Consideration of big chunks of ice and rock serving as triggers on warming, weakening slabs is justified.

Several areas in Huntington were dropped to Low danger today from Moderate yesterday. This is due to the amount of melting that took place and the overall quantity of snow in the gullies. Regardless of the rating, be head’s up around any larger snowfields sitting in steep terrain.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 8:40am, January 13, 2013. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Frank Carus, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-01-13 Print friendly