Avalanche Advisory for Sunday, 4-21-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain. A danger of falling ice exists and will persist until it all comes down.

Your best bet for finding good quality snow to ski or ride today will be to postpone your trip for a day. OK, I understand that’s not always possible, so if you’re reading this at one of the posting sites on the mountain, keep reading to get a sense of what you’ll be facing today. The forecast for Monday is looking pretty good, so if you have the opportunity to put it off a day, you will see better conditions.

Current conditions this morning in Tuckerman are very slick and icy. Yesterday I watched skiers and riders struggle to get there edges to bite into the rain crust. Even in lower-angled terrain, many of these people failed at this and ended up sliding to the bottom of the bowl. Thankfully only a few were injured. In large part I believe this is because people recognized the problem and chose not to climb very far up the slope. Since the snow surfaces have only frozen harder overnight, taking the conservative approach is a good idea for today. Falling in steep terrain today will result in rapid acceleration unless you arrest your fall immediately. You can improve your odds by using an ice axe and crampons, but even highly skilled mountaineers would find it difficult to stop once a fall has happened. These are the conditions where roped climbing techniques are far more appropriate than the traditional skis over the shoulder kickstepping.

Later in the day, there is hope for softening snow on south-facing aspects such as Right Gully or Lobster Claw. Temperatures are forecasted to remain well below normal for this time of the year, so it may not happen at all. The best we can hope for is that the winds calm down quickly and the rain crust reacts quickly to the solar energy. Aspects that only receive morning sun, e.g. Hillman’s or Left Gully, are unlikely to soften unless temperatures go above what is forecasted.

FALLING ICE is a concern today. Recent warm temps and rain have weakened the bonds that hold the ice to the rock faces. Dark colored rock can warm and melt ice even on cold days, which can send it crashing down unexpectedly. You can help yourself by avoiding icefall zones, such as the middle floor of the ravine and near Lunch Rocks, or minimizing your exposure time if you do go there.

CREVASSES/OPEN HOLES have been growing. The Lip is a great area to avoid. The waterfall is open, there are crevasses growing on either side, there is a deep avalanche crown line, and the waterfall has punched another hole in the snow down low in the Lip, to the lookers left of the Open Book area. Hillman’s Highway has a spot that resembles a ice waterslide leading down into a dirty icy slot. You do not want to fall into this hole! Other areas to avoid include the Little Headwall and the stream leading out of the ravine. Also expect problems near any exposed rocks, where moats may have been created from the snowpack’s downhill creep.

The Sherburne Ski Trail is closed about a half mile uphill of Pinkham Notch. At the rope, you will need to cross over to the hiking trail and walk down to the parking lot. Do not walk the ski trail below the rope–it’s not built for foot travel and you will contribute to the erosion of this trail.

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 Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters.
  • Posted at 7:30 a.m., April 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

2013-04-21 Printable

Avalanche Advisory for Saturday, 4-20-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain. A danger of falling ice exists and will persist until it all comes down.

Over this past week, Tuckerman Ravine has changed quite a bit. Melting conditions, though not excessively hot, took a toll on many locations. Yesterday, these changes were taking place before our very eyes. Hillman’s Highway sprung a leak just above the dogleg, the Lip waterfall opened up and triggered a wet slab avalanche, friends reported booting through running water up high in the Chute, and the stream bubbled up through the floor of the ravine near the bottom of Left Gully, running over the top of the snow. And this was all before the rain fell last night!

Today’s weather is not looking good for springtime recreation. Temperatures will be falling through the day and winds will remain strong. This will create a situation where the snowpack will be freezing from the surface layer downward. There is currently a lot of heat and moisture in the snow, which means the snow beneath the developing ice crust will be soft and mushy. I can already hear my knee ligaments screaming at me to take it easy today.

SLIPPERY TRAIL CONDITIONS should be expected today. Where there had been snow and slush there is now clean water ice, like the great Zamboni in the sky cleaned it all off in preparation for a new day. Traction devices such as microspikes and ski poles are recommended for travel to the bowl.

UNDERMINED SNOW is a significant concern today. As mentioned, many areas had water running beneath the snowpack. The snow that bridges these streams has been weakened in the past several days. You do not want to be the reason for one collapsing. In many cases you’ll simply be wet and uncomfortable, but in the worst case you may be swept  underneath a channel in the ice. Today, I have yet to see the area in the bowl where water was percolating through, but nevertheless I recommend staying well away from this area.

FALLING ICE is another concern. Warm temps and rain have weakened the bonds that hold the ice to the rock faces. Although today’s temperatures are going to fall below freezing, there is still going to be a chance for icefall to take place. If visibility is poor, you stand little chance to see it coming, let alone protect yourself somehow. Minimize the amount of time you’re in icefall zones, such as the middle floor of the ravine and near Lunch Rocks.

CREVASSES/OPEN HOLES have been growing. Yesterday’s avalanche area and the Lip itself is a great area to avoid. The waterfall is open, there are crevasses growing on either side of the Lip, and the waterfall has punched another hole in the snow down low in the Lip, to the lookers left of the Open Book area. Other areas to avoid include the Little Headwall and the stream leading out of the ravine. Also expect problems near any exposed rocks, where moats may have been created from the snowpack’s downhill creep.

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 7:10 a.m., April 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

2013-04-20 Printable

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, 4-19-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain. A danger of falling ice exists and will persist until it all comes down.

Clearing but windy conditions will dominate the daylight hours with SW winds in the 55-75 mph (90-120 kph) range diminishing slightly in the early afternoon.  Gusty conditions through the day and possibly thunderstorms in the evening due to a cold front passing will challenge those camping or caught out late. Rain will accompany this cold front and may be heavy at times. Though recent warm weather with sporadic refreezing has yielded a snowpack resistant to avalanching, there are many other hazards to be aware of including the following:

  1. Factor the possibility of FALLING ICE into your travel plans. The annual process where all the ice that formed during the winter crashes down has begun. Rain and warm temperatures make the problem worse.  We know it will happen, the question is exactly when. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are faster than  chunks of ice sliding and bouncing erratically down the snow. Lunch Rocks and the floor of the ravines are directly in the path of falling ice. There have been many significant injuries, as well as at least one fatality, due to this hazard. Creative planning can keep you safer by giving ice fall runouts a wide berth. The waterfall at the Lip is now melted out and flowing a significant volume of water which creates a deep and dangerous slot.
  2. Stay clear of CREVASSES. We have yet to see much of this problem yet, but they have begun to form in the upper Lip area as well as a couple of other isolated locations. Warm temperatures will cause the snowpack to creep downslope, which opens up deep cracks in the snowpack. These grow large enough for a climber or skier to fall into, and often they can’t be seen from above. The best way to know about this hazard is to climb up your intended descent route. If you see cracks in the snow, stay well away from the edges. Be aware of slots opening at the bases of cliffs as well as beneath frozen waterfalls which will continue to run water due to rain and warm weather. Probing ledges of snow near rocks with your ski pole is often a good idea.
  3. Avoid UNDERMINED SNOW and the Little Headwall. Right now this issue is mostly found in the streambed leading out of the ravine and on the Little Headwall. The Little Headwall has a large open hole in the steepest part of the route.  This hole has grown in the last couple days, and is threatening to collapse further. The same can be said for the snow bridges in the streambed above the Little Headwall.  We don’t recommend skiing out from the bowl. Hiking out on the trail is a faster and safer option.

Tomorrow marks the day of the Inferno Race. Tomorrow’s weather will create a new set of hazards due to falling temperatures. Be sure to check weather forecasts at the Mount Washington Observatory and National Weather Service as well as our Weekend Advisory, which we will post later this afternoon, for further details. Remember that there are no facilities open on the summit and no other option for descent other than traveling under your own power.

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 8:00 a.m., April 19, 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

2013-04-19 Print friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Thursday 4-18-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

As far as avalanche danger is concerned, we’re about as low as you can go right now. The reason for this is the rain we had earlier this week, which was followed by a light overnight freeze, and then a warm day yesterday and a freeze last night. This warm-cold cycle has a few names, such as a corn cycle or melt-freeze cycle, but the impact is the same. It helps to eliminate the layering in the snowpack, which leads to very good stability. Since the avalanche problem isn’t going to occupy precious and finite mental energies, we want you to put your available resources into the other ways you can stay safe today:

  1. Be aware of falling ice. The annual process where all the ice that formed during the winter crashes down into the Bowl has begun. Rain and warm temperatures make the problem worse.  We know it will happen, the question is exactly when. It’s your job to be aware of the hazard and have a plan in mind for what you’ll do when you see that dishwasher sized chunk of ice rocketing at you. Lunch Rocks and the floor of the ravine are directly in the path of falling ice.
  2. Stay clear of crevasses. We have yet to see much of this problem yet, but they have begun to form in the upper Lip area as well as a couple other isolated location. Warm temperatures will cause the snowpack to creep downslope, which opens up deep cracks in the snowpack. These grow large enough for a climber or skier to fall into, and many times they can’t be seen from above them. The best way to know about this hazard is to climb up your intended decent route. If you see cracks in the snow, stay well away from the edges.
  3. Avoid undermined snow and the Little Headwall. Right now this issue is mostly found in the streambed leading out of the ravine and on the Little Headwall. The Little Headwall has a large open hole in the steepest part of the route.  This hole has grown in the last couple days, and is threatening to collapse further. The same can be said for the snow bridges in the streambed above the Little Headwall. Yesterday I said to use caution if you decide to ski out from the Bowl; after seeing what I saw yesterday, I cannot recommend skiing out from the bowl. Hiking out on the trail is a faster and safer option. If you go this route and need to take off your skis or  board, you will likely encounter nasty postholing conditions.

The weather forecast for the next few days is an interesting one. If you’re planning a trip to the ravine for the weekend, for fun or for the Tuckerman Inferno race, I’d encourage you to closely monitor the higher summits forecasts put out by the Observatory and the NWS. We’re expecting tropical temperatures Friday with warm monsoon-like conditions late day and overnight, followed by a cold front that will cause temperatures to plummet during the day Saturday. I don’t foresee strong clearing conditions on the mountain until Sunday and Monday. It’s a good weekend to put away the small backpack in favor of the larger one so you can carry enough extra dry layers and comfort foods.

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 8:00 a.m., April 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

2013-04-18 Printable

Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday 4-17-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

It’s looking like today will turn out to be a pretty good day on the mountain, but you don’t need to rush uphill to get the goods before they’re gone. Instead, re-read the weather forecast, have a second cup of coffee, and wait for winds to diminish and the snow to soften up. Last night Mt. Washington received a little under a half inch of rain, which was followed by freezing temperatures up in the ravine. This is a great way to stabilize the snowpack and drop avalanche hazard to the low end of low. While it helps a lot with snow stability, it creates other problems that you’ll need to be prepared for, such as:

  1. Long sliding falls. For many people, steep icy slopes are more manageable once the skis are on their feet. However, you’ve got to climb up one way or another. We highly recommend bringing an ice axe and crampons for safety on the way up, especially on days like this where the snowpack will start out very hard and icy. Later today south-facing slopes will hopefully soften up and make this less of a concern.
  2. Falling ice. The annual process where all the ice that formed during the winter crashes down into the Bowl has begun. Rain events like last night and sun and warming like we’ll see today make the problem worse. We know it will happen, the question is exactly when. It’s your job to be aware of the hazard and have a plan in mind for what you’ll do when you see that dishwasher sized chunk of ice rocketing at you. Lunch Rocks and the floor of the ravine are directly in the path of falling ice.
  3. Crevasses. We have yet to see much of this problem yet, but it’s going to start to make an appearance soon. Warm temperatures cause the snowpack to creep downslope, which opens up deep cracks in the snowpack each season. Many times these can’t be seen from above them. The best way to know about this hazard is to climb up your intended decent route.
  4. Undermined snow. Right now this issue is mostly found in the streambed leading out of the ravine and on the Little Headwall. The Little Headwall has a large open hole in the steepest part of the route.  This hole has grown in the last couple days, and is threatening to collapse further. The same can be said for the snow bridges in the streambed above the Little Headwall. Use caution if you decide to ski out from the Bowl. Hiking out on the trail is a faster and safer option.

We’ve been fielding a lot of questions lately about overall conditions in the ravine. Generally we’ve got good snow coverage right now. It’s certainly better than this time last season. Most runs are filled in from top to bottom. Remember that snow quality changes quickly though. We currently have the Sherburne open to the bottom, it’s full of moguls, bare patches and very thin spots. A few days of warmth and rain can quickly eat away at the remaining snow down low, forcing us to hang the “trail closed” rope at various points. We’ll do our best to keep you posted for changes when they happen. Also of note is the 2013 Tuckerman Inferno is this Saturday, hosted by Friends of Tuckerman Ravine.

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 8:00 a.m., April 17, 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

2013-04-17 Printable

Avalanche Advisory for Tuesday 4-16-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely, but watch for unstable snow in isolated terrain features.

I’m finally feeling the onset of spring in the air. In part that’s because it’s currently colder at Pinkham than at Hermit Lake, but both are warm. Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day in Tuckerman with most routes getting fairly heavy ski traffic. As expected, our concerns with stability of the most recent snow diminished most quickly on the sunny side of the  Bowl, such as in the Sluice and Lip. In many areas you can see where the ski tracks cleared away the fresh snow and left behind the gray colored older surfaces.

The temperatures have been above freezing in the ravine since yesterday. A cold front is passing today that will drop the cloud layer, kick up the wind velocities, and provide some afternoon rain showers, but it will not be cold enough to drop temps below freezing until after dark. Overall stability is good today, with a noteworthy exception that you should be aware of. In some areas where the new snow was able to collect more deeply, the heat may have not yet fully penetrated the snowpack. This would leave weakening wet slabs sitting on top of a weak mixture of dry snow and graupel. This problem will be isolated in nature, and there is a good chance that it won’t fracture out as a large slab. However, the nature of the terrain in which you may find this problem is such that you wouldn’t want even a small wet sluff to grab your skis or board and carry you downslope. Just imagine trying to swim through wet concrete while being pulled down a slope like Central Gully in Huntington. The piles at the bottom could be deep enough for burial, as well. I think this issue is isolated and will produce small avalanches or wet sluffs, but be heads up about it nevertheless.

Warm temperatures this week have gotten me thinking about the ANNUAL SPRINGTIME HAZARDS, such as FALLING ICE, UNDERMINED SNOW, and CREVASSES. These issues are going to be on display more and more in the coming weeks. Do your homework online to learn about these issues, or if you’re on the mountain and have questions, ask a Snow Ranger, volunteer ski patroller, or caretaker for information.

The Little Headwall has an open hole on skier’s right side below the steepest part of the route.  This hole has grown in the last couple days, and is threatening to collapse further. The same can be said for the snow bridges in the streambed above the Little Headwall. Use caution if you decide to ski out from the Bowl. Hiking out on the trail is a faster and safer option.

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 8:00 a.m., April 16, 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

2013-04-16 Printable

Avalanche Advisory for Monday, 4-15-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger. The Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl, Chute, and Hillman’s Highway have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully. All other forecast areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely, but watch for unstable snow in isolated terrain features.

The Little Headwall has an open hole on skier’s right side below the steepest part of the route.  Though this is the easiest way to ski out of the bowl, it remains a challenging run.

Huntington Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger. Central, Pinnacle, and Odell have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible in those locations. North, Damnation, Yale, South Gully, and the Escape Hatch have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely. Watch for unstable snow in isolated terrain features.

4.3″ (11 cm) of new snow fell through the day yesterday and was blown or sluffed into lee areas and benches.  Areas such as beneath the steeper drops in Right and Left Gullies and Lobster Claw, beneath the ice in the Center Bowl, the upper third of Hillman’s accumulated deeper snow.  The same process was at work in Huntington Ravine below steeper sections of Central and Pinnacle gullies. The degree to which this snow formed slabs which could be triggered by a skier or climber is one concern today. Several reports of deeper snow in these areas yesterday as well as the tendency of rimed snow (graupel) to form weak slabs is a red flag this morning. Today’s heat will simultaneously reduce the threat of these slabs propagating long cracks and sliding but will increase the threat of this new snow sluffing naturally and underfoot in what could be heavy and tricky to manage point release avalanches. Skiers and climbers can mitigate this risk by choosing ascent routes carefully, staying out from under other skiers and climbers, and avoiding runouts.

Cold conditions last night most likely froze the older surface into a hard crust that will be a challenging travel surface in steeper wind exposed terrain. This surface will soften in the expected heat today. Low 30’s with light SW winds (5-20 mph) will allow surfaces to soften in the sun as well as in shadier areas as the temperature spikes this afternoon. Icefall is becoming a real threat and larger pieces of ice are beginning to threaten “Lunch Rocks” as well as the floor, the approach to Right Gully and the Sluice.  North Damnation and Yale have a similar threat. Wise mountain travelers limit their exposure and their risk by choosing their route carefully.

Be prepared for potentially icy and difficult climbing.  It’s a good idea when skiing in Tuckermans to carry a lightweight ice axe and crampons for easier and safer travel in addition to avalanche safety gear.

The Harvard Cabin is closed for the season. Hermit Lake is the only area in the Cutler River drainage where camping is permitted.

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 8:05 a.m., April 15, 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

2013-04-15 Print friendly

Avalanche Advisory for 4-14-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight tonight.

Tuckerman Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger. 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. All other forecast areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely, but watch for unstable snow in isolated terrain features.

The Little Headwall has an open hole on skier’s right side below the steepest part of the route. Several people fell into this hole yesterday, fortunately without injury.  Though this is the easiest way to ski out of the bowl, it remains a challenging run. Hiking out is the easiest option.

Huntington Ravine has MODERATE and LOW avalanche danger. Central, Pinnacle, Odell, and South Gullies have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible in those locations. North, Damnation, Yale and Escape Hatch Gullies have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely. Watch for unstable snow in isolated terrain features.

We are starting out this morning with a Low danger rating in all forecast areas.  About an inch of new snow has fallen this morning at Hermit Lake. The degree that our avalanche danger increases depends upon the intensity and timing  of forecasted snow and wind today.  If we receive the upper end of the 1-3″ forecasted on 45-60 mph winds, the potential for avalanches will increase.  Moderate rated areas in both ravines are in the lee of WNW winds and as a result could be loaded and crossloaded with windslabs which will develop as winds ramp up and transport the new snow.  Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that the Low danger rating carries with it the possibility of small avalanches in isolated areas so be on the lookout for slabs of unstable snow on steep sections of Low rated areas.

Skiing yesterday defied the forecast and was soft and spring-like, especially on south facing slopes. Last night was a good bit colder than Friday night so surfaces could be icier beneath today’s new snow. Be prepared for the potential for difficult booting.  Experienced ski mountaineers typically carry a lightweight ice axe and crampons for easier and safer travel in addition to avalanche safety gear.

The Harvard Cabin is closed for the season. Hermit Lake is the only area in the Cutler River drainage where camping is permitted.

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 7:50 a.m., April 14, 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

2013-04-14 Print friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Saturday, 4-13-2013

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight tonight.

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.

Well the snow that we were hoping for yesterday never really materialized. What we got instead was about 2/3 rds of an inch (2cm) of sleet, freezing rain and wet snow. Hourly data collection seems to have added up to more snow but due to settlement there is little in the way of dry, soft snow.   Probably the most important piece of data we see this morning isn’t the actual snowfall amount, it’s that the last few hours when precipitation was falling on the summit, it was recorded as freezing drizzle. So if there was truly snow mixed in with the other types, it’s locked in place by a frozen rain crust. All in all, skiing will seem like a survival training exercise due to the icy surface with little edge holding characteristics.  Climbing conditions should be pretty good for cramponing though approaches and lower angle routes like Escape Hatch and South Gully could be “punchy” unconsolidated, partially frozen crust. Steeper gullies will be firm enough to make steep sections less secure due to the limited boot penetration in the older, hard surface. Long sliding falls are the standout hazard type today with an ice axe, crampons and the ability to effectively employ belay methods being some of the keys to safe travel. Prepare for reduced visibility at times due to the unsettled weather with WNW winds in the 25-40 mph (40-65 kph) range with higher gusts to remind you that you are climbing on one of the windiest peaks in the world.

Springtime hazards worth mentioning include ice dams on the ice routes in Huntington, soft snow bridges over streambeds including the Little Headwall, and melting out  and thinly bridged moats around rocks and even some early crevasses in the Lip and Center Bowl.  A fairly significant glide crack (from the snowpack creeping downhill) opened up in the Lower Snowfields last week which is currently obscured but could swallow an unlucky ski or boot.

Our sincerest sympathies go out to the wife and child as well as the friends of Craig Patterson, an experienced avalanche forecaster for the Utah DOT, who was killed by an avalanche on Thursday while doing fieldwork in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The Harvard Cabin is closed for the season; we are no longer issuing Huntington-specific forecasts at the cabin, but will continue posting this version of 5-scale advisories at the cabin.  The only camping permitting on the eastern side of Mount Washington is at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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 at Hermit Lake Shelters.
  • Posted 8:30 a.m., Saturday, April 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

2013-04-13 Print friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, 4-12-2013

This advisory expires at midnight Friday, April 12, 2013

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely.

We are starting out the day with Low avalanche danger in all forecast areas. As precipitation accumulates today, the avalanche danger will rise. This will require those venturing into avalanche terrain today to carefully evaluate the snow to determine it’s potential to avalanche.  Currently, the forecast is for 1-3″ of snow and sleet accumulation this morning with freezing rain and sleet in the afternoon with mostly snow expected above 4,000′, though there is strong uncertainty in the timing and precipitation types with this storm.  That translates to uncertainty in the exact timing of our avalanche forecast.  One thing that is consistent is the one half to one inch of total liquid expected out of the storm with enough of it falling as snow between now and Saturday afternoon to allow for a forecast of 6-12″ of frozen precipitation on the ground.  Until then, skiers or climbers should expect a mix of precipitation types below Hermit Lake gradually becoming more snow from there to the summit. Skiers should expect and prepare for a hard icy surface beneath the incoming precipitation with along sliding fall hazard to exist before the new snow and sleet begin to create an avalanche threat. Sounds like fun, huh?

By this afternoon we may have a better handle on skiing and climbing conditions for the weekend. It doesn’t look good for anything other than an elevated avalanche danger tomorrow as a west wind will ramp up and further load slopes and gullies with an easterly aspect like the Lip and Center Bowl and Central and Pinnacle Gullies. If the cold air remains in place and prevents too much warm air from affecting precipitation and the winds are right, then our snow fall totals on the Alpine Garden and summit ridges will be more than adequate to create a significant avalanche hazard. Be sure to check our Weekend Update as well as tomorrow morning’s advisory for more details. Ice dams, weakened snowbridges over streams and off trail postholing as well as narrow slots developing in Tuckerman and moats near rock faces are among the hazards which exist today.

The Harvard Cabin is closed for the season; we are no longer issuing Huntington-specific forecasts at the cabin, but will continue posting this version of 5-scale advisories at the cabin.  The only camping permitting on the eastern side of Mount Washington is at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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 at Hermit Lake Shelters.
  • Posted 7:55 a.m. 4-12-2013. 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

2013-04-12 Print version