Avalanche Advisory for Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This advisory expires tonight at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has Considerable and Low avalanche danger. The Lip, Center Bowl, Chute, Left Gully, and Hillman’s Highway have Considerable avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered avalanches are likely. All other areas have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human-triggered avalanches are unlikely except for small avalanches in isolated terrain features. Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when traveling in avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Rain today will create conditions that can lead to wet slab avalanche releases. In the Lip and Center Bowl, the problem stems primarily from the potential for runoff to overwhelm the waterfall’s existing drainage channels. This has led to very large destructive avalanches in past events like it. Other locations posted at Considerable have received new snow in the past 24 hours, which may have been capped off with freezing rain. As we warm further and transition to rain, there is a potential for this new snow to slide as either a wet slab or a wet loose avalanche. As precipitation changes back to snow later today, the problems created by rain on surface slabs will subside, but percolating water coursing down through the snowpack and into the headwall may still keep alive the chance for a waterfall blowout.

WEATHER: Put simply, today will be a nasty day in the mountains. Seriously, if you are reading this before leaving from Pinkham, I encourage you to think about how much you enjoy being soaked to the bone with temperatures in the 30’s F. Unless this is just your cup of tea, you might want to find an alternative to hiking to the bowl today. We’ve had a lot of precipitation fall on the mountain in the last 24 hours. Precipitation began as snow across much of the higher terrain, leaving a little more than 3” of snow at the summit before changing over to freezing rain. I don’t yet have a rain total for Hermit Lake, but at home in Conway I received 1.85” of rainfall by 5am. The potential exists for another 0.25” to 0.5” of rain to fall on the mountain today, possibly heavy at times this morning. As is always the case in the mountains, weather can come faster and heavier than the broader synoptic scale forecasts may indicate. It looks like more snow at the upper elevations in the coming days, so pay attention if your plans involve a trip to the mountains this week.

SNOWPACK: Today’s Considerable rating might be on the conservative side for areas such as Hillman’s. 3” of dense snow may not be much, but I do suspect some loading took place while winds were strong from the SSE and temperatures were below freezing. Rain on this new snow layer may simply be absorbed, or it may produce smaller wet loose avalanches. In the worst case scenario, an upside down slab may have developed that could release. Over in the Lip and Center Bowl, the concerns are much more serious. The hazard potential there is virtually unpredictable. There are no reliable tests or other ways to detect whether or not the waterfall will blow out a deep slab. Traveling into the bowl, even just into the flats near the bottom, puts you in the line of fire from this type of avalanche.

OTHER HAZARDS: The typical springtime hazards have emerged and it will be challenging to protect yourself from them today. You should be aware of the potential for falling ice, crevasses, and undermined snow. These objective hazards exist and to a large extent are beyond your control. My advice for today is to avoid the potential hazard entirely.

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 the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 6:35a.m., Tuesday, April 21, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-21

 

Avalanche Advisory for Monday, April 20,2015

This advisory expires tonight at 12:00 midnight.

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

Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when traveling in avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Temperatures will hover around the freezing mark in our Ravines today with wet snow and rain creating the potential for wet loose avalanches. Keep a close eye on the type and rate of precipitation since it will determine if more significant avalanche problems will develop. It is conceivable that the 3-6” (7.5-15cm) of snow and sleet forecast for the summit will create wet slab issues as rain begins to fall on the new snow. This could push our rating into a Moderate danger rating with human triggered avalanches becoming more likely in the steepest terrain.

OTHER HAZARDS: The usual spring hazards are in full bloom this week.  Large flows of ice have numerous areas where horizontal cracks are forming and the Sluice ice, above Lunch Rocks, is already missing some chunks. Rain will undoubtedly spawn more falling ice as it weakens the ice-to-cliff bond and melts channels through ice columns. Reduced visibility due to summit fog, flat light and snow will challenge navigation as well as your ability to identify and manage objective hazards. Additionally, the snowpack is slowly gliding downhill as a unified mass and is pulling away from cliffs, creating crevasses and moats. These may change quickly, and though many filled in with sluff debris yesterday, they will now doubt grow larger with this week’s weather. Undermined snow is creating challenges for exiting the Bowl and will become more undermined and more dangerous with increased meltwater and runoff. While the Little Headwall is still skiable, there is open water both above and below, with large moguls throughout. The safer exit from the Bowl is to carry your skis down the hiking trail to HoJo’s where you can easily pick up the Sherburne Ski Trail. As of yesterday, it was just possible to make it to the parking lot, though the riding involved threading the needle through bare patches while raking your bases over exposed rocks. It may be best to cross back over to the Tuckerman Ravine trail as the snow disappears. Please respect our advice when we string the rope across the ski trail…foot traffic damages the trail and leads to erosion.

WEATHER and SNOWPACK: After perfect spring conditions yesterday, the weather is taking a turn for the worse. Precipitation will start around lunch time with wet snow before changing to sleet, freezing rain and then rain tonight. High winds and fog will challenge visibility and make for unpleasant above tree-line travel, but I don’t expect this wet snow to be moved along the ground and drift into the wind slabs that you would see in colder, drier winter conditions. A slushy surface is the most likely conditions you will find today with firm and less edge-able snow beneath in some areas. Unsettled weather is on tap all week with proverbial April rain and snow showers expected most 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 Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 7:45 a.m., Monday, April 20, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-20 print friendly

 

Shortness of Breath, Tuckerman Ravine Trail

At approximately 0930 on a day which would see nearly 3000 visitors on the mountain, Snow Rangers received a relayed radio call from Gorham Dispatch via Mount Washington State Park staff of a hiker experiencing shortness of breath on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. One Snow Ranger and a MWVS Patroller descending to crossover #7, assessed the patient and transferred care from a nurse who had happened upon the gentlemen and rendered assistance. Personnel  transported the patient via snowmobile and transferred him to Gorham Ambulance. The patient was transported to Memorial Hospital and flown by helicopter to the cardiac care unit at Maine Medical Center.

The laws of probability would dictate that some percentage of visitors will experience a form of trauma while engaging in a high risk activity like steep skiing or climbing in our terrain. Those same laws also support the reality that medical emergencies in otherwise healthy people also emerge. It is great to have the assistance of bystanders when situations arise since a busy day increases the chance that our personnel and equipment may be stretched thin by emerging incidents. Kudos to this nurse who stepped up to help a stranger in need.

Knee Pain, Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Snow Rangers and MWVSP members treated a woman who fell into the soft snow alongside the Tuckerman Ravine trail. Patient complained of knee pain, was treated and later transported via snow cat to PNVC at 1700.

Long Sliding Fall – Chute

At approximately 1600, a skier took a long sliding fall down the Chute and suffered a lower leg injury. Patient was treated and assisted down the Tuckerman Ravine trail to Hermit Lake and then transported via snow cat to PNVC at 1700.

Avalanche Advisory for Sunday, April 19, 2015

This advisory expires tonight at 12:00 midnight.

All forecast areas of Tuckerman Ravine have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features. Unstable snow may exist on isolated terrain features.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We have stopped issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own stability assessments when traveling through avalanche terrain. A danger of falling ice and rock exists.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Yesterday’s expected snow did come, but did not result in a widespread loading event. Instead, the ravine is covered in a veneer of heavily rimed crystals, with the possibility for some areas to have collected deposits a few inches deep. This leaves loose avalanches as the avalanche threat today, although it will not be a very threatening problem. Generally, the snowpack will be very stable; the other mountain hazards will be a greater threat than avalanches.

FALLING ICE will be a concern today. Lunch Rocks and under the ice in the Center Bowl are the locations most at risk. Your best bet is to not spend time unnecessarily in these locations. E.g., don’t send your kids up into the Center Bowl with their sleds—this is a bad idea that seems to be gaining in popularity. Falling ice is a very real threat that has injured numerous people through the years. Probably not a single one of them actually thought it could have happened to them.

UNDERMINED SNOW is also a problem. You’ll find this in any location where a stream flows under the snowpack. Prominent examples are found in the Little Headwall and the streambed above it, as well as in Hillman’s Highway and Right Gully.

CREVASSES are beginning to open up, as is the waterfall hole in the Lip. Currently the largest crevasses are in the Lip, right near where the bootpack goes up along the skiers’ left side. If you head up this way, remember that the crack you see in the surface can be much larger and longer underneath the surface. Assess your intended route for this hazard and give these openings a wide berth.

WEATHER: Yesterday we received about an inch of heavy wet rimed snow crystals. This fell along with an impressively close display of thunder and lightning. I’m sure anyone above treeline when this came in must have felt a little uneasy about the exposure. Today, clearing skies, warming temperatures, and diminishing wind speeds will make a pleasant day in the mountains. Remember, you are going into the mountains, so be responsible for yourself and your group with enough clothing and equipment to keep yourselves warm and dry.

The Sherburne Ski Trail is still open to the parking lot. There are numerous bare patches along the way. Be ready for immense moguls and challenging skiing, especially if you’re unaccustomed to skiing with a large pack and your legs are tired from a long day.

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 the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 7:45 a.m., Sunday, April 19, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-19

Glissading With Crampons

At approximately 1430, a pair of climbers made the all too common mistake of glissading without first removing their crampons.  The resulting trauma to the lower leg of the less experienced member of the party resulted in a minor sprain. The patient was transported via Pisten Bully to Pinkham Notch.

Avalanche Advisory for Saturday, April 18, 2015

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

This morning, all forecast areas of Tuckerman Ravine have LOW avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.  This afternoon, Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl and Chute will have MODERATE avalanche danger. Natural avalanches will be unlikely but human triggered avalanches will be possible. Evaluate snow, weather and terrain carefully.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We have stopped issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own stability assessments when traveling through avalanche terrain. A danger of falling ice will begin to increase, along with other spring hazards, with the seasonal warm-up.  These hazards will persist until melt-out as we transition into early summer.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Wind Slabs will build this afternoon as wind carries and deposits 2-4” (5-10cm) of new snow in our start zones. The exact size and touchiness of these slabs will depend on the density of the snow and timing of the wind increase. Generally speaking, the new snow will be “upside down” with denser, wind packed snow over lighter density and therefore weaker snow. The wind slab problem will increase into the evening as snow showers drop another trace to 2”. Until that time when these wind slabs build, minor and manageable Wet Loose avalanche activity is possible as morning sun heats our south and southeast facing slopes.  Steep slopes that have seen a lot of ski traffic generally have less of this type of problem. Areas without recent ski traffic have the greatest potential for larger sluffs.

WEATHER: Bluebird skies, calm winds and temperatures hovering near the freezing mark this morning will give way to building clouds, mixed precipitation and snow this afternoon. Currently, light westerly summit winds in the 20-35 mph range are blowing but will increase to the 50-70 mph range this afternoon. Hour by hour forecast models indicate that the mixed precipitation will begin in the early afternoon hours and quickly change to snow as temperatures drop. This frontal activity will raise clouds capable of producing intense shower activity, which will play out as thunder storms at lower elevations, so the exact amount of snow is hard to pin down. Two to four inches (5-10cm) of snowfall during daylight hours is predicted which, when coupled with building winds, is driving our increased avalanche danger rating. Navigation will become increasingly challenging as visibility diminishes with fog and blowing snow.

OTHER HAZARDS: The snowpack is slowly moving downhill as a unified mass and is pulling away from cliffs, creating crevasses. New snow may obscure these slots with easily breakable snow bridges. Be aware of what is above you today, especially as the sun continues to bake south faces this morning.  Realize that hanging out at Lunch Rocks puts you directly in the runout of large pieces of falling ice. Also, undermined snow is creating challenges for exiting the Bowl. While the Little Headwall is still skiable, there is open water both above and below. The best exit from the Bowl may involve walking to Connection Cache and possibly farther. Numerous areas of large ice have horizontal cracks forming and the Sluice ice, above Lunch Rocks, is already missing some chunks.

SNOWPACK: Nighttime temperatures allowed refreezing last night. Expect a mix of harder surfaces where crampons would be helpful if not necessary, as well as a breakable crust that gives way to deeper slushier corn snow. As temperatures drop this afternoon, shadier aspects which did not benefit from the softening power of the morning sun will become even harder. The potential for long sliding falls and very difficult self-arresting conditions should be on your mind today.

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 the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 8:00 a.m., Saturday, April 18, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-18

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, April 17, 2015

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human-triggered avalanches are unlikely. Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when traveling in avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Wet loose avalanches continue as an unlikely threat today as temperatures hover just above freezing. Steep slopes that have seen a lot of ski traffic generally have less of this type of problem. Areas without recent ski traffic have the greatest potential for a larger sluff. The hazard of these heavy, wet piles of snow moving downhill comes from their ability to bulldoze you into bushes, rocks or over cliffs or to push your boards in expected directions.

OTHER HAZARDS: The typical spring hazards are showing themselves.  Numerous areas of large ice have horizontal cracks forming and the Sluice ice, above Lunch Rocks, is already missing some chunks. Be aware of what is above you on a warm day and realize that eating lunch at Lunch Rocks puts you directly in the runout of large pieces of falling ice. Today’s warm temperatures and rain showers will increase the likelihood of this annual hazard. During this period of falling ice every year we do not recommend sitting at Lunch Rocks even though it may have a long tradition for you. The vast majority of icefall injuries over the past 50 years have occurred at Lunch Rocks also dubbed, “Icefall Rocks”. Reduced visibility due to summit fog will challenge navigation as well as your ability to identify and manage other objective hazards. The snowpack is slowly moving downhill as a unified mass and is pulling away from cliffs, creating crevasses. These may change quickly, so anticipate them growing in size. Undermined snow is creating challenges for exiting the Bowl. While the Little Headwall is still skiable, there is open water both above and below. The best exit from the Bowl may involve walking to Connection Cache and possibly farther.

WEATHER: The weaker of two cold fronts arrived this morning, bringing light rain and mixed precipitation showers depending on elevation, along with moderate to strong summit winds and fog. The amount of rain and precipitation associated with this front is minimal, and won’t change our snowpack much. Tonight, temperatures will drop as the next cold front arrives, bringing 2-4” of snow on Saturday. Northwest winds with the potential for 2-6” (5-15 cm) total of snow by the end of the storm Saturday afternoon will change things quite a bit. After the warm spell of sunny corn skiing, followed by rain, we will return to wintry conditions Saturday and Sunday with an icy snowpack beneath fresh wind slab.

 SNOWPACK: The near freezing conditions over the past couple of day helped to firm up and preserve our snow at ravine elevations after last Friday’s rain and thaw. In Tuckerman Ravine, plenty of ski traffic Wednesday and Thursday tested and compacted our slopes and helped to ease our minds about wet slab avalanches. Being a generally cautious person, I wouldn’t leave my beacon, probe and shovel behind for lots of reasons.  Most of these are unlikely, but consider a large icefall or a subsurface meltwater blowout as an unusual, but not impossible, potential trigger. These are just of couple of reasons why we will continue to wearing our avalanche PPE through late spring.  As our snowpack melts, thin spots develop and firm or icy surfaces are exposed so be aware that an ice axe or self-arrest ski pole and crampons may be worthwhile weapons in your quiver.

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 the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 7:45 a.m. Friday, April 17, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-17 print friendly

Wounded Skier Sherburne Ski Trail

At approximately 1600, Snow Rangers received word via radio that a skier with a laceration was being treated on the Sherburne Ski Trail. Snow Rangers and MWVSP members responded to find that the patient had been treated and the wound properly dressed by a recreating ski patroller and was being transported down the trail in a sled or on a snowboard. Interviews revealed that the subject had received a full depth laceration around 8” long just above the knee after falling in the wet, slushy snow.  The person skiing behind her was following too closely and no doubt learned a harsh but important lesson about the need for safe following distances and controlled skiing in a backcountry environment.