Avalanche Advisory for Thursday, April 16, 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: Cold temperatures returned to the mountain last night, helping to stabilize our snowpack. Freezing conditions help bond grains of snow together deeper in the snowpack and bridge over deep weak layers that may still exist. This leaves skier induced wet loose, also known as sluff, avalanches as our primary avalanche threat today. Steep slopes that have seen a lot of ski traffic generally have less of this type of problem. Areas that bake in the sun with no ski traffic have the greatest potential for a sizable 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 beginning to show 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 very warm temperatures will exacerbate 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”.

The snow 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: Once again sunny skies will rule with summit temperatures soaring to 40F, associated with winds increasing to from 40 to 60mph.  Tonight we will start a period of unsettled weather with mixed precipitation on the summits, potentially rain in avalanche terrain. This will continue Friday, and is currently forecast to persist on Saturday.  We’ll certainly get into this weekend weather forecast in tomorrow’s advisory and Weekend Update.  Until then enjoy the sun, wear your sunscreen, and keep spring hazards on the brain.

SNOWPACK: The near freezing conditions over the past couple of days 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 has tested and compacted all 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 unusal, 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. Thursday, April 16, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-16 print friendly

Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday, April 15th, 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: Avalanche danger today is Low as the past five days have had a stabilizing effect on the snowpack. Warm temperatures during the day and colder temperatures at night trend towards making an isothermal snowpack. The ravine has just about reached this point, creating several days in a row of Low danger. The largest stability hazard we see for today is sluff piles (skier induced wet loose) moving downhill and slowly generating more mass, becoming large enough to carry a skier, rider or climber to an undesired location. If you are traveling above cliffs, managing this will be important.

OTHER HAZARDS: Hazards other than avalanches are beginning to rear their heads and are worth looking for as much, if not more, than unstable snow.  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.  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 snow is slowly moving downhill as a unified mass and is pulling away from cliffs, creating crevasses that while may not eat you whole yet, are certainly big enough to swallow a ski. 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: Another nice day is upon us, although just a hair cooler than yesterday, with summit temperatures climbing to the mid 20’sF. Sun will once again reign with winds from the NW increasing to 60, gusting to 70mph.  Tonight we will refreeze again falling into the teens locking up the mountain snowpack.  Thursday will see a slight warm up with more sun before trending towards some unsettled weather for Friday and Saturday.

SNOWPACK: The past several days of glorious weather has been pushing us quickly towards a classic spring snowpack.  Initially, some around the clock melting raised some concerns for wet slabs as we transitioned from a cold snowpack towards an isothermal one.  Freezing nights have eased the wet slab potential allowing for a slower transition that snowpacks like.  Lock up will happen again tonight with the coldest night of the week in store. Expect the snowpack to become more stable and firm before daytime heating softens the surface.  Crampons and an ice axe are a good addition to avalanche PPE. Many carry both microspikes for the approach and switch to crampons for steeper terrain.  This is smart thinking as microspikes are not crampons. Skiers and climbers who get an early start, or finishes late, may encounter conditions conducive to long sliding falls. Be wary of a frozen snowpack lock up late in the day which can happen remarkably quick.  Don’t get too greedy for “just one more run” as the late day shadowline rips towards you across the 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 Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-04-15

Avalanche Advisory for April 14, 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: Avalanche danger today is Low as the past four days have had a stabilizing effect on the snowpack. Warm temperatures during the day and colder temperatures at night make an isothermal snowpack. The ravine has just about reached this point, creating several days in a row of Low danger. The largest hazard we see today is slough piles moving downhill and slowly generating more mass, becoming big enough to carry a skier or climber to an undesired location. If you are traveling above cliffs, slough management will be important.

OTHER HAZARDS: Hazards other than avalanches are beginning to rear their heads and are worth looking for as much, if not more, than unstable snow. The Icefall has horizontal cracks forming across it and the Sluice ice is missing 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. The snow is slowly moving downhill as a unified mass and is pulling away from cliffs, creating crevasses that while may not eat you whole yet, are certainly big enough to swallow a ski. 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: Bluebird days on Sunday and Monday allowed countless skiers and climbers to enjoy warm spring snow. A cold front is currently moving through the region, having delivered freezing rain, ice pellets, rain, and hurricane force winds to the summit of Mount Washington during the night. As the day progresses and high pressure builds throughout the morning, clouds are forecasted to depart along with decreasing winds and steady temperatures.

SNOWPACK: Racers during the Inferno on Saturday experienced the result of a frozen saturated snowpack with rock hard surfaces galore. Sunday and Monday brought warm temperatures and the annual migration of spring skiers to Mount Washington. While temperatures during the nights stayed warm, last night’s freeze helped mitigate concerns we had about wet slab avalanches. With temperatures today and tonight remaining slightly colder than the previous days, expect the snowpack to become more stable, even firm in some areas. When traveling in avalanche terrain in this weather with snow conditions as they are, crampons and an ice axe are a good addition to avalanche PPE. Skiers and climbers who get early starts or late finishes may encounter conditions conducive to long sliding falls.

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 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 14, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Helon Hoffer and Jeff Lane, Snow Rangers
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2713

2015-04-14

Avalanche Advisory for Monday, April 13, 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 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: Loose wet avalanches are the primary threat today, with a remote possibility of wet slabs hanging in the shadows. The problems are being driven by yesterday’s warming, the mid-elevation warm band overnight, and today having some of the warmest temperatures we’ve had yet this season. Overall, avalanche activity is unlikely aside from loose wet sluffing in areas that saw few skiers or riders yesterday. The wet slab problem could create a large avalanche, but we feel the likelihood of this taking place is low enough to warrant a Low rating. However, the snowpack is not so stable at this point that I’d leave the beacon, shovel, and probe in the car.

We are also beginning to see weather conducive to the annual spring hazards, such as FALLING ICE, CREVASSE FORMATION, AND UNDERMINED SNOW. These have been kept in check by the cold temps so far this spring, but nevertheless, be alert for them today and in the coming weeks. The streambed from the floor of the ravine to the Little Headwall will have weak snow bridging over some deep water holes.

WEATHER: The previous few days have provided conditions that led toward the stabilization of the snowpack. Friday was a warm, wet and rainy day, followed by refreezing on Saturday. On Sunday, temperatures rose sufficiently to thaw the surface layers of the snow at all aspects and elevations. Last night, temperatures in the ravines stayed warm, without the ambient air temperature going below freezing. Things will only get warmer today – the summits will reach into the 40F range. Winds, starting the day fairly light, will increase in the afternoon along with some cloud cover coming before a precipitation event late today and tonight.

SNOWPACK: The melt-freeze cycle from the weekend did indeed help stabilize the snowpack, but we have unanswered questions as to how far down into the snowpack this effect can be found. Lingering in the back of my mind is the question of whether today’s heating will increase the potential for warm wet slabs fracturing over cold dry weak layers that may be buried deep enough to have not been stabilized by the melt-freeze action. If last night had gone below freezing, this would probably be off my radar. But the lack of a refreeze does have me wondering. Digging into the snowpack to look for how deeply the melt-freeze layer extends may not be a bad idea. Again, the likelihood is remote, but the fact is that Mount Washington is not a man-made environment. There is always some risk of the unexpected.

Note: The streambed leaving the bowl is not a recommended exit route. It has melted out to the point where you cannot ski down the stream until you are below the first aid cache. Both the skiers’ right and left side are also melted beyond the point where we recommend this way out (i.e. you’d be walking over rocks and trees). It is far easier to take off your skis/board, walk down the hiking trail 100 yards to the first aid cache, then begin skiing again from there. Be wary of undermined snow between the cache and the Little Headwall. The john Sherburne Ski Trail is still open to the bottom, but we are beginning to see a handful of bare patches and rocks emerging. Also, there are some large moguls throughout the 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 AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted 8:15 a.m. Monday, April 13, 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

2015-04-13

Avalanche Advisory for Sunday April 12th, 2015

This advisory expires at 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 travelling 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: Rain and warm temperatures induced intense melting and free water percolation deep into the upper snowpack on Friday.  This was followed by high winds and a cold front Friday night and Saturday, beginning the refreezing process from the surface down.  The resulting lock up has dramatically reduced the avalanche problem and hazard.  As temperatures increase today and winds fall, anticipate the potential for skier induced Wet Loose sluffing to occur.  This is particularly true in locations that have not seen any traffic or sluffing already and appear to be the most desirable steep S or SE facing slopes.  The greatest associated hazard with wet sluffing today will be the potential of entrainment and being dragged over things that you weren’t planning on like rocks or cliff bands.  If temperatures warm up significantly and penetrate deep, melting bonds in the upper snowpack, a sizable wet sluff has the remote potential to trigger a wet slab.  This is generally unlikely, but worth considering depending how the afternoon temperatures develop.

WEATHER: Temperatures have been holding rock steady in the mid teens F since yesterday.  The mercury will rise today, likely to break the freezing mark even on the higher summits.  Winds will fall from their current of 65mph (kph) to as low as 35mph (kph) from the NW under mostly sunny skies.  For those prepared it should be a fairly pleasant day to be in the mountains.

SNOWPACK: Surface snow took a beating on Friday due rain settlement channels and chunky wet sluff debris. Making turns across some of these runnels or wet debris will be challenging until things warm up significantly.  Expect today to be one of those classic mornings where waiting for a slight warm up and then getting onto S facing slopes to be way more enjoyable than running onto slopes facing toward the NE first thing this morning.  As mention above, think about skier induced sluffing in the near surface snow as connecting bonds melt into the afternoon.  This can be managed by using good sluff tactics allowing moving snow to go by giving it a wide berth.  If you are someone below a skier entering untouched snow consider this potential.  This probability will not be a widespread issue, but something to consider as the day warms up.  A more distant issue could be a wet sluff impacting a slope below inducing a wet slab to fail. This would likely need to be a sizable sluff coming over a cliff band to provide enough impact so this is fairly remote, but not impossible very late in the day.

OTHER HAZARDS:  The greatest hazard this morning and again very late in the day will be long sliding falls on the icy, refrozen snow. Ice axe and crampons are highly recommended for travel on angled terrain anywhere beyond mellow hiking trails. Microspikes or other traction devices along with ski poles are helpful to hike up from Pinkham to the base of the Ravines.  However they are NOT crampons and do not replace them, an ax and the skill to self-arrest in steeper terrain. We are seeing an increasing number of accidents in recent years because of people misunderstanding the limits of Microspikes.  Serious accidents and fatalities have resulted from this misperception.

The Lion Head Winter route remains the recommended east side route to the summit. It requires mountaineering skills and experience.  Skiing from the Ravine down the Sherburne ski trail to the parking lot is still possible.

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 8:10.m. Sunday, April 12, 2015. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

2015-4-12

Lower Leg Injury, Lion Head Route

At approximately 1500, two hikers flagged down passing Snow Rangers who were heading down for the day.  The party had loaned their plastic sled to help a group transport a person with lower leg injury from the Lion Head Winter Route. We encountered a large family group about 100 yards up the trail from the Fire Road sliding a person down and making good time. The injured subject was well splinted with trekking poles and duct tape with continuous circulation, sensation and movement in the foot so we transferred her to the snowmobile and transported here to Pinkham Notch. Upon further assessment, it was evident that the injury was a fracture.

Though this group did a good job caring for the injury and would have made it down in good time, they were very poorly equipped for the Winter Route. The subject was wearing low, zippered “snow sneakers”, and while warm enough for the day’s weather conditions, this type of boot does not have a stiff enough sole for edging in firm snow nor the ankle support of a mountaineering boot. The victim lost their footing somewhere below the rock step, began sliding and sustained the injury when she arrested her fall with her foot against a tree trunk.  There seemed to be a wide range of experience level among the group with only a few ice axes and pairs of crampons among them.  It is important to remember the limitations of your group in terms of ability and experience when doing winter hikes in our unforgiving mountain range.

Fall, Leg Injury – Lion Head Winter Route

We received a call for help for an individual who had sustained injuries while descending the Lion Head Winter Route. The patient had fallen in the steep section of trail, sustaining non-life threatening injuries in the fall. He was extricated from the mountain by Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC and HMC caretakers, MWVSP patrollers, and bystanders.

This is a very steep section of hiking. Appropriate equipment for the route includes an ice axe, crampons, and good quality winter mountaineering boots. In some conditions, more technical gear might be desirable. This individual was wearing boots more appropriate for summer hiking, along with lightweight traction devices. We cannot confirm that this was the cause of the fall or even played a supporting role. But it is something we observe regularly on this route.

Lost Hiker Boott Spur Ridge

A party lost the trail while descending the Boott Spur ridge. They called the AMC visitor center for assistance, who directed them to call 911. The party spoke with the 911 dispatchers and expressed having lost the trail, having run out of food and water, and requested assistance. SAR groups responded to begin looking for them. During the mobilization of forces, the group was able to find the trail. They then descended to Pinkham and departed without checking out with the visitor center staff.

When the group got into cell phone service in Jackson, they received their phone messages that informed them that rescuers were on the mountain looking for them. They stated that they would have checked out if they had known that rescuers were searching. It’s hard to not be cynical about this statement. If you call 911 for any reason, rescuers will be actively working to assist you until they can verify there is no problem. If you call 911 for a backcountry accident, we still encourage you to try to help yourselves as much as possible. If you manage to fully self-rescue, please give the rescuers the courtesy of letting them know you no longer need assistance.