Avalanche Advisory for Sunday, 3-18-2012

This advisory expires at midnight, Sunday, 3-18-2012

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 using avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

I wish I could simply say that today will be more of the same weather we had yesterday, but that simply wouldn’t be true. Years from now, we’ll be sitting around the woodstove telling stories of how wacky the weather was back in March 2012. Pay attention this month, so you’ll be able to get the story straight when those times arrive. Mt. Washington has already crested its record high temperature for the day. By dusk, that record will have been crushed with temperatures maybe reaching 50F (10C) on the summit. The long range forecast has valley temperatures in the 70s F for several more days this coming week. Soooo…how is that impacting the spring ski scene here?

The snowpack is going to be deteriorating rapidly. So far, we’ve already swapped to the Lion Head summer trail, begun issuing General Advisories for Huntington, and parked our snow cat for the season. Currently there is good coverage in a lot of areas, especially Hillman’s, Left Gully, and the Chute. The quality of the snow will be going downhill though. The lack of freezing temperatures at night and the intense heat create wet slushy snow. This carves deep runnels as the sluff skiers kick off flows downhill. These get progressively deeper, and negotiating these troughs is challenging. Overall, we are well ahead of where we normally are at this time of year. This means the annual springtime hazards have emerged and you need to be aware of them.

  1. Falling Ice. Through the years, there have been many significant injuries and even fatalities from falling ice. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid spending time in the potential path of icefall, which can happen almost anywhere right now. In Tuckerman, the most dangerous ice can be found in the Center Bowl as well as directly above Lunch Rocks in the Sluice. If ice falls from the Sluice, it can send shrapnel into every nook and cranny of Lunch Rocks. For this reason, Lunch Rocks is not a safe place to sit! You’re better off parking yourself down low in the floor or on the climber’s left side of the Bowl.
  2. Undermined Snow. Currently, this hazard looms largest for those who want to exit the bowl via the Little Headwall. The Little Headwall itself has already collapsed and is an open waterfall. The streambed above is a series of open water holes and weak snow bridges. I strongly recommend taking off your skis and hiking the trail back to Hermit Lake.
  3. Crevasses. This hazard forms as the wintertime snowpack creeps slowly downhill, pulling away from cliffs, rocks, and in places, from itself. These are just beginning to open up, but over the next few days I think we’ll start to see them become more and more problematic. We recommend hiking up the route you plan to descend so you can assess the hazards in advance.

The Sherburne Ski Trail has taken some abuse this past week. Bare spots, rocks, and water ice have all made their appearance, and with the current weather they’re only going to get worse.

We have transitioned to the Lion Head Summer Trail. The winter Lion Head route is now closed. Please avoid using this route to avoid damaging the soil on the steep section of trail. The Summer Trail does have a lot of snow on it. Plan for wet snow and postholing over the next 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.  
  • 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

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