Bulletin issued on Monday, March 30, 2020
This information was published 03/30/2020 at 8:29 AM.
This is the final bulletin published by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center for the 2019-2020 winter season. It will remain in effect until complete melt out. Travel in the backcountry requires careful snow evaluation and mountain sense. Hazards due to snow and ice will persist until both are gone. Avalanches can and do occur in April and May. Make use of available PPE such as crampons, ice axes, helmets, and avalanche rescue gear. If venturing into the mountains, be sure to use all available resources to help plan your trip and make safe travel decisions.
The USFS Mount Washington Avalanche Center has issued its final avalanche and mountain safety forecast for the 2019/20 season.
At this time, the need to reduce exposure of workers and forest visitors to the novel coronavirus outweighs the value of providing avalanche safety information to backcountry travelers. This decision was made in order to better provide for public health and safety by reducing interactions between the recreating public, USFS employees and volunteers. NH Governor’s Order Section 18 of Executive Order 2020-04, part 4 requests that the public limit non-essential travel and further defines essential businesses and activities. Among the allowed activities are “leaving home for outdoor recreation” or “to get fresh air and exercise” provided that appropriate social distancing protocols are observed. The travel and social congregation that have continued to occur in Tuckerman Ravine, nearby trails, and parking areas suggest that more aggressive measures are needed in order to comply with state and federal guidelines intended to reduce the spread and impact of coronavirus.
The USFS and MWAC understand and support the need for outdoor recreation, fresh air and exercise but interpret the measures to limit the spread should exclude riskier activities, particularly at a highly popular venue which attracts visitors from around the region. Furthermore, high risk activities such as skiing and climbing in complex avalanche terrain with extreme weather conditions create an unnecessary risk of injury or a need for search and rescue intervention. These injuries could lead to rescues and the opportunity to further spread the virus through close contact. We also acknowledge that the absence of avalanche and mountain safety forecasts increases your risk in the backcountry, but since backcountry travel is not an essential need at this time of pandemic, you assume this increased risk. We will continue to support local rescue teams with spot forecasts on request.
Thank you for your support as we all grapple with challenging decisions and redefine our work and community life. We look forward to getting through this pandemic with a minimum loss of life and economic disruption.
For more information, contact:
Sherman Hogue, Public Affairs Officer, email@example.com, p) 603-536-6215 or c) 603-348-1649
Or Colleen Mainville, Public Affairs Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, p) 603-536-6243 or c) 603-790-0860
Despite what the calendar says, snow is never out of the question in any month on Mount Washington. Spring and early summer bring rapid changes to our snowpack, with conditions often changing by the hour. Plan accordingly for these changes by reading the weather forecast before you head out (MWObs Higher Summits and NWS Hourly forecast) and bringing the appropriate gear for your objective.
Typically, as the spring progresses, the snowpack becomes stable and avalanche concerns lessen compared to other objective hazards. That being said, avalanches can occur whenever there is enough snow to recreate. The following red flags indicate avalanche danger may be elevated:
- Recent avalanche activity
- Signs of unstable snow like shooting cracks, hollow sounding slabs, or an upside-down snowpack
- Significant new snow
- Blowing snow
- Rapid warming. Look for roller balls and pinwheels as indicators the snowpack is warming
The following is a list of hazards you may encounter if recreating in steep, snow covered terrain. These all have mitigation measures as well as locations that they more commonly appear. Realize that many of these are weather dependent and that even the professionals do their weather and conditions homework before venturing into the field.
- Moats and other deep melt holes
- Waterfall holes
- Opening streams and undermined snow
- Glide cracks
- Falling ice and rock
- Long sliding falls
- Sliding falls, even short ones
Thank you to all of our partners and volunteers, including the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, the AMC, the caretakers at Hermit Lake and the Harvard Cabin, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation, Randolph Mountain Club, and many others. Thanks to all of you who have volunteered your time or your money to help with projects and rescues. Our mission is to serve the public and we count on support from the community to make that happen. Also, we look forward to seeing you this fall at the Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Stay tuned to our social media channels and this website for news, upcoming talks in your region and of course, for avalanche forecasts next winter!
Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This forecast 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.
Avalanche danger may change when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information contact the US Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC visitor services staff at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or seasonally at the Harvard Cabin (generally December 1 through March 31). The Mount Washington Ski Patrol is also available on spring weekends.
Posted 03/30/2020 at 8:29 AM.
Frank Carus, Helon Hoffer, Jeff Fongemie, and Joe Soccio
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest