General Bulletin, Friday, May 3, 2019

This forecast was published 05/03/2019 at 10:35 AM.
A new bulletin will be issued when conditions warrant.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Read more

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Instead, we will post an updated General Bulletin as needed, in case of significant snow or weather events that might vary from the typical daily changes that come with spring weather. We will also keep you informed about the official closure of the portion of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Lunch Rocks through the Lip and Headwall as well as the switch from the Lion Head Winter Route to the summer trail. Observations from the field will continue to be a valuable resource, so please keep submitting photos, videos and observations here and we will do the same. Check the Forecast page for update on Sherburne Trail closures, which are imminent as spring snowmelt continues.

The switch to a General Bulletin does NOT mean that the mountains are now a safe place to ski. The hazards which emerge in the spring are significant and require careful assessment and strategic management. If you have never skied Tuckerman, peruse our Incidents and Accidents page for spring related incidents involving avalanches, long sliding falls, icefall, crevasse and moat falls, and other incidents related to diurnal changes in the snowpack. These will help you understand and plan for these hazards.


The Bottom Line

The upcoming weekend will give folks another chance for spring skiing in the high country. Above freezing temperatures will soften most of the surface snow, though enough firm snow and ice will be around that crampons and ice axes could be useful additions to your pack if you’re planning to ski in steep terrain. Forecast warm weather occurs annually and creates fairly predictable mountain hazards, though big surprises can also occur, such as the massive rockfall from Lion Head on Thursday. This event is a good reminder that low frequency, high consequence icefall and rockfall occur in our mountain range. The best way to reduce your risk to this hazard is to reduce your exposure time. As usual, Lunch Rocks is not a good place to hang out especially considering the easy option of sitting lower in the Bowl and out of the firing line. This simple step virtually eliminates the risk of being struck and wounded or killed by falling ice. 

2019-5-3 General Bulletin

Danger Rating by Zone

The moats and waterfall holes continue to grow larger and deeper in the Headwall and Lip. These holes,along with those caused by undermined snow over streams, are deep enough, and cold and wet enough, to result in injury or death if you fall into one. Check out this account of one of the first skier deaths in the Lip that occurred 70 years ago, almost to the day. This weekend, Hillman’s Highway, Left Gully as well as Right and Lobster Claw will likely yield good turns in softened old, gray snow with reduced hazards from icefall and waterfall holes. If you plan to ski in Tuckerman this weekend, remember that a conga line of skiers doesn’t mean that a particular line is safe, it just means that human nature leads us to act as a herd sometimes. Make your own terrain choice and recognize that overhead hazards, such as falling snowboards or other skiers, are part of the constellation of hazards to consider as you choose your route. We’ll try to post photos later today on our Instagram account.

Mountain Weather

Southwest flow will bring some rain later in the day Friday and into Saturday. High temperatures in the 40’sF with lows in the 30’s are forecast for the rest of the weekend with light to moderate winds, mostly from the west and northwest. The potential for rain showers will persist under cloudy skies for most of the weekend. These showers could turn to snow showers Saturday night as temperatures drop at the highest elevations. No accumulations are expected and temperatures look as if they will rebound above freezing on the summit on Sunday.

Snowpack and Avalanche Discussion

The prolonged period of melt has opened deep cracks and holes in our snowpack, as flowing water undermined snow and opened some stream channels. Recent snow and wind slabs have settled into our isothermal snowpack. Areas of very icy snow have kept skiers on their toes, though the return of warming conditions should restore some degree of edgeability to the surface snow. Minor sluffing is possible and the resulting sluff channels may complicate descents. Keep the following hazards in mind as you make terrain decisions in our dynamic spring backcountry conditions:

Steep snow and ice in gullies and trails, such as the Lion Head Winter Route, become very hard during any frozen periods in our spring melt/freeze cycles. This weekend, you’ll find plenty of exposed ice mixed in with softer, rotten snow. Currently, the Lion Head Winter Route as well as areas of the snowpack that have been scoured by wind are icy and require crampons and an ice axe to climb with security. The tops of many ski descents also fit this description.

Additional Concerns

The young man who was last seen heading up the Winter Lion Head Route on March 8 remains missing.  It is thought that he may have been intent on taking his own life. If that is the case, his remains may be somewhere with the Cutler River Drainage,  around the summit or within a few hours hike on the steep part of Lion Head Winter Route. Please report any potential clues to the NH Fish and Game officers at 603-271-3361 or to USFS Snow Rangers at mwactucks@gmail.com or via AMC Front Desk staff at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. If it is clear that you have found him, please call 911.

The Sherburne and Gulf of Slides ski trails are no longer completely snow covered to Pinkham Notch. Expect ice, open stream crossings, rocks and bare patches. The lower half of the Sherburne is closed, with a rope directing skiers to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Cross over to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at this point of your descent to prevent damage that results from walking on the muddy Sherburne trail. Please remove your skis and walk down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to avoid collision with the many hikers on the trail.

Details on daily snowfall totals, precipitation type, total depth of snow and other information can be found on our page devoted to snow study plot data. Click here to check it out.

Recent snowpack and avalanche observations can be found here and on Instagram. Your observations help improve our forecast product. Please take a moment and submit a photo or two and a brief description of snow and avalanche information that you gather in the field.

Avalanche Safety Information Study

Please contribute to the effort to improve backcountry avalanche forecasts! Researchers in Canada devised a study to better understand how we communicate the avalanche risk, and we need your help. Please fill out this survey. It will take a few minutes, but it will help us as we work on new ways to give you the most important avalanche information.

Snow Plot Information

DateHN24HN24W
(SWE)
Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
05/20/19
05:30
0 CM 20.4 MM0CM68 CM11.0 C12.0 C3.5 CObscuredNo precipitation
05/19/19
05:25
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM72 CM4.0 C6.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
05/18/19
05:20
0 CM 7.6 MM0CM80 CM1.0 C6.0 C1.0 COvercastNo precipitation
05/17/19
05:25
0 CM 0.8 MM0CM84 CM4.0 C10.0 C0.0 CClearNo precipitation
05/16/19
05:20
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM84 CM1.0 C1.5 C0.0 CFewNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

Daily Observations


Thank you Mount Washington Observatory for providing daily weather data from the summit of Mount Washington.

DateMax TempMin TempTotal (SWE)24H Snow & IceWind AvgWind Fastest MileFastest Mile DirAvalanche Activity
05/19/1951 F34 F .6 in 0 in34.2 MPH66 MPH

250 (WSW)

05/18/1934 F26 F 0.06 in 0.5 in39 MPH74 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/17/1940 F28 F .22 in .05 in37 MPH81 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/16/1932 F25 F .03 in 04 in22.8 MPH40 MPH

310 (NW)

05/15/1926 F20 F .05 in .4 in32.1 MPH67 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/14/1928 F17 F .2 in 2 in19.1 MPH57 MPH

100 (E)

05/13/1928 F19 F .07 in 0.9 in34.6 MPH67 MPH

100 (E)

05/12/1931 F17 F 0 in 0 in20.5 MPH47 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/11/1932 F18 F .1 in 0 in53.6 MPH84 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/10/1944 F27 F .85 in 0 in50.1 MPH88 MPH

220 (SW)

05/09/1942 F20 F .04 in 0 in18.6 MPH44 MPH

190 (S)

05/08/1927 F18 F 0 in 0 in38.3 MPH65 MPH

330 (NNW)

Please Remember:

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 05/03/2019 at 10:35 AM.

Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest