Entries by fongemie

Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Snow on sun exposed slopes yesterday saw at least some degree of softening, which was followed by a quick refreeze in the afternoon. Areas seeing less direct sun continued to hold dry snow. Avalanche concerns are limited to small loose dry sluffs in this dry snow and loose wet sluffs when the refrozen snow warms again. The snowpack is exhibiting good stability and the current wintry mix of precipitation will not significantly change this. That said, we’re still far from a spring snowpack and it remains wise to travel one at a time in avalanche terrain while carrying a beacon, probe, and shovel.

 Spring hazards are becoming prominent and should be considered in your terrain decisions. Long sliding falls on the hard snow, which essentially all steep terrain holds, is a key concern today. If you brave the weather to travel in the alpine, crampons and an ice axe will be crucial equipment. Ice climbers should be aware of potential for ice dams in many climbs which can rupture with the placement of a tool, crampon, or screw. Recent above freezing temperatures has resulted in water flowing beneath ice and can create this hazard.

Avalanche Advisory for Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A significant warm-up today will make loose wet sluffs the primary avalanche problem on sun exposed aspects. Loose dry sluffs are still possible on steep and shady aspects. We expect these small avalanches which could easily knock you off your feet to occur primarily in the few inches of snow which fell late Saturday and into Sunday. The small and isolated pockets of soft and thicker wind slab which formed from that recent snow could begin to act as a wet slab on south facing slopes and should be on your radar in all terrain. The older, widespread, and hard wind slab that is thinly covered in many areas by the newer snow has been unreactive to human and natural triggers and this trend will likely continue. That said, a significant warming like our sun-exposed slopes will experience today can awaken previously unreactive layers at or near the surface. It’s again a reason that “Low” does not mean “No” avalanche danger, and that travelling one at a time, with your beacon, probe, and shovel, is advisable.

 Also be aware that while the sun will soften some aspects, others will remain hard, and sun softened snow can quickly refreeze with the return of shade. Crampons, ice axe, your ability to use them, and wise terrain choice are all necessary tools to prevent a high consequence long sliding fall. Sun will also warm ice today, making icefall a key overhead hazard to consider and manage.

Avalanche Advisory for Monday, March 26, 2018

Limited wind transport of the several inches of snow which fell in the past 48 hours make loose dry sluffs our primary avalanche problem. Loose snow avalanches won’t bury you today but could knock you off your feet and are possible on most steep slopes. The new snow is distributed fairly evenly across our terrain, though a few areas saw wind scouring and the possibility for small, isolated pockets of wind slab does exist. A firm and generally smooth surface of older snow exists beneath the thin new snow. Conditions are generally edge-able and good for crampon and ice axe travel, but don’t expect to arrest a fall with any ease. A long sliding fall which could be caused by a loose dry sluff or just a stumble is likely your primary hazard to manage today.

Avalanche Advisory for Sunday, March 25, 2018

Snow that arrived overnight has the potential to form wind slab and loose-dry avalanches. Another shot of snow this morning will exacerbate this problem. While wind speeds should remain mild by our standards, the recorded snow has a very light density, making wind transport possible on low wind speed. Wind speeds should increase slightly this morning to above 40mph. This has the potential to load snow into the northern gullies in both ravines as well as cross-load Moderate rated terrain. With the combination of snow density and wind speeds, expect wind slab to be touchy to a human trigger, particularly with the firm bed surface it will reside on. While northern gullies in Huntington are more in the direct lee of today’s wind, a smaller fetch and confined, steep terrain will make loose dry sluffing more of a an issue. If an avalanche occurs, it is likely to be small, but potentially enough to swipe your feet out from underneath you and lead to a long, sliding fall. As the bed surface in all avalanche terrain is firm, arresting a fall today will be difficult.

Avalanche Advisory for Saturday, March 24, 2018

High temperatures in the low teen’s F, very firm snow surfaces and summit fog may have skiers dreaming about days of elevated avalanche danger today. Though climbers will appreciate the ease of climbing on the firm surface, skiers will be dealing with hard, fast conditions with no chance for softening snow. Light snow showers on light NW winds early this morning have created the illusion of fresh snow but don’t be fooled by the dust on crust effect. More snow showers today may create pockets of wind slab that will serve only to exacerbate the long sliding fall concern. For these reasons, expect low avalanche danger in all forecast areas due to new wind slabs this afternoon. Ice climbers should be aware that a climber fell up to their waist in the icy water behind an ice dam in Odell Gully yesterday. Expect the potential for an ice dam rupture to exist for a while on all ice climbs as spring continues and temperatures swing around the freezing point. Large chunks of ice are also beginning to appear on the floor of both Ravines.

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, March 23, 2018

Wind slab is the avalanche problem today. It is unlikely that a human could trigger the current wind slab in our terrain due to its firm and supportive nature. As the slab itself has a high degree of tensile strength, an avalanche would be large, giving travelers in avalanche terrain a classic low probability, high consequence situation. Small areas of softer slab exist that are providing the isolated pockets of less stable snow. The surface of our snowpack is largely smooth, providing quality skiing, but also the ideal surface for a long, sliding fall. Losing a ski edge or catching a crampon point in steep terrain today will likely have dire consequences. With the possibility of 1” of snow today, dry loose sluffing in extreme terrain should be on your radar as wind speeds are forecast to be on the low side.

Avalanche Advisory for Thursday, March 22, 2018

A low pressure system passing to our south and east may generate 2” of snow today on the mountain. This snow will fall on N and NE winds and may build and cross-load small wind slabs in sheltered locations, particularly northern gullies in Huntington and the right side of Tuckerman Ravine. Any wind slabs that build will be on a very firm, and in most places, smooth snowpack. The hard snow surface will increase the likelihood of triggering a small wind slab and raise the consequences if you were to be surprised or swept off of your feet. If you are playing in steep terrain, an ice axe and crampons will make you feel a lot more secure due to the hard and just barely edge-able snow. Though wind slab may be the primary avalanche problem, a long sliding fall is a close second on the list of hazards.  

Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Successive storms late last week built an upper snowpack of layered wind slabs on an old melt/freeze crust. These generally firm slabs are gaining stability and becoming unreactive, though isolated pockets that you could still trigger do exist. It’s worth considering that wind slab is a spatially variable avalanche problem by nature as you choose and move through terrain today. Our snow surface is a mix of smooth and wind textured firm wind slab with the scattered pockets of softer slab that pose a greater stability concern, and is providing enjoyable conditions for skiers and climbers alike. This morning looks to provide a continued nice weather window to enjoy the mountain before clouds and wind increase later today.

Avalanche Advisory for Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wind slab which varies in size and character across the terrain remains our primary avalanche problem. Present in all forecast areas and largest in Moderate rated areas, these slabs should be stubborn to a human trigger but could result in a large avalanche. Cold temperatures which slow bonding between recently formed layers lead us to believe that human triggered avalanches are still possible today, though natural avalanches will be unlikely. Surface snow is fairly firm and supportable in many areas, but softer pockets can be found as well. This spatial variability necessitates careful evaluation of the avalanche problem on your specific route, and that travelling one at a time on and below all avalanche terrain remains appropriate. “Low” avalanche danger does not mean “no” avalanche danger!

Avalanche Advisory for Monday, March 19, 2018

Wind slab remains our primary avalanche problem today. Generally firm and relatively stubborn to a human trigger, these recently formed surface layers are of most concern in Moderate rated areas where they are particularly large, potentially well-connected, and smooth on the surface. These surface slabs are layered over others formed in the past week, and while we’re not overly concerned with an avalanche initiating deep in the snowpack, it’s worth considering that an avalanche today could ultimately entrain a great deal of snow. It’s a low probability/ high consequence kind of day, with your likelihood of triggering an avalanche not exceeding “possible”. Travelling one at a time through and below avalanche terrain, from safe zone to safe zone, remains a wise and relevant practice on days like today.

Avalanche Advisory for Sunday, March 18, 2018

Areas of visibly smooth wind slab are our primary avalanche problem today. Moderate rated terrain holds the largest and most continuous of these newly formed slabs which primarily exist in the lower half of our forecast areas. Expect these slabs to be stubborn to touchy though fairly hard, making human triggered avalanches possible and natural avalanches unlikely. The mostly wind textured snow dominant in the rest of our terrain is certainly harder still. It’s important to always remember that “Low” avalanche danger does not mean “No” avalanche danger as pockets of more reactive and softer snow can be found in Low rated terrain. Visibility should facilitate your ability to choose safer travel options, but remember that the cold temperatures and strong wind would elevate the consequences of any accident today.

Avalanche Advisory for Saturday, March 17, 2018

Our avalanche forecast today is driven by the legendary, howling winds that hammer Mount Washington. Strong winds overnight and this morning have scoured much of our terrain but have also left firm and stubborn wind slabs in their wake. These wind slabs are the primary avalanche problem today. The moderate rated terrain in the headwall area of Tuckerman Ravine harbors the largest wind slabs with pockets of wind slab elsewhere. In low rated areas these slabs will generally be on the smaller side and should be pretty easily avoidable, though it will require good micro-route finding skills. Though these firm wind slabs will be the primary avalanche problem, the main environmental challenge you’ll face today is cold temps and wind chill. You’ll need the luck o’ the Irish to avoid frost nip if you venture above treeline today.  

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, March 16, 2018

Strong NW wind created thick wind slabs yesterday. These will be found in greatest concentration in Considerable rated areas. While human-triggered avalanches are more likely than natural avalanches, wind slabs have the potential to run far today. A mix of cross-loading and scouring has taken place on other slopes. Pay close attention to this interplay as it may be easiest to trigger this wind slab on its outer edges. The boundary of wind slab and old surface may be blurry due to newer snow over the old ice crust. Slopes with a Moderate rating today, particularly Central Gully in Huntington, should not be taken lightly. Areas of more reactive snow will likely be found in the most sheltered areas and should be negotiated appropriately. Old icy surface or older firm wind slabs may be found in areas and will make great climbing, but also provide the potential for sliding falls. An ice axe and crampons will be useful in steep terrain today.

Avalanche Advisory for Thursday, March 15, 2018

An increase in wind speed and a shift in wind direction will keep avalanche danger elevated today. Recent snowfall will be carried by NW winds and build wind slabs in many areas. Natural wind slab avalanches are possible in bigger terrain such as the Lip, Center Bowl, Chute and Hillman’s Highway in Tuckerman Ravine and Central Gully in Huntington. Dry loose avalanches are likely in the steepest areas of both Ravines and will contribute to the likelihood of human triggered avalanches on the approach to steep pitches of ice or rock. Wind slabs should become firm and stubborn with anticipated wind speeds but not before becoming unstable as they build. Staying on low angle terrain, avoiding runouts and traveling one at a time while making careful snowpack assessments will be critical today if you choose to venture into avalanche terrain. Precious little of this low angle terrain exists in our forecast zones, so seeking out lower elevation, less wind effected terrain may be your best bet until wind subsides and visibility improves.  

Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wind slab formed from northerly wind will be the primary avalanche problem this morning before wind shifts NW and begins to build new and potentially larger slabs late today. These new layers will all be very sensitive, likely to avalanche naturally and very likely to be human triggered in High rated areas. If that’s not enough to keep you out of the terrain, storm slabs and dry loose sluffing will be secondary problems forming from the snow currently falling on light wind. This number of avalanche problems is compounded by deeper and potentially unstable slabs formed late last week in much of the terrain. You’re likely to trigger an avalanche in essentially all forecast areas today, and avalanches could be quite large. It’s a great day to enjoy the powder away from avalanche terrain or at the ski area!