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.
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Our primary avalanche problem will be very sensitive wind slab developing from today’s storm with instability peaking late today. East winds will shift N as snowfall intensity increases through the day. We expect greatest loading in High rated areas. Natural avalanches are likely and human triggered avalanches are very likely in these areas, and all would be large. Considerable areas are rated as such for two distinct reasons. We expect to see less loading in more windward terrain like Chute, Left, and Hillman’s Highway in Tuckerman and Odell, South, and Escape Hatch in Huntington. Alternately, Lobster Claw and Right Gully in Tuckerman as well as North, Damnation, and Yale in Huntington will receive direct wind loading but aren’t capable of producing a truly large avalanche due to less existing snow in avalanche start zones. A secondary avalanche problem today is older but still touchy wind slabs which exist in most of our terrain. These layers are a concern this morning, prior to new slab development, and could also provide step-down potential for avalanches late today. Avoiding these avalanche problems will be difficult to impossible today. Remember that the relatively smaller human triggered avalanches likely in Considerable rated areas can still have fatal consequences.
Wind slab formed in the past two days covers most of our terrain and is our primary avalanche problem. These smooth surface wind slabs were formed by W to NW wind which either directly loaded or cross loaded most forecast areas. In many areas, this somewhat soft but cohesive surface snow overlies slabs formed late last week that are similar if a little less soft in character. We expect all smooth surface snow to be sensitive to a human trigger today. The connected and consistent nature of wind slab means that such avalanches could be quite large. Upper portions of Left Gully and most of Odell have heavily wind textured snow at the surface that will be fairly hard and more stubborn to a human trigger, hence their Moderate rating. One if not two natural avalanches in Lobster Claw yesterday have reduced snow available to avalanche, though sensitive pockets likely still exist. Moderate avalanche danger means that human triggered avalanches are possible, suggesting that you should evaluate snow and terrain carefully prior to committing to a slope. It’s not likely you’ll be able to avoid the avalanche problem in Moderate rated terrain today. It’s a beautiful day to enjoy the mountains, so carefully evaluate all snow and terrain. Choose to come home safely.
Wind Slab formed in the past 24 hours is our primary avalanche problem, with older wind slabs from our recent successive storms adding complexity to the upper snowpack. Significant snowfall yesterday combined with westerly winds to transport significant snow into lee terrain and cross load other areas. The resulting wind slabs will vary in hardness and could be large. Expect them to be reactive to a trigger. Human triggered avalanches are very likely in High rated areas. Peak instability likely occurred last night, but we don’t expect these slabs have gained much strength since then. Two known close calls occurred yesterday, including a skier caught and carried in Gulf of Slides by an avalanche that occurred while the party ascended. Shortly after, two skiers were knocked off of their feet at the base of Hillman’s Highway by a natural avalanche. The Hillman’s avalanche is a reminder that low angle areas in our terrain, especially the floor of Tuckerman Ravine, are in the runout of steeper terrain above and should be treated as avalanche terrain. Moving one at a time and carrying avalanche rescue gear is important.
Huntington Ravine has CONSDERABLE and MODERATE avalanche danger. Central, Pinnacle, Odell, South and Escape Hatch have Considerable avalanche danger. Dangerous avalanche conditions exist. North, Damnation, and Yale Gullies will have Moderate avalanche danger. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully. Tuckerman Ravine has CONSIDERABLE and MODERATE avalanche danger. Sluice, Lip, Center Bowl, Chute, Left Gully and Hillman’s […]
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The Mount Washington Avalanche Center is a partnership between the White Mountain National Forest, White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation and Friends of Tuckerman Ravine and other community organizations. The avalanche forecast applies only to backcountry areas, not operating ski areas, and describes general avalanche conditions which vary locally. The avalanche information provided is the sole responsibility of the USDA Forest Service.