Avalanche Advisory 1-10-2012

Expires 12:00 midnight, January 10, 2012

Tuckerman Ravine has Moderate avalanche danger today. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Heightened avalanche conditions exist on specific terrain features; evaluate snow and terrain carefully and identify features of concern. The exception to this rating is Hillman’s Highway which has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches there are unlikely. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Some areas are not yet posted due to the overall lack of snow. These include Lobster Claw, Right Gully, the Lower Snowfields, and the Little Headwall in Tuckerman. Forecasts for these locations will begin when conditions warrant.

Huntington Ravine has Moderate and Low avalanche danger today. Yale, Central, Pinnacle, and Odell have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. North, Damnation, and South gullies have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely. The Escape Hatch is not posted due to lack of snow cover.

Today could turn out to be one of those days that rewards the observant and timely backcountry traveler. Field observations yesterday gave reason to believe some forecast areas had the potential to drop down a rating today. However, the today’s forecasted weather provides enough justification for keeping them where they’re at. So, if you’re out early and watching snowfall amounts closely, you may find better stability than the ratings would indicate. The key piece of information you should be looking for is how much snow has fallen. The Observatory and the NWS both indicate we may see up to 2″ of new snow today, riding in on W and NW winds that will ramp up to over 75mph (121kph). If this forecast plays out, yet another layer of slab will be deposited in various locations throughout the ravines. Strongly protected lee areas will have the best chance for this issue to arise. Coincidentally, these are the same locations that currently have some of the greatest stability issues. Examples include the growing snowfields in the steepest parts of the Lip and Center Bowl of Tuckerman. Also in Huntington Central Gully currently has and will receive the most snow loading. Other areas of Huntington (Yale, Pinnacle, and Odell to be precise) will start the day with Low avalanche danger. As snow and windloading commence they will rise back up to the Moderate rating. Of course, if we are fortunate enough to receive more than a couple inches then expect most areas to rise above today’s ratings.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s worth mentioning again that the terrain features on the mountain and the relative lack of snowfall this year are creating conditions with a high degree of spatial variability. It would not be difficult to go into either ravine and find unstable snow. But move a short distance and the stability can change quickly. Careful route finding and constant stability evaluation can help mitigate the hazards under these conditions.

The John Sherburne Ski Trail is getting worse by the day. We generally don’t like to apply labels like “good” or “bad” to the conditions, but I’m throwing that idea out the window today. Sure it’s possible to ski down, but it’s in bad shape. Extremely thin cover, ample water ice, rock, brush, and abrupt waterbars might make you wonder if hiking down would have been a better idea.

 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.
  • Posted 8:10a.m., Tuesday January 10, 2012. 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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