Avalanche Advisory for Friday, 3-16-2012

This advisory expires at midnight, Friday, 3-16-2012

 All forecast areas of Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.

If you’re traveling into the ravines today or during the upcoming heat wave, throw out all your preconceived notions of what March is supposed to look like up here. From the appearances of it, the annual melt-out is a month ahead of schedule, if not more. Expect the full onslaught of springtime hazards:

  1. Falling Ice. Whether it’s Tuckerman or Huntington doesn’t matter. There is a full winter’s worth of ice melting out of the steep cliffs and gullies, waiting to crash to the floor of the ravines. Through the years, there have been many significant injuries and even fatalities from falling ice. The best way to protect yourself is to not spend time in the potential path of icefall, which can happen almost anywhere at this time of the year. In Tuckerman, the most dangerous ice can be found in the Center Bowl as well as directly above Lunch Rocks in the Sluice.
  2. Undermined Snow. Currently, this hazard looms largest for those who want to exit the bowl via the Little Headwall. The Little Headwall itself has already collapsed and is an open waterfall. The streambed above is a series of open water holes and weak snow bridges. If you punch through into the icy water, the term “chest deep” might take on a new meaning for you. I strongly suggest you plan to walk out from the bowl, rather than try to find a way through this area.
  3. Crevasses. This hazard forms as the wintertime snowpack creeps slowly downhill, pulling away from cliffs, rocks, and in places, from itself. These are just beginning to open up, but over the next few days I think we’ll start to see them become more and more problematic. We recommend hiking up the route you plan to descend so you can assess the hazard in advance.

If you have the opportunity to stall for a day, you might want to think about not coming today and coming during the weekend instead. Today’s weather forecast isn’t a pretty one. A warm front will turn rain showers into steadier rain this afternoon. About a tenth to a quarter inch of rain is expected in total. Personally, I’d rather be out in sub-zero temperatures than 40F rain. I find nothing more uncomfortable than being wet in these conditions. With that in mind, be sure to bring a couple extra dry layers and some sort of protective shell for today’s weather. Skip the typical post-ski beverage and bring a thermos of something hot instead. If you’re coming this weekend, bring the sunblock, beach chairs, and umbrellas, because it’s going to be that kind of weather for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure how low temperatures will get down to in the overnights, but let’s hope it dips below freezing each night just to help preserve what precious little snowpack there is. If you’re traveling off the beaten path, expect deep wet snow, difficult postholing, and slow progress.

The Sherburne Ski Trail has taken some abuse this past week. Bare spots, rocks, and water ice have all made their appearance, and with the upcoming weather they’re only going to get worse. We’ll post a Weekend Update later this afternoon with some more detailed prognostications for the next couple days.

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.  
  • 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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