Avalanche Advisory for Friday, 3-23-2012

This advisory expires at midnight, Friday 3-23-2012

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.  Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

If this week is any indication where our climate is going I’d recommend adding Coppertone to your stock portfolio.  I can barely recall mid-summer stretches that have been this nice.  We are all pinching ourselves to remember it’s only the third week of March! Saying all this, we needed to be brought back to reality at some point so expect an end to the record breaking heat and sun over the next 48 hours.  Mother nature is letting us off slowly though as another fine day is in store, but it will be a bit milder than the 80’s we’ve seen over the past several days down in the valley.  Summit temperatures will crawl up from their current of 29F into the mid 30’sF along with winds between 65-85mph.  This should keep many high snowfields hard today and keep the mountain’s feel a bit brisk.  It’s time to start changing your mindset again about what’s in your pack and assure the right clothing and gear is on board.  Saturday’s conditions will add more clouds and a decreasing wind as a precursor to the precipitation on the way Saturday evening and into Sunday.  Valley locations are anticipating ‘rain likely’, albeit reasonably light with 0.1” predicted.  Meanwhile weather models are pointing to colder air aloft, perhaps giving us something of the frozen variety up high.  Check back in the Weekend Update later today and the Saturday advisory for better info on Sunday’s precipitation.    

The typical spring hazards continue to advance and are the main bulls-eye points for you to keep in mind.  You can’t have fun skiing or riding if you get hurt so make these a priority in your brain’s random access memory for quick re-call.  Watch for them and indentify where the hazards are before trudging up some arbitrary boot ladder.

1.-FALLING ICE is the number one concern today. Icefall is a very real threat in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.  The recent heat has begun sending ice crashing to the floor below.  It’s been a bit surprising how a great deal of ice is hanging in through the heat demonstrating how unpredictable it can be.  It will all come down at some point and although timing can be fickle, expect the potential to rise the warmer the temperature.  Ice fall has seriously injured and killed numerous visitors in the past. The best way to manage this hazard is to avoid spending time beneath potential icefall.  Remember that ice doesn’t always fall in a straight line and it can explode into thousands of pieces as it impacts rocks. Lunch Rocks is in the path of huge amounts of falling ice from both the Headwall and the Sluice.  Even though it’s been a popular place to sit for a long time, Lunch Rocks should really be re-named ICEFALL ROCKS!  It is a very bad place to sit. More people have been hurt in this area than any other in the Ravine.  Sitting across the Ravine on the left, or south side, is a much better option.

2.-UNDERMINED SNOW.  As streams melt out the snow from below and heat weakens the top, you stand a good chance of punching through. There are many places where the water level below the snow is up enough that you’d be in trouble if this happens. Stick to the areas where the snow is deepest and avoid thin spots near rocks and bushes.

3.-CREVASSES.   The main waterfall hole just to the Left of the Lip area has completely opened up as it does every year.  Avoid traveling too closely to the edge of this hazardous place and other openings that are developing.  In addition, crevasse development has been increasing around the entire Lip area and is best avoided for better skiing locations. Hiking up what you plan on descending will help tremendously to recognize all the hazards you may face. 

Deep sluff runnels from the Lip over to the Chute are causing significant problems for even the best skiers and riders.  Left Gully and Hillman’s Highway offer the best snow coverage, the longest runs, and the least amount of hazards in terms of icefall, undermining and crevasses.  These gullies stand out for us as the best recommendations.  Of course it will still be important to look for general mountain risks even in the safest locations.

The lower half of the Sherburne Ski Trail is closed.  Cross over at the rope directing you back over to the hiking trail. Please do not walk down the ski trail as it is not designed to handle foot traffic.  In addition to causing erosion, mud will likely overwhelm the tops of your boots.  The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and the winter Lion Head route is now closed.  The Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch has a lot of exposed water ice. Traction devices or poles may be helpful. If you want to skin up the trail, you’ll have to carry them for the first half of the trail.

 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.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

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