Avalanche Advisory for Friday, 4-6-2012

This Advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, April 6, 2012

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features. 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.

When is the weather ever going to seem normal again? How about today? This is exactly the kind of weather I’ve come to expect from early April. It’s probably going to be a pleasant day down in the valley, but up on Mt. Washington it’s cold and winter-like. Over the past 48 hours, the summit has recorded 3.1” (8cm) of new snow. During this time winds have been consistently from the NW ranging from 40 to the low 80mph range (65-130kph). This is keeping us on guard for “isolated pockets” of unstable snow. Winds have loaded snow into some lee areas but had a hard time depositing anything onto some of the other exposed crust around the mountain. One thing you can count on with the current snowpack is the excellent stability of the old surface. Unfortunately, this is the very same surface that most people avoid like the plague, except for ice climbers. Skiers and snowboarders should take the time to assess each individual area of new snow, since the depth, consistency, and stability of each might be very different from others that are in close proximity. Weather today will be a battle between high pressure and a deep trough, perhaps allowing for some breaks in the clouds but you should be prepared to deal with very limited visibility. The existing hazards can be incredibly difficult to assess, both due to the fog and to the accumulations of new snow hiding these features.

Crevasses, undermined snow, and waterfall holes are a serious threat. Currently the area from the Sluice to the Center Bowl is littered with crevasses. Most of these are covered with a thin coating of newer snow, which makes them nearly impossible to safely assess their exact location and depth. The hazards presented by the crevasses are not to be taken lightly; it is truly “no-fall” terrain. Taking into account the extent of crevasses, the severity of the consequences, and the inability to assess the hazard, the greater Lip area, which includes a section of the summer hiking trail, should be avoided entirely.

Surfaces will be icy and hard below the new snow, so long sliding falls continue to be another significant hazard. The slick surface will allow for rapid acceleration down slope, potentially sending you into numerous obstacles below you. An ice axe, crampons, and real mountaineering boots are absolutely critical for climbing in these conditions safely. The hard surface beneath the new snow makes belayed climbing on the steeper slopes a wise technique.  Because the current surface conditions have made most steep slopes “no fall” territory, the ability to use technical mountaineering skills and equipment effectively is imperative.

Falling ice can happen, even on cold days such as this. A couple times over the past week we have watched ice fall into Lunch Rocks while air temperatures were below freezing. There is a lot of new ice from the cold weather over the past couple weeks. Your best defense against falling ice is to avoid being anywhere near the possible runouts. The locations at greatest risk for this hazard are the Sluice, Lunch Rocks, the Lip, and the Center Bowl. Other areas aren’t immune though, so always be aware of what’s above you.

The Harvard Cabin is now closed for the season. The only camping permitted in the Cutler River Drainage is at Hermit Lake Shelters. The Sherburne Ski Trail is open about 1/3 of the way down is currently a mix of water ice, exposed rocks, and my personal favorite, “packed powder”. Cross over to the hiking trail at the rope.

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, the caretaker at Hermit Lake Shelters.
  • 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

2012-04-06 Print Friendly