Avalanche Advisory for Saturday, 4-7-2012

This advisory expires at 12:00 midnight, April 7, 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.

This morning at dawn Tuckerman was in full sunshine, bright, clear, and cold. However, as the morning has progressed, the cloud deck has started to lower in a prelude of what’s to come today. The lowering clouds will continue and light snow showers are expected for the evening and night. Conditions today will be almost identical to yesterday. If you are thinking about traveling into steep terrain, be prepared for icy conditions. Don’t expect to follow a well-established boot pack; you should be expecting to put your cramponing skills to use instead. It’ll be a great day to practice conservative decision making, but not a good day for pushing the limits of your climbing ability and tolerance for risk.

Several inches of new snow have dotted the ravine with patches of white. In the deepest locations, such as the Sluice and Lip area, you should be thinking of these as potential avalanche producers and assessing their stability. But, before you decide to go to one of these two areas, have every person in your group read carefully through the rest of this advisory before making a final decision. From a skier/snowboarder perspective, arriving in the Bowl you will be attracted to the creamy white appearance of the snow in the Lip and Sluice. I’ll admit, it looks far better than the icy moguls of Left Gully or the scratchy chunder of the Chute. Herein lies the problem. These areas have far more objective hazard than the other areas. That is to say, the hazards have little to do with your skiing or climbing ability. In the current conditions situation, you are not fully in control of your own risk in these areas. In the Sluice, you will be underneath several hundred tons of ice that is just waiting for the right moment to crash down. In the Lip, numerous crevasses have been obscured by recent snowfalls, making them impossible to safely assess, but it’s entirely possible that you would fall into one if you were to ski, hike, or slide over it.

Whether you’re on skis or on foot, falling in steep terrain is not an option. An ice axe, crampons, and real mountaineering boots are absolutely critical for climbing safely in these conditions. Simply having these tools isn’t enough. You need to know how to use them, and understand the limits of their effectiveness in steep icy terrain. The hard old surface makes belayed climbing on the steeper slopes a wise technique. Also think about what is below you—rocks, chunks of ice, crevasses, etc—these  greatly increase the consequences of a sliding fall.

Crevasses, undermined snow, and waterfall holes are a serious threat. Currently the area from the Sluice to the Center Bowl is littered with crevasses. A thin coating of newer snow makes them nearly impossible to see. 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.

Falling ice can also 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. 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. And remember, ice doesn’t always fall in a straight path downslope.

The Sherburne Ski Trail is open about 1/3 of the way down is currently a mix of lots of water ice, exposed rocks, and my personal favorite, “packed powder”. It might make your descent a little easier than walking, but I personally wouldn’t recommend coming up just to ski the Sherby. 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

2012-04-07 Printable #2