Avalanche Advisory for Sunday 3-25-2012

This advisory expires at midnight, Sunday 3-25-2012.

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.  Huntington Ravine is under a General Avalanche Advisory.  A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

Old Man Winter returns!  The higher mountains will roar once again letting us know that winter is not over.  Precipitation expected today will fall mostly as rain, after a “wintry mix” start this morning.  This will change tonight as the mercury freefalls like a popped blimp, settling into the single degrees F on Washington’s summit, from the current of 30F.  NW winds will also ramp up significantly from 27mph (48kph) at 7:30 this morning to about 100mph (160kph) 24 hours from now.  This will translate into very-very-very hard conditions every where, and perhaps some verglass coated rocks from the rain today.  This reality will be extremely unforgiving to any foot placement mistakes creating long climber or skier falls.  Not only will having an ice ax and crampons be critical but having the skills to execute a self arrest effectively will be paramount.  Think strongly about your run out and the rocks you may run into, or cliff band you may fall over.   As for today, weather will be unpleasant unless you are ready to deal with the rain at 35F by having quality mountain clothing to keep you dry and warm.  To reduce your chances of getting caught by very firm snow conditions later, getting out early would be better than lingering late due to the temperature drop beginning later this afternoon.  Anticipate the spring hazards we have been discussing to continue to hold true for the day.  As we head into the deep freeze these hazards will ebb and flow depending on temperature.  Falling ice danger will decline while long sliding fall potential into crevasses and rocks will increase.  New snow may also be in the mix which makes us begin thinking of avalanches again, or at least enough snow to perhaps hide dangers like crevasses.  Cold air will be here for the foreseeable future through the week.

-FALLING ICE. Icefall is a very real threat in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.   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.    Lunch Rocks is in the path of large amounts of falling ice from beneath the Center Headwall and the Sluice.   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.

-UNDERMINED SNOW.  As streams melt out the snow from below and heat weakens the top, you stand a good chance of punching through.  Stick to the areas where the snow is deepest and avoid thin spots near rocks and bushes.

-CREVASSES.   Numerous holes and crevasses across the Headwall towards the Lip have opened up.   Falling into any of these can have very dire circumstances.  Because of these crevasses, falling ice and extremely poor fall line considerations the greater LIP AREA IS NOT RECOMMENDED.  Hiking up what you plan on descending will help tremendously to recognize all the hazards you may face. 

-LONG SLIDING FALLS.  Dropping temperatures tonight will turn the Ravine slopes into a hockey rink pitched at 50 degrees.  Having an ice ax, crampons and the skills to use them is an absolute necessity.  Ski and board edging will be very difficult and a fall will likely put you to Mach 1 in seconds.  Even world class mountaineers will have great difficultly arresting in these conditions.  Without other security such as anchors and ropes consider steep slopes to be “no fall” terrain. Think strongly about your fall line and what you may run into.  Hikers should have stiff mountaineering soled boots and quality crampons for travel.  Soft boots and flexible crampons absent of front points are not adequate.

Deep trough runnels from the Center Bowl over to the Chute are very deep and difficult to deal with effectively.  Left Gully offers the best snow coverage, the longest run, and the least amount of hazards in terms of icefall, undermining and crevasses, but consider falling hazards after freeze up.   Hillman’s Highway follows behind as recommendation #2.  We had to move the Sherburne Ski Trail closure rope up higher yesterday.  You can ski about 30% of the way down before needing to cross over to the Tuckerman Ravine trail, below that point is closed.  Use the connecting path on the uphill side of 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 Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch has a lot of exposed water ice therefore traction devices or poles may be helpful.

 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 Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, 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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