Avalanche Advisory for Sunday 5-06-2012

A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrent or within 72 hours. Unless updated this advisory expires at 12:00 midnight Tuesady, May 8, 2012.

We are done using the U.S. 5 scale danger rating system for the remainder of the season. The 5 scale (low thru extreme) system will be reinstated next season when needed. A GENERAL ADVISORY will be in effect for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines until complete melt out later this spring/summer.  A new advisory will be issued when needed or within 72 hours of the last issuance.  This is due to very little change in conditions from day to day on the mountain.  The snow coverage that is left has settled out, been skier compacted, and is going thru the late season melt-freeze process. However, the numerous large snowfields may make for a good sliding surface for late season snow.  May snowstorms are not an unheard of occurrence on Mt. Washington. Be prepared for the possibility of new snow instability if this occurs. Also watch for the possibility of sustained warm weather and/or heavy rain to blow out running water from beneath the snow. This has caused wet slush avalanches in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines in the past. You will need to put your avalanche skills to work for these late season hazards. Be prepared to do your own snow stability assessments if entering avalanche terrain on Mount Washington.

After sun dominating the weather on Sunday and Monday the week looks generally wet.   Beginning Tuesday, a day in the mountains will require being prepared for rain.  Summit temperatures getting below freezing may occasionally trigger either mixed precipitation or some snow.  Fog will likely be an issue as well, which increases your risk to objective hazards.  You won’t be able to see ice coming or recognize all the crevasse and terrain issues you should identify before attempting a run.   

Spring weather has increased the deterioration rate of hanging ice, snow bridges near crevasses, and the edges near waterfall holes. Everything from undermined snow on the floor of the Ravine, crevasses across the Ravine walls and falling ice is causing a threat.   The greatest ice hazard is from the Center and Left Headwall, but smaller ice has come from other places as well.  A very large set of rocks to hide behind will mitigate ice risk if you plan on sitting or resting for a while.  The interior sections of Lunch Rocks have become a reasonable place to be since the vast majority of the ice above has fallen.  A plan to ski or ride on the hard left in the southern end of the Ravine near Left gully or hard right in the Sluice towards the upper Lunch Rocks will keep you further away from more objective hazards in the Center Bowl.  Hillman’s Highway is getting very thin with numerous breaks in snow continuity and rocks poking through the surface.   As melt out continues, an increasing hazard is more terrain features and rocks to collide with in case of a fall.  With these objects being exposed, constrictions being narrower, and run outs ending on 30-40 degree slopes a fall into these immoveable structures is more likely.  Late in the season, skier falls into the rocks are our most common injury maker.  

THE TUCKERMAN RAVINE TRAIL IS CLOSED TO ALL USE FROM LUNCH ROCKS TO THE JUNCTION WITH THE ALPINE GARDEN TRAIL. This includes the Lip area as well as this section of the hiking trail. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The trail from Pinkham Notch to the floor of the ravine is open, as is the section above the Ravine from the Alpine Garden Trail junction to the summit. Use an alternate route to circumvent this closed section, such as the commonly used Lion Head trail.  The John Sherburne Ski trail is also closed to all use.

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.  A new advisory will be issued when warranted.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest