Avalanche Advisory for Thursday, 3-22-2012

This advisory expires at midnight, Thursday 3-22-2012

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.

The extremely unusual heat wave continues, more of the same today as record temperatures engulf the region and change snow conditions on the mountain.  To put the current heat in perspective a bit, yesterday the summit tied the all time record for the Month of March while valley regions completely smashed records for the day.  As an example Bangor, Maine buried their previous record yesterday set in 1946 by almost 20 degrees!  On the mountain this has manifested into more rapid changes, which is particularly evident watching the Tuckerman crevasses grow and Headwall open up.  The most dramatic example for me has been the Sherburne ski trail which was skiable to the parking lot on Saturday.  By Wednesday afternoon it was only snow covered to the half way point, over a mile up the trail.  The controlling high pressure will push out of the region after today bringing in some cooler air, albeit still mild for late March.  Freezing nights will return Friday night which will substantially slow the deterioration rate, but will also make for some hard snow for the beginning of the day.

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. Once again, this 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.  Falling ice 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. So far this year the crevasse hazard development has been slow all things considered, but this has been changing over the past 2-3 days.  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. Hiking up what you plan on descending will help tremendously to recognize all the hazards you may face. 

Sluff runnels from the Lip over to the Chute are getting deeper, even since yesterday, and 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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