Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine

Posted 7:20a.m., Friday, January 07, 2011

Tuckerman Ravine has Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. The Lower Snowfields and Little Headwall remain not posted due to a lack of snow in these areas.

Huntington Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. The Escape Hatch remains not posted due to a lack of snow in this area.

If it was summer we’d probably not be complaining with our lack of precipitation, but complaint is all I can muster at this time of the year.  For the past 10 days the summit has received a total of 3.6” (9cm) of snow with a “trace” recording here and there.  So the streak continues with a rather slow start to the winter in terms of precipitation.  We are at 60% of our long term average from November through the first week of January corroborating what we are seeing as we look around, namely rock and ice where there should be snow.  HOWEVER, this doesn’t always tell the whole story.  How a storm comes in and what slopes get loaded can bring certain areas to normal or above, like some southern aspects such as Right Gully and the Lobster Claw.  As many avalanche start zones are still developing towards their average size others are already fully developed.  This is important to remember when new snow of any amount falls on our forecast areas.  Several inches from the north will affect avalanche potential in Right Gully and the similar south facing aspects much differently than the same snow from the south. The north facing start zones of Hillman’s Highway in Tuckerman and South Gully and the Escape Hatch in Huntington are much further behind with smaller bed surfaces for potential avalanches.  This all affects today’s situation as up to 2” (5cm) are expected from the SE and E.  I know 2” isn’t much, but at times it can have a meaningful impact on stability although today shouldn’t be one of them.  The SE wind will directly load limited snow on aspects that are still developing and have a number of early season anchors still in place.  Of course, other aspects have some cross loading potential but this should remain minor.  The caveat is that it’s an upslope energy driven snowfall which can surprise us from time to time so keep your eyes to the sky and ground and determine if we are exceeding the “up to 2 inches” forecast.

Tuckerman continues to harbor some instabilities from the last loading event on Tuesday and Wednesday that came in on W and NW winds. Human triggered avalanches are possible in steep terrain on strong lee slopes.  Areas from the Center Bowl to the Sluice would be the main areas of concern with their outliers, Right Gully and the Chute, following behind.  Huntington’s Low forecast is due to mostly hard old surfaces dominating the Ravine.  Expect to find some isolated areas of instability down low in the trees and in very protected areas under buttresses, boulders, and the like.  

Anyone venturing onto the mountain needs to be ready with good traction from the base of the mountain to the Summit. Long sliding falls are a real potential in these conditions; crampons and solid self arrest skills are critical for anyone venturing into angled terrain.   We have been alluding to the quality of the Sherburne Ski Trail as just being……well “bad” and today is no different. Even the most optimistic skier or snowboarder would have a difficult time calling it anything else. We’ll be posting a Weekend Update to our website this afternoon/evening, so if you’re planning a trip take a look for our latest thoughts on the upcoming weekend.

 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.
  • This advisory expires at midnight. 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

Printable Advisory