Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted 8:45a.m., Friday April 29, 2011

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 Ravine. A danger of falling ice exists and will persist until it all comes down.

A stellar morning finally erupted today after rain and a thick soupy fog engulfed the Presidentials through most of the workweek.  The blue skies will begin a stretch of better weather over the next few days, but be ready to lose the beloved clear conditions later today with some more mixed precipitation, thunderstorms and potential lightning.  Clouds will thicken and lower through the day increasing the probability of precipitation this afternoon.  The summit picked up another inch (2.5cm) of rain on Thursday, and while on the trail yesterday afternoon I occasionally got slapped with a hot wind that felt like opening the oven door to check the turkey on Thanksgiving.   I felt like I could see snow melt right before my eyes.  The change is quite evident as soon as you leave the AMC Visitor Center with sections of rocks and blue ice on the hiking trail.  These sections are very very slippery so ski poles and traction devices would be a good idea.  We have already had several visitor falls with injuries on the vast amount of ice between the Bowl and the parking lots. The melting above treeline is impressive as well, as demonstrated in places like Raymond’s Cataract and the summit cone causing rivers to rage and undermine snow covered locations.  The main waterfall near the Lip in Tuckerman has seen dramatic change since Monday and continues to require a large berth to keep from entering this chasm. The rest of the main Headwall and its adjacent areas have also deteriorated quickly and require some significant hazard assessment.  As is typical later in the season, Left Gully and Hillman’s are becoming the longest runs with the least amount of objective mountain hazards such as crevasses and icefall.

The traditional spring hazards that cause problems for visitors every year are now fully developed.  At this point we do not recommend skiing through the Lip due to the WATERFALL HOLE and LARGE CREVASSES that criss-cross the entire slope creating what you know as “no fall skiing”. Other large crevasses have opened up in the Headwall and Sluice as well.  Give these more room than you think is needed. Climb up what you plan to descend so that you can identify these hazards and make a plan for avoiding them instead of being surprised on the way down. Think about your fall line carefully and assure these crevasses are not below you. UNDERMINED SNOW advanced rapidly this week and is a notable hazard you should constantly keep in mind.  Undermining is when the snow bridges are eroded away from running water from below and weakened by warm weather from above. It is often difficult to assess due to its hidden nature, but is most prevalent over streambeds, near rocks, cliffs, brush, turf, and crevasses.  ICEFALL has recently become a significant hazard. Some large ice has already fallen, but a lot has yet to come crashing down. Do your best to avoid spending time underneath ice. If you must, use a natural barrier like a very large boulder as a shield and formulate a plan before you hear the crash of a van sized chunk breaking loose.  Although Lunch Rocks is a traditional place to sit it should be called “ICEFALL ROCKS” as it is in the bulls-eye of several major icefall paths.  The majority of icefall injuries and deaths have occurred around Lunch Rocks.  There are much better places to sit closer to the entry of the Ravine floor.

Skiing down from the Ravine is no longer an option. Walking from the Bowl down to Hermit Lake is by far the smartest way out of the Bowl. When you arrive back at Hermit Lake you can click back in and ski about 50% of the way to the parking lots.  The bottoms of the hiking trail and the John Sherburne Ski Trail near Pinkham Notch are melting out very quickly.  The lower Sherburne is very wet and muddy so to prevent erosion and keep your boots out of deep mud we’ll begin closing off the bottom sections of trail this afternoon.  Please cross over to the hiking trail and walk the short distance to Pinkham Notch.

Check out the weekend update later this afternoon on www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org.

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.

Chris Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713  TTY (603) 466-2856

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