Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted 8:15am Saturday 4-30-2011

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 wintry start to Saturday is revealing itself this morning with light snow and fog from Hermit Lake up to the summit.  The summit collected 0.5” of new snow with up to another 0.5” on the way.  Clouds will be the dominate weather feature on the mountain until a high pressure system pushes them out later today setting the stage for clear conditions overnight and Sunday.  Summit temperatures are currently 23.5F (-5C) while at the Hermit Lake cabins we are just above freezing at 33F (1C).  The mercury will rise in the higher terrain to about 30 F (-1C) later today with winds increasing from the NW to 35-50+ (55-80kph).  The temperatures and clouds will translate into 2 significant problems for you this morning.  First clouds and some light snow will diminish visibility which is critical to being able to see all the spring hazards that threaten you. Seeing where crevasses are, where rocks in your run out are and putting your eagle eyes on falling ice is all very important and will be hampered today.  And second the temperatures and the sun blocking clouds will keep snow conditions fairly hard for a good portion of the day.  This will translate into skier falls on icy surfaces and depending on the fall line you’ve chosen you could be sent into a crevasse or rock. Crampons, an ice ax, and the skills to use them are required to travel safely in hard frozen conditions.  Right Gully and the Lobster Claw have the best chance of softening as they are south facing and eventually clouds should lift allowing some sun in the afternoon.  This is not an absolute, but we’ll hope for some softer snow conditions.  Consider these points in your decisions today:

  • The Lip and Center Headwall is NOT RECOMMENDED.  They are riddled with large crevasses that are up to 6 to 8 feet wide and quite long.  The main waterfall hole also exists in this location which has become very large due to this week’s melting and rain.  Due to the severe consequences and so much good skiing and challenge in other locations there is really no good reason to use this area.
  • Hillman’s Highway and Left Gully have the longest runs with the least amount of objective hazards, such as falling ice and crevasses, and are therefore two of the best choices.

There are some other spring hazards to watch out for as well.  Besides the aforementioned CREVASSES they have opened up in the climber’s left Headwall, Sluice and Chute as well.  Climb up what you plan to descend so that you can identify these hazards and make a plan for avoiding them. Think about your fall line carefully and assure these crevasses are not below you. UNDERMINED SNOW is when the snow bridges are eroded away from running water 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 the majority 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 not an option. You’ll need to walk from the Bowl down to Hermit Lake then you can ski or ride a little over half way down the Sherburne ski trail. The lower Sherburne is bare ground, very wet and muddy so to prevent erosion and keep your boots out of deep mud cross over to the Tuckerman Ravine hiking trail at the rope and walk the short distance to Pinkham Notch.

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.
  • 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

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