Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Valid Thursday 5/12/2011 – Saturday 5/14/2011

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines are under a General Advisory. We have finished using the 5-scale danger rating system for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

While snow stability concerns may be put to rest for the season (barring a sizable late-season storm) There are several significant hazards we want you to be aware of. Each spring season the ravines transition into summer by shedding ice off the cliffs, opening large crevasses as the snow slowly creeps downhill, and runoff from snowmelt eats away at the undersides of snow bridges. Finding one of these hazards can sometimes be humorous, sometimes it can be annoying or uncomfortable, and if luck isn’t on your side, the hazards can turn deadly. Over the years we’ve seen numerous people victimized by the springtime hazards; it would be a great season to have not one single person injured by falling ice, crevasses, etc. Pay attention to what’s around you up in the Bowl, and give these hazards careful consideration before committing yourself to a specific route:

  1. FALLING ICE has injured and killed many people through the years. The largest ice in Tuckerman is in the Center Bowl and up on the cliffs above Lunch Rocks. Both of these areas send ice into Lunch Rocks. For this reason, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND LUNCH ROCKS AS A SAFE PLACE TO SIT. It gets better once all the ice has fallen from the Sluice, but we regularly see ice from the Center Headwall shoot sideways across the rocks. Huntington also has icefall potential in numerous areas. Your best defense is to not spend time in areas where ice looms above, and to be thinking about what you’ll do when you hear the strange cracking and crashing sounds from the cliffs.
  2. CREVASSES have formed in many areas, the largest of these can be found in the Lip, Sluice, and Center Bowl. Other areas also have smaller crevasses growing. We recommend you hike up the route you plan to descend so you can assess these hazards at a leisurely pace. Crevasse edges are often less stable than they appear, so steer clear of these unless you can safely evaluate their size. Getting yourself up out of a deep crevasse is challenging even for experienced mountaineers with climbing equipment, so try to imagine what it’s like to be wedged into a constriction wearing skis or a board, barely able to move, and hoping for someone to come to your aid. You don’t want to learn this lesson firsthand!
  3. UNDERMINED SNOW often hides running water below and it can quickly ruin your day if you break through. Avoid traveling over streambeds and areas of running water and keep a heads up at the bottom of gullies where the snowpack is thinnest. The bottom of Hillman’s Highway is one example of where this hazard lurks.

A section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is now closed to all use. This section extends from Lunch Rocks to the top of the Headwall where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail, and includes skiing or riding through the Lip area. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of the crevasses and undermining, and the severe consequences of a fall in this area.

We’ll be evaluating the Sherburne Ski Trail and closing the trail when conditions warrant. For now, I can tell you that I would personally rather walk down from Hermit Lake than subject myself to the top third of the Sherburne in its current state. DO NOT SKI ON THE HIKING TRAIL DOWN FROM HERMIT LAKE.

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.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (603) 466-2713 end_of_the_skype_highlighting TTY (603) 466-2856

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