Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted Saturday 5/14/2011, 7:50am

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.

It’s clear that rain will dominate the forecast for the upcoming week kicking off later today.  Since yesterday’s weather forecasts the possibility of precipitation (PoP) and the expected water amounts (QPF) have increased substantially.  Rain is expected to begin later today and pick up tonight and through tomorrow.  Forecasts are anticipating us to receive an inch (2.54cm) of rain by some point during the day tomorrow and perhaps another inch + (2.54+cm) Sunday night into Monday.  Along with this will be FOG WHICH COULD MAKE ASSESSING THE HAZARDS DISCUSSED BELOW VERY DIFFICULT.  Take this into account before committing to steep terrain or being in the runout of icefall.  While snow stability concerns may currently be put to rest there are several significant hazards you need 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.  Over the years numerous people have been injured or worse by these springtime hazards; it would be a great season to have not one single person hurt 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 currently in the Center Bowl.  Most of the ice up behind Lunch Rocks (aka “Ice Fall Rocks”) in the Sluice cliffs has fallen, but some smaller icefall is still possible from this general region. Both the Headwall ice and the Sluice area ice can crash into Lunch Rocks. For this reason, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND LUNCH ROCKS AS A SAFE PLACE TO SIT.  Ice fall doesn’t always go straight down the fall line so it’s not uncommon for Center Headwall ice to arc into the lower half of Lunch 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 or hear people yelling “ICE!”.
  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 and out of a deep crevasse may be impossible.  Imagine what it’s like to be wedged into a constriction wearing skis or a board, barely able to move, and hoping for someone with ropes and anchors 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.

The top 25-30% of the Sherburne Ski Trail is still open but requires some walking through several sections. We would all rather walk down from Hermit Lake than subject ourselves to the upper quarter of the Sherburne in its current state. There is no skiing on the Tuckerman Ravine Hiking 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.
  • A new General Advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest

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