Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted 8:23a.m., Wednesday, May 18, 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.

Rain continues to dominate the forecast for the rest of the workweek.  Lucky for us, the biggest rains are behind us at this point because we’ve gotten soaked with more than 2.5” (6cm) since low pressure rolled in last weekend.  The high end of forecasted rain amounts would push over 1” (2.5cm) by the time the sun starts to regain control this weekend.  We’ll likely see about half as much but the problems it creates will be the same.  Thick fog may severely limit your visibility. Not only can this be surprisingly disorienting, but it can prevent you from being able to get a handle on the springtime hazards that are now widespread in the ravines. Practice good situational awareness and pay attention to the following hazards that are a regular piece of springtime on Mt Washington:

  1. FALLING ICE has injured and killed many people through the years. The largest ice in Tuckerman is currently in the Center Bowl, though Sunday a snowboarder in Left Gully had falling ice come closer than he probably cared for. 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. 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 near rocks, bushes, and other areas where the snowpack is thin. The bottom of Hillman’s Highway and the top of the Sluice are two examples 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 John Sherburne Ski Trail is closed to all use. Please do not ski on the hiking trail!

The Lion Head Summer Trail is open. This trail has a section that traverses a steep snow slope. We recommend having an ice axe and crampons for safe travel through this section; this is especially important if the trail is frozen and icy.

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.
  • A new General Advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

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

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