Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted at 7:30a.m., Sunday May 22st, 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.

When I woke up on Sunday morning I saw something I hadn’t in a long time; the sun!  This relief from low pressure may be short lived so enjoy it if you can.  The end of the weekend will bring partly cloudy skies with summit temperatures in the 50s F (10s C).  Fog will return to the mountains on Sunday night and Monday’s weather will be dominated by clouds and a chance of rain.  Showers and thunderstorms are likely for Tuesday with the hopes of better weather in the long range forecast.

Ski runs have changed a lot over the past week.  Hillman’s has fallen apart at the bottom and now requires a bush whack to get into it.  The snow in Left Gully has detached from the main bowl near the bottom which also necessitates a short thrash to enter.  The Chute has narrowed substantially in the constriction of the hourglass and has a poor runout at the bottom.  The lower Sluice has ticked it’s way up the ladder of the best to ski due to the ice above falling which reduces the objective hazards.  The lower half from the cliffs down is a reasonable choice, but consider your rock runout below before skiing or riding.

Our traditional spring hazards continue to be an issue.  Realize clouds and fog may make identifying them very difficult.

  1. CREVASSES have formed in many areas, the largest of these can be found throughout the Ravine. 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.
  2. UNDERMINED SNOW often hides running water below and it can quickly ruin your day if you break through. Avoid traveling over stream beds and areas of running water and keep a heads up near rocks, bushes, and other areas where the snowpack is thin.
  3. FALLING ICE has injured and killed many people through the years.  We’ve had a lot of ice fall over the past 2 weeks and have made it through the worst of it.  However some ice still exists primarily in the Center Headwall. Ice fall doesn’t always go straight down the fall line so it’s not uncommon for Headwall ice to arc into the lower half of Lunch Rocks (or “Icefall Rocks”). Your best defense is to not spend time in areas where ice looms above.

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 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.  The John Sherburne Ski Trail is closed to all use. Please do not ski on the 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 or the Harvard Cabin.
  • A new General Advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

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

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