Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:34a.m., Saturday, May 15, 2010

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Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Thick fog and clouds have consumed the mountain overnight brought in by the passing cold front working its way through the region. Dawn triggered some precipitation which consists of freezing rain and drizzle on the higher summits as temperatures flirt with the freezing mark at 30F (0C). Depending on your elevation you may see either a wintry mix or rain today. Wind velocities will drop from 40-55mph (65-88kph) this morning to 30-45+mph (50-77+kph) later today. As the front passes temperatures are anticipated to fall into the mid 20’s (-3/-4C) turning any lingering precipitation back to the frozen variety. In prelude to this occurring there are convective cells moving into the area bringing the possibility of thunderstorms and potentially delivering heavy localized rainfall this afternoon. Although this is not an absolute I would be prepared for it by having the right gear and being below treeline in the afternoon if possible. In the end the first half of the weekend will not prove to be the most glorious day the mountain has ever seen. However, in true New England style tomorrow will be a whole different story as the sun will rule supreme over the day’s weather bringing a nice contrast to today. Until then the fog and rain today will add complexities to our general spring hazards discussed below. The thick fog expected will limit visibility considerably from time to time keeping you from seeing rocks and ice on the Ravine floor, crevasses and other holes in the snow, and falling ice from above. The intermittent flat light will exacerbate the low visibility and will be a more consistent problem the higher in elevation you go. Some freezing weather this week brought some minor new ice development which rain should cause to fall today. A more substantial consequence will come from any of the lingering larger ice from the winter which is still hanging on in a few locations in the Headwall and Sluice. Since you won’t be able to see this for yourself today, we posted some photos to our website from yesterday.

The snow available for skiing enjoyment gets a little smaller day by day; you’ll need to balance the amount of turns with the building hazards in your fall line. It’s especially important at this time of year to hike up what you plan to ski down so you can assess the conditions before dropping in on top of them. This is particularly true today in periods of limited visibility due to fog and rain. The biggest issues you’ll be facing are CREVASSES, UNDERMINED SNOW, and FALLING ICE. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls the snowpack downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. A little bit of newer snow has filled in the openings of some crevasses which might give you a false impression of where they start and end, so be very conservative around all crevasses. By definition you won’t see the undermining that has taken place beneath the snow, but you can be on the lookout for clues to the worst locations. Sagging snow, open holes with running water, and “moats” near rocks are all indicators of undermining. Avoid these areas and stay on top of the snow. Although trailing a bit behind crevasses and undermining as the main concern icefall will continue to be an issue. As already alluded to massive amounts of ice have already succumbed to gravity and fallen from the walls to the floor of the Ravine. Some additional pieces of ice remain in all areas waiting for today’s rain to join its family in the floor. Keep your eyes and ears open for this hazard and have a plan in mind should icefall occur while remembering fog will make this very challenging.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences.

The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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