Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:00a.m., Sunday, May 16, 2010

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.

Yesterday was a pretty miserable day and most visitors spent a good deal of time trying to find a piece of the Hermit Lake porch that allowed some reprieve from the driving rain. Conditions were perfect for hypothermia and we saw lots of cold visitors sporting soaking wet jeans and cotton sweatshirts. Luckily today will bring the return of the sun and the mountain air should remain dry for the most part. As the sun went down yesterday evening so did the mercury and lock-up of the snowpack occurred at upper elevations. Hermit Lake remained above freezing through the night and I believe that the Ravine danced right around the freezing point for the last 12 hours. The temperature at the summit is currently 29F (-2C) and expected to fall a bit more this morning before rebounding to the mid 30s F (2C). The wind is blowing at 40mph (64kph) up top and forecasted to pick up with gusts over 70mph (113kph). Is today a perfect day for spring skiing? Not exactly. Is it better than yesterday? Heck yeah! The crux today will be finding the right place to make some turns. When looking for good soft snow think about a slope’s exposure to the sun and wind. Areas like Right Gully and the Lobster Claw will offer better solar gain and protection from the NW winds but their southern exposure has had them melting fast so watch the runouts!

Snow conditions are one consideration when developing your plan but there are other mountain hazards that should go into your route selection. Though lots of ice has fallen at this point in the season ICEFALL is still one of your biggest concerns. Recognizing where icefall may occur and formulating a plan is critical. Don’t linger under ice including spots like the Lunch Rocks unless you have the protection of a large boulder. Once the ice has fallen it still presents a hazard by creating an obstruction in your runout. With potentially icy conditions in some places today you’ll want to keep long sliding falls in the front of your mind. An ice ax and the ability to self arrest will help you avoid sliding into rocks or ice or into a crevasse. Speaking of CREVASSES, they are numerous and widespread and present a very real threat today. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls the snowpack downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. Steer well clear of these at all costs. 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.

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.

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