Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

This is the initial GENERAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY for the 2010-2011 season.  Frankly, it’s about time isn’t it!  Use of the 5-scale danger rating system will begin when conditions warrant. Until then new advisories will be issued as needed. A General Advisory is issued when instabilities are isolated within the entire forecast area. However it’s important to realize that avalanche activity may occur within these locations before the issuance of a 5-scale forecast.  This is a critical fact to remember.  Within the General Advisory there are isolated snowfields that are growing in size that should be watched.  Some examples in Tuckerman include Left Gully and the Chute while in Huntington Ravine snow is scant, but can be found in a few locations such as Central Gully.  Realize that snowfields may be developing on existing summer trails. Under a General Advisory you need to make your own avalanche stability assessments before venturing into any open slopes.   Check www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org frequently as we move through early December and certainly check for the latest avalanche advisory before heading into avalanche terrain.

We have been in and out of winter several times over the past 6 weeks, but a consistent Jack Frost is a bit slow in coming.  The recent rain and heavy icing event for the higher elevations caused us to lose a little snow cover and glazed over quite a bit of the Presidential Range summits.  The region is about to enter an unsettled period of weather bringing snow to higher elevations through the weekend and into the beginning of the workweek on a northwesterly flow.  Wind speeds will be moderate but should actively load existing bed surfaces in a number of areas in the Ravines.  Snowfall rates will be most significant on Saturday followed by some modest accumulations into Monday and Tuesday.  Expect some new slab to develop on existing snowfields causing some instabilities, most notably on the larger bed surfaces in Tuckerman’s southern half near the Chute and Left Gully.

OTHER GENERAL EARLY SEASON CONCERNS- We are in early winter in the high mountains so remember trails going through ravines and gulfs require winter gear, equipment, and skills.  Be aware that a small slab or sluff can be very dangerous. This is particularly true for early season ice climbers. As a climber picks their way through a route they will usually cross small pockets of snow. Often this snow has been deposited over blue ice, making for a poor bond at the interface. Consider this ahead of time and place protection before crossing suspect slopes. It doesn’t take much snow to knock you off your feet and depending how high you are this could be a significant problem. Remember if a snowfield is big enough to recreate on, its big enough to avalanche.

Be aware of falling ice if we get back into thaw periods before the real deep winter freeze. Many folks have been injured and killed by falling ice so pay attention to where you are, and don’t linger when under ice. Have a plan in mind about what you will do and where you will go if ice comes down.

Don’t wait any longer to refresh your avalanche skills. Pull out your beacon, install some fresh high quality alkaline batteries, and practice. Review your safe travel rules, techniques for assessing snow stability, and sign up for an avalanche course. We now have all the avalanche course providers in the valley this winter on our website, mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org.

Thanks in advance to all the groups that will once again be helping us make it through the season successfully. We couldn’t do the job without the many volunteers searching for and carrying injured people down the mountain and the financial support that helps us upgrade our rescue, education and information capabilities. We sincerely appreciate all your help.

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, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin. A new avalanche advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

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