Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted 8:00a.m., Monday January 3, 2011

Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely. The Escape Hatch, Lower Snowfields, and Little Headwall are not posted due to a general lack of snow in these areas.

The past few days have been interesting at least. Conditions on Mt. Washington have been changing rapidly. About one week ago we got a great snowstorm that snapped us out of our post-holiday languor. For a couple days people were enjoying powder runs on the ski trails and there were some impressive avalanches in the ravines, but then we had temperatures shoot above 40F all the way to the summit on Saturday night. Right before our eyes, all that new snow began to melt away. Warm weather persisted until yesterday, when summit temperatures began to fall. As of this morning they’ve fallen by 40 degrees F since their peak. As for avalanches, conditions are very stable thanks to all the wet snow freezing into a solid mass of ice. It will remain this way until we get either some new snow or a significant change in weather. There are some light snowfalls expected through the week in the mountains. These won’t be much, but they may affect stability ratings, so check the advisory daily if you’re planning a trip to avalanche terrain.

The drop in temperatures will also bring out some of the other winter hazards that have been in hibernation through the off-season. First on my list of things that can hurt is a LONG SLIDING FALL. If you’re heading into steep terrain, know that it will be difficult to arrest your fall on the icy surface. The lack of snow increases your chances of hitting rocks and trees in a fall. Have an ice axe and crampons with you, know how to use them, and practice before you get into terrain where a fall carries high consequences. GENERALLY TREACHEROUS TRAIL CONDITIONS makes the list as well. Traction footwear and a set of ski poles can go a long way toward keeping you on your feet in low-angle terrain. Also of concern are ICE DAMS that are forming as newly formed ice plugs up the drainage channels behind ice climbs. If you pass through these challenges and make it to treeline, you’ll find ARCTIC CONDITIONS AND VERY STRONG WINDS gusting over 80mph today. All in all, with the recent dynamic conditions and current weather you should be on your toes today regardless of where you travel in the mountains.

I also feel compelled to describe the current sad state of the John Sherburne Ski Trail. Much of the trail has sections melted down to bare grass. Where it’s not grass there is a lot of water ice. There are also rocks, brush, and open water. And where snow exists, it is very hard and choppy. Until things change plan a little extra time for your descent or plan to walk the hiking trail down to Pinkham.

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.
  • This advisory expires at midnight. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

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