Avalanche Advisory for Wednesday, 3-21-2012

This advisory expires at midnight Wednesday, 3-21-2012

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.  Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

As the days keep getting warmer I began falling into a time warp, propelled forward to mid-summer.  I seriously started to forget what month we were in as even shorts and a t-shirt seemed too hot.  Another couple of days in the 80’s F for our local valleys will continue to wreck havoc on our mountain snowpack.  Looking up at the south facing gullies of Huntington and seeing bare rock this morning, with a few specks of white, is a testament to what a summer like sun can do in rapid fashion.  

With this record heat wave for mid March comes our laundry list of springtime hazards and transitions which are changing day by day, and even by the hour in some cases.

  1. FALLING ICE. Once again, this is the number one concern today. Icefall is a very real threat in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.  The recent heat has begun sending ice crashing to the floor below.  Falling ice has seriously injured and killed numerous visitors in the past. The best way to manage this hazard is to avoid spending time beneath potential icefall.  Remember that ice doesn’t always fall in a straight line and it can explode into thousands of pieces as it impacts rocks. Lunch Rocks is in the path of huge amounts of falling ice from both the Headwall and the Sluice.  Even though it’s been a popular place to sit for a long time, Lunch Rocks should really be re-named ICEFALL ROCKS!  It is a very bad place to sit. More people have been hurt in this area than any other in the Ravine.  Sitting across the Ravine on the left, or south side, is a much better option.
  2. UNDERMINED SNOW.  As streams melt out the snow from below and heat weakens the top, you stand a good chance of punching through. There are many places where the water level below the snow is up enough that you’d be in trouble if this happens. Stick to the areas where the snow is deepest and avoid thin spots near rocks and bushes.
  3. CREVASSES. So far this year the crevasse hazard hasn’t been too bad, but they have begun to open.  The main waterfall hole just to the Left of the Lip area however, has completely opened up as it does every year.  Avoid traveling too closely to the edge of this hazardous place and other openings that are developing. Hiking up what you plan on descending will help tremendously to recognize all the hazards you may face. 

Sluff runnels from the Lip over to the Chute are getting deeper and are causing significant problems for even the best skiers and riders.  Left Gully and Hillman’s Highway offer the best snow coverage, the longest runs, and the least amount of hazards in terms of icefall, undermining and crevasses.  These two gullies stand out for us as the best recommendations.  Of course it will still be important to look for general mountain risks even in the safest locations.

The lower 25% of the Sherburne Ski Trail is closed.  Cross over at the rope directing you back over to the hiking trail. It’s only a short walk to Pinkham from there so please do not walk down the ski trail.  It is not designed to handle foot traffic.  Therefore in addition to causing erosion, mud will likely overwhelm the tops of your boots.

The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and the winter Lion Head route is now closed. Please avoid using the winter route to avoid damaging the soil on the steep section of trail.  Although the summer trail is snow covered it is much less technical than the winter option.  The Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch has a lot of exposed water ice. Traction devices or poles may be helpful. If you want to skin up the trail, you will probably want to walk the first mile with your skis on your pack.

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 advisory will be issued tomorrow.

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

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