Avalanche Advisory of Saturday, 3-24-2012

This advisory expires at midnight, Saturday 3-24-2012

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely.  Huntington Ravine is under a General Avalanche Advisory.  A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

If you were up here last weekend you’ll be blown away how much things have changed in 6-7 days.   Due to this, there is so much to pass along today I figured I’d cut right to the chase and get right into facts and center target issues.  The low pressure weather system pushing into the region will create a thickening upper level cloud deck probably pinching off the sun fairly early.  Temperatures on the summit shouldn’t go up too much more from their current of 34F (1.5C).  Hermit Lake is also at 34F (1.5C), but I would expect the mercury to crawl higher than above treeline.  Mixed precipitation tonight should change to all rain with fog on Sunday as the higher elevations will be above the freezing mark.  Clearly it will be important to re-assess what’s in your pack to assure you can deal with the coming weather conditions.  Quality Gore-tex and insulation can make the all the difference between having a reasonable day and being in real trouble at 35F and raining.    

Spring hazards have really jumped forward this week so keep the following bulls-eye points the main factor in your decision making.  You can’t have fun skiing or riding if you get hurt so make these a priority in your mind today.  Watch for them and indentify where the hazards are before trudging up some arbitrary boot ladder.

1.-FALLING ICE. Icefall is a very real threat in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.   It will all come down at some point and although timing can be fickle, expect the potential to rise the warmer the temperature.  Ice fall 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 many pieces as it impacts rocks. Lunch Rocks is in the path of large amounts of falling ice from beneath the Center 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!  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.   The main waterfall hole just to the Left of the Lip area has completely opened up.  The entire area is also criss-crossed with a number of deep slots on the right hand side of the Bowl up towards the Lip.   Falling into any of these can have very dire circumstances.  Because of these crevasses, falling ice and extremely poor fall line considerations the greater LIP AREA IS NOT RECOMMENDED.  Hiking up what you plan on descending will help tremendously to recognize all the hazards you may face. 

Deep trough runnels from the Center Bowl over to the Chute are very deep and difficult to deal with effectively.  Take a close look at these from down below so you can consider other alternatives before having to face them while descending.  Left Gully offers the best snow coverage, the longest run, and the least amount of hazards in terms of icefall, undermining and crevasses.  It stands out for us as the best recommendation.  Of course it will still be important to look for general mountain risks even in the safest of locations.  Hillman’s Highway follows closely behind as recommendation #2 although it has gotten narrow in some places and lost a bit of coverage this week.  Due to the Hurricane Irene landslide in Hillman’s last summer we are learning about how the gully reacts to melt-out this year.  We expect new areas of undermining and potentially some rock fall as the raw landscape becomes exposed again and responds to the melt freeze process.  It is still a reasonable choice, but stay aware of the hazards and use some caution.

We had to move the Sherburne Ski Trail closure rope up higher yesterday.  You can ski about 30% of the way down before needing to cross over to the Tuckerman Ravine trail, below that point is closed.  Use the connecting path on the uphill side of the rope directing you back over to the hiking trail. Please do not walk down the ski trail as it is not designed to handle foot traffic.  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.  The Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch has a lot of exposed water ice therefore traction devices or poles may be helpful.

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 Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, 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
03-24-2012 Print Friendly