Latest avalanche advisory for Mount Washington’s Cutler River Drainage – Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

General Bulletin for Saturday, December 9, 2017

General Bulletins are issued when isolated areas of unstable snow exist within our forecast areas. A general bulletin will be in effect until conditions warrant a shift to daily 5 scale avalanche advisories. Please remember that avalanches can occur before 5-scale avalanche forecasts are issued. A new General Bulletin will be issued when conditions warrant or within 72 hours.

Snow is on the way. Over the past week, a brief warmup was followed by a solid refreeze and a light shot of snow with strong wind. A winter storm will develop this afternoon and into tonight. This storm should taper off to upsloping snow showers ending tomorrow afternoon and ultimately leave us with 6”-10” of new snow. Winds will be relatively calm until tomorrow, when our typical NW winds will ramp up through Sunday to peak around 50 mph in the early evening. Expect a break in precipitation on Monday to precede the arrival of another winter storm on Tuesday.

In our terrain, this weather means that our developed avalanche paths, although limited, will become wind loaded and potentially reactive to human triggers through Sunday. Left Gully, Chute, and portions of the upper headwall in Tuckerman as well as Central Gully in Huntington are currently most filled in. Less developed slopes with the potential to produce smaller though still consequential avalanches will be found in much of the terrain, particularly in the upper reaches of ice climbs in both ravines. In addition to avalanche hazards, remember to take into account other early season hazards that exist in the terrain:

  • Rocks, trees and bushes pepper the terrain. Skiing or sliding into obstacles can ruin your day or worse. New snow may just barely cover a season ending death cookie.
  • Terrain traps and cliffs make burial and significant injury a real possibility, even if you are only swept off your feet by a small avalanche. The terrain in the Sluice, Lip and Center Bowl areas, beneath the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, is a prime example of this hazard.
  • Long sliding falls are a threat despite the appearance of new, soft snow on your approach. Wind can easily scour parts of your climb down to an icy bed surface. What you thought would be a mellow snow climb can turn into something much more exciting. Don’t count on self-arrest to save you. Protect yourself with a rope and/or don’t fall.
  • People recreating above other people have a history of sending avalanches, rocks and ice into them. Consider yourself lucky if you only receive a minor injury instead of a broken collarbone or full burial. Have alternate plans and don’t follow the herd. The relative solitude can be refreshing, and safer.

The summer Lion Head Trail is the safer route to the summit than trails through Tuckerman and Huntington. The Lion Head Winter Route will open when snow fills in avalanche paths on the summer trail and fills in the winter route enough to cover rocks, mud and bushes. The John Sherburne Ski Trail still lacks sufficient snow for all but the most desperate skiers. By the end of the day tomorrow, it will probably look enticing, but realize that many exposed rocks from a summer construction project will be lurking just below the snow surface.

Please Remember:
• Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This bulletin 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.
• Posted 8:00 a.m., Saturday, December 9, 2017. A new General Bulletin will be issued when conditions warrant.

Frank Carus/Ryan Matz, Snow Rangers
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2017-12-09

Mountain Safety Information

This is an informational bulletin and does not expire. A new bulletin will be posted when conditions warrant or be replaced by a General Bulletin or Avalanche Advisory.

Cold temperatures, snow and mixed precipitation have created winter hazards on the mountain. A brief period of rain and above freezing temperatures earlier this week, followed by a refreeze, created firm conditions on our existing snow slopes. In the past 24 hours, a few inches of snowfall combined with west winds will have thinly covered much of this firm snow. Our terrain is still largely dominated by rock and ice, but travelers should be aware of avalanche potential on snow slopes. Be prepared for quickly changing winter conditions if recreating on the mountain.

  • The Tuckerman Ravine Trail through Tuckerman Ravine crosses under and through several avalanche paths as it winds its way through the Bowl and across the Headwall. Be prepared to assess the stability of these slopes and to travel across ice directly over cliffs if you choose to travel this route. The summer Lion Head Trail currently has greatly reduced risk of avalanche and consequence in the event of a fall and is a safer route to the summit. The Lion Head Winter Route will be the preferred route when enough snow falls on the LH summer route traverse to create avalanche concerns.
  • Wind slabs develop quickly in our terrain. Snow squalls or wind following a storm can create wind slabs on any smooth, steep slope on your intended climb or ski descent. Evaluate these slopes before you commit to them and consider the consequences of being swept off your feet. Are there obstacles to hit in your path? (Hint- probably.) Can you protect yourself when climbing from steep ice onto lower angled, snow covered ice?
  • Plentiful ice can be found in both Ravines. Conditions can change quickly with rain, sun, and warm temperatures or cold and blowing snow. Be prepared to change objectives by having alternative plans. People above you can create significant hazards. Ice fall and dry-loose avalanches are a threat to consider on any climb.
  • If traveling on snow slopes, firm conditions on or near the surface would likely allow a long sliding fall. Just like an avalanche scenario, the currently rocky nature of our terrain significantly elevates consequence of such an accident.

While snow slopes are currently limited, always remember the early season avalanche mantra “If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide”. A human triggered avalanche one week ago today in Central Gully reminds us of this reality. Ice climbing options are plentiful and we’re optimistic that ski lines will soon follow suit. Be ready, channel the energy of your early season stoke towards refreshing or elevating your avalanche knowledge. Have fun getting together with your backcountry partners to practice beacon searches, geek out on snow, or attend an avalanche class. Snow is in the forecast!

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This bulletin 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.
  • 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 Harvard Cabin.
  • Posted at 8:45 am on Friday, December 1, 2017.  A new bulletin will be issued when conditions warrant.

Ryan Matz, Lead Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2017-12-08Info