General Avalanche Advisory 12-28-2011

A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant or within 72 hours.  Unless updated this advisory expires Friday 12-30-2011 at midnight.

This is an early season GENERAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY for Tuckerman Ravine.  We have not yet begun posting advisories for Huntington Ravine due to an overall lack of snow cover in this area. These will begin when conditions warrant.

General Advisories are issued when instabilities are isolated within the entire forecast area. However, avalanche activity may occur within these locations before the issuance of a 5-scale danger rating forecast. Under a General Advisory you need to make your own snow stability assessments when traveling in avalanche terrain. Within the General Advisory there are isolated snowfields that are growing in size and may harbor instabilities. In Tuckerman the two largest snowfields can be found in Left Gully and the Chute. Some smaller snowfields are also developing in the Center Bowl and other areas towards the north. Conditions are changing quickly, so check the latest advisory before heading into avalanche terrain.

With each waking day we get closer to full on winter.  As of 7am this morning the summit picked up 7.2″ of snow with some additional freezing mixed precip and just a hair of rain all melting to almost 2.2” (5.6cm) of water during the previous 24 hours.  Meanwhile down at the Hermit Lake elevation 2” (5cm) of snow fell along with a number of other precipitation forms including rain all melting to 1.65” (4.2cm).  Down low in the Ravine at the Lunch Rocks elevation the surface consisted of a 1.5” (3.75cm) thick porous crust with moist snow underneath, but not quite to the “wet” definition.  It is likely that as you gain elevation the crust will become thinner as less liquid and mixed precipitation fell the higher you move towards the summit.  This morning the temperature started dropping quickly on Washington’s high point from 32F (0C) at 3am to 14F (-10C) as of 2pm.  With this drop in temperature and the frontal movement upslope snow began falling and is expected to continue overnight.  The main concern at this point is new cold dry snow loading on a number of different crust and surface textures depending on snowfield elevation.  New snow this afternoon and tonight with be loaded into the Ravines on increasing NW winds expected to peak around 115mph and will be sustained at about 100 for a lengthy duration. Temperatures will also be the coldest yet with a mercury expectation of -15F (-26C) overnight and only rebounding to 0F (-18C) on Thursday if we’re lucky.  New upslope snow crystals will be light in density, but should get pulverized and packed into strong lee areas by high NW winds in a number of places and scoured out in slopes exposed to the 100+mph winds.  We would expect any new snow that survives the high winds scouring effects to have a poor bond at the interface with old surface crust. Also we are expecting an enormous near surface temperature gradient which will start a rapid faceting process in a number of locations depending on the thickness of new snow deposition over the crust.  So… we are getting closer to some more significant issues and will continue evaluating the situation day by day as we move closer to a 5 scale danger rating situation.  We will have some new information out for the holiday weekend as we observe changes over the next 24-48 hours.

OTHER EARLY SEASON CONCERNS— Trails going through ravines and gulfs require winter gear, equipment, and skills. Also, streams and water crossings are still in the process of freezing over, including on the trail leading into both Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. All this can make getting to a ravine challenging, and once you get there you’ll be faced with typical early season conditions such as thin ice, water flowing behind ice, exposed loose rock, and thin snow cover in most of the usual ice climbing routes.

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. Posted 12-28-2011 3:00pm.

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

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General Advisory 12-26-2011

Expires midnight Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This is an early season GENERAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY for Tuckerman Ravine.  We have not yet begun posting advisories for Huntington Ravine due to an overall lack of snow cover in this area. These will begin when conditions warrant.

General Advisories are issued when instabilities are isolated within the entire forecast area. However, avalanche activity may occur within these locations before the issuance of a 5-scale forecast. Under a General Advisory you need to make your own snow stability assessments when traveling in avalanche terrain. Within the General Advisory there are isolated snowfields that are growing in size and may harbor instabilities. In Tuckerman the two largest snowfields can be found in Left Gully and the Chute. Some smaller snowfields are also developing in the Center Bowl and other areas. Conditions are changing quickly, so check the latest advisory before heading into avalanche terrain.

December 2011 hasn’t been the greatest month for New England’s snow-loving community, but the mountain is slowly changing over into full winter conditions. Recently there have been several small snowfalls that have contributed to the growth of snowfields around the mountain. 7.3″ (18.5cm) of light density snow has fallen in two separate events since the temperatures rose above freezing on the 22nd and 23rd. The crust that developed after that warm spell has some new pockets of windblown snow sitting on top of it. For now, the size and distribution of these areas isn’t great enough to bump us beyond the criteria for issuing a General Advisory, but it’s important for you to remember that avalanches can occur before we start issuing 5-scale forecasts. Instabilities may be lurking out there, just waiting for a trigger. Potential triggers include rain on Tuesday or perhaps a person climbing through a wind loaded pocket. Remember, the snow doesn’t care if you got new crampons or a beacon, or how long you drove to get here. Use your head out there and give even the small patches of windblown snow the respect they deserve.

OTHER EARLY SEASON CONCERNS—Winter seems to have just arrived here in the mountains. Trails are freezing and becoming snow covered. Hiking up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail below Hermit Lake has the potential to be an icy nightmare. Trails going through ravines and gulfs require winter gear, equipment, and skills. Also, streams and water crossings are still in the process of freezing over, including on the trail leading into both Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. All this can make getting to a ravine challenging, and once you get there you’ll be faced with typical early season conditions such as thin ice, water flowing behind ice, exposed loose rock, and thin snow cover in most of the usual ice climbing routes.

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.
  • Posted 9:40 a.m. December 26, 2011. A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

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

Printable Advisory

General Advisory 12-23-2011

Expires midnight Sunday, December 25, 2011

This is the initial GENERAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY for the 2011-2012 season. Although I can’t say we’re getting a windfall from Santa right now at least a few stocking stuffer snow shots are picking up the holiday spirit. It’s certainly about time as we started wondering if the first advisory of the season would ever happen. This General Advisory pertains only to Tuckerman due to the lack of snow cover in Huntington Ravine. Advisories for Huntington will begin when conditions warrant.

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 and may harbor instabilities. Some examples in Tuckerman include Left Gully and the Chute. Some smaller snowfields are developing in between ice bulges across the main Center Bowl that attract climbers early each season. Under a General Advisory you need to make your own avalanche stability assessments before venturing into these slopes. Conditions are beginning to change quickly, so check www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org frequently as we move through late December and certainly check for the latest avalanche advisory before heading into avalanche terrain.

As of mid-morning on Friday 12/23/11 the summit has picked up approximately 3” (7.5cm) of 10% snow with another 1-2” (2.5-5cm) expected through tonight and again on Saturday. Snow has been transported on building winds from the W and NW and these are expected to increase into the 50-55mph (80-90kph) range overnight before decreasing. This scenario will increase the size of snow slopes and contribute to our concerns about the specific areas discussed above.

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 climbers pick 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 without much snow on the ground even a short fall can be a significant problem. Remember, if a snowfield is big enough to recreate on, it’s big enough to avalanche.

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.
  • Posted 3:30p.m. December 23, 2011. A new 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

Printable Advisory

A long early season in the ravines

Old Man Winter showed up this week, not in a thick coat but in a worn out old t-shirt. Freezing fog, 1-2″ of snow here and there, a smattering of ice pellets, and rain is no way to roll into winter. At least there is a covering of snow at Pinkham Notch and it continues up the mountain, the summit recording a meager 6 inches on the ground as of 5am. A total of 13.6 inches for the month of December so far.  So if you’re planning a winter escape this weekend look farther North, way farther.

Yesterday’s mixed bag of precipitation and mild temps didn’t do anything for our already thin  ice conditions. A couple of cold fronts moving in today will set us up for a cold weekend with a windy start. Temps this low should help slow down all that running water in Pinnacle and in Tucks. It’s nice to finally see the thermometer reading something other than mid 30’s.  High winds today and into tonight should decrease over Saturday and Sunday down into the 30 to 40 mph range. I’ll mention the possibility of 1 – 2″ of snow throughout the day today just so I can remember how to spell snow.  No fear of desperate post-holing approaches this weekend.

The long range weather looks like it’s going to stay below freezing, but with no interesting storms slated to come through. With that in mind we still haven’t posted a General Advisory so be sure to check on the weather and conditions prior to heading into the mountains. The higher summit forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory can be found at http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/summit_forecast.php . The National Weather Service website can be found at http://weather.gov/ and they’ve got tons of interesting weather information.

Here’s a little nugget that shows the snow depth across the country:

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience.
  • You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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

 

Slow progress, but it’s moving in the right direction

Wow, we’re almost halfway through December and there’s still not enough snow to warrant posting the first General Advisory. Yesterday Joe and I took a walk up into both ravines to check up on conditions. Winter is beginning to get a foothold on the mountain, but what we have right now is similar to what I’d think of as early November conditions on a “normal” year. On Mt. Washington there is often no such thing as normal. The mountain always seems to be changing, so keep tabs on the current weather and conditions rather than make the assumption that things will be as they were in years past.

Ice climbing conditions in Huntington are developing slowly due to recent warm weather. There is ice in many of the gullies, but its quality should be viewed with suspicion. For example, yesterday’s warm sun was penetrating into the snow and ice on the northern gullies even though temperatures remained slightly below freezing. Yale, Damnation, and North gullies all had very discontinuous stretches of ice with rock and frozen turf in between. The lack of snow isn’t a concern only in these gullies. Pretty much all the gullies have scant snow coverage in places where one might usually expect to have some. We talked to a party that climbed Odell yesterday, and they reported the snow that was there was hollow and collapsing. The concern wasn’t avalanches, as these descriptors often are red flags for instability, instead it was that the snow lacked the strength to give them solid support underfoot. Remember, it’s still early season for ice climbing. Think about how the top outs might be without sufficient snow cover. You might want to leave behind your pickets and bring some rock protection instead.

Tuckerman is looking similar to Huntington–very little snow and ice that is developing slowly. The very top of Left Gully has the largest snowfield in the ravine, but most of the gully has very thin coverage similar to the rest of Tuckerman Ravine. Ice is forming in the Headwall and Lip area, including the Open Book. All around, you should expect ice to have water running behind it and possibly be detached from the relatively warm rock. The Sluice ice really hasn’t developed at all for this time of the year, probably due in part to its aspect facing directly into the sun.

We will continue to monitor conditions, and begin posting General Advisories when conditions warrant. If you’ve already got your trip planned and are coming regardless of the conditions, you would be wise to keep tabs on weather events in the days leading up to your trip. One good snowstorm could significantly change the landscape very quickly.

Finally, I’d like to plug our social media sites as a way for you to keep tabs on what’s going on. If you are a Twitter user, you’ll get a tweet any time we post a new advisory. Our Facebook page will also have a post within 15 minutes or so of the new advisory being posted. We’ll also be using our Facebook page to share interesting snow and avalanche related information throughout the season. Check these out if you’re interested and share them with your friends, but keep this page bookmarked for the official avalanche advisories and latest photos.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience.
  • You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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

PDF version

Brown one day-White the next.

The mountain has been doing a pretty good job during the early season as a flip flopper between wanting to be either brown with vegetation or white with snow.  We’ve seen some good snow accumulations completely melt out and watched ice development come and go as we endured a very warm November and early December. Let’s hope with yesterday’s snow storm this is all behind us.  The summit picked up 9.1” (23cm) of snow melting to 1.22” (3cm) of water producing an average snow density of 13.4%.  Snow came in wet as it slowly transitioned from the 0.56” (1.4cm) of rain on Wednesday 12/7.  This transition generated snow a little heavier than the 13.4% average early on and certainly ended quite a bit lighter as temperatures fell to 5 degrees F near the storm’s conclusion.  Wind speeds ramped up during the event peaking at 117mph (188kph) from the NW as the system pushed out of the area during the early afternoon on Thursday the 8th.

Although this storm was great remember our winter wonderland is still an infant as the mountain was generally starting from a brown and grey hue 48 hours ago.  Therefore, any water ice is very thin and snow fields of any size are far and few between.  However it finally looks like a winter trend is settling into place with summit temperatures in the teens and falling to zero over the weekend.  Looking out over the next week it appears higher summit temperatures will stay below the mid twenties so the future is looking bright!

We still are not issuing advisories due to the lack of size-able base layers for new snow deposition to avalanche on.  Watch new snow accumulation closely as the nooks and crannies get filled in and expect some pockets of instability to be an issue soon.  As I have mentioned in the past we won’t start issuing advisories for the first 20’ by 40’ pocket of snow that develops on some early season mixed ice route or near the horizon of a gully or two, but will when some more widespread issues develop.  Pay attention and remember if it’s big enough to recreate on its big enough to avalanche.  We continue to monitor the situation daily and will issue a General Advisory or 5 Scale Forecast when needed.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience.
  • You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Hermit Lake Shelters, or the caretaker at the Harvard Cabin.

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

 

One step closer

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. This is another early season check-in message, something to read while you’re digesting your turkey feast. We’re not yet issuing advisories, either General Advisories or 5-scale forecasts. If you’re heading into the mountains over the holiday weekend, you’ll be on your own for assessing the conditions. We’ve been keeping an eye on conditions, and have waited patiently for winter to make its grand entrance.

While I can’t say yesterday’s storm was the most spectacular entrance to winter ever seen on Mt. Washington, a respectable 10″ fell on the summit. Before you get all eager to swing your ice tools or carve the powder on your brand new skis, let me remind you that we’ve had a rather warm November. In fact, it was just a few days ago (Nov 19 & 20) that summit temperatures reached 32F or higher. Moreover, during 14 of the 23 days so far this month temperatures have risen above freezing on the summit, with many of these days reaching into the 40’sF. Prior to this storm, there really wasn’t much on the mountain for ice or early season snowfields. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing how and where to recreate. As winter conditions continue to take hold, remember to plan and equip yourself properly for early conditions. If you’ve only ever climbed here in January or skied here in March, you might be surprised by how different November can be. This can hold true even for those who have come numerous times in November. The mountain is just beginning to embrace winter.

We hope yesterday’s storm is only a prelude of what’s to come over the next few months. It’s only  a matter of time before we issue our first General Advisory. As the snowfields in the ravines grow, we’ll eventually move into using the 5-scale rating system. Keep an eye on our website in the coming weeks for these events, plus new photos and some other small changes currently in the works.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience.
  • You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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

 

Get ready, winter’s on the way!!!

October 31st, 2011 2:00pm

It never fails.  Winter comes around before you know it and my youthful anticipations for the white season builds to a fervor right about the Hallows-eve.  As is typical for our high mountains in October we started picking up a bit more snow with every day in the high peaks.  The summit received 20.7 inches of snow in October, 16” coming over the past week and 10 of that falling in the last couple of days.  We seem to be in a nice building trend!  If you’re reading this there is good chance you live within a day’s drive of Mount Washington .  This in turn probably means you have snow on the ground as the region just got slapped with a record breaking early Nor’easter.  Before it melts use this as an awesome opportunity to get out and practice your beacon finding skills with a buddy.  These early season chances don’t come around often so go outside and practice your rescue techniques.  More importantly, refresh your avalanche knowledge as NOT getting caught is the main objective.  80+ people will be doing that this weekend at a full first annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop (ESAW), proceeds going to the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund.   The fund is set up primarily to educate kids about avalanches across the Northeast.  Take a look on our website https://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/about/white-mountain-avalanche-education-fund for more information and the “donate” tab if you’re interested.

The other recent news has been the fantastic volunteer support we have seen from local groups to help us recover from Hurricane Irene on the mountain. This effort, spearheaded by the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, has helped us repair bridges which are getting close to being ready for the season.  This will help thousands of skiers this winter as the bridge from Hermit Lake to the Sherburne would likely not make it until spring without the sustained effort it has seen over the past couple of weekends.  Thanks so much for all your energy and help!

Well this isn’t an avalanche advisory, but more of a “hey get ready because they’re just around the corner” posting.  We will be working on a number of updates and annual preseason changes so expect some website updates over the next 2-3 weeks including pictures, avalanche courses providers, etc.   Keep coming back or follow us on twitter/facebook.   Watch new snow accumulation closely as the nooks and crannies get filled in and expect some pockets of instability to be an issue soon if the recent trend continues.  We won’t start issuing advisories for the first 20’ by 40’ pocket of snow that develops on some early season mixed ice route, but will when some more widespread issues develop.  Pay attention and remember if it’s big enough to recreate on its big enough to avalanche.  Talk to you soon and get psyched for the winter ahead.  Chris.

Please Remember: Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience.   You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel. For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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

Printer Friendly 10-31-2011