Record cold air and snow on the way.

Is -15F and blowing over 100mph wintery enough for you?  Well I hope so because it’s cold enough for me.  Clearly winter is consuming our mountains with some more snow and additional white stuff arriving this week.  It’s definitely time to be prepared for full conditions in the hills and considering avalanche potential.  Although we are not in a General Advisory yet I have a feeling we will be soon.  Currently model runs for the expected mid-week surge of moisture are running warmer, with the rouge GFS starting to come into alignment with the rest of the pack.  This is expected to bring generally mixed precipitation to the region, leaning more heavily to rain than snow.  However the mountains could get a considerable shot of accumulation for the Holiday window.  We’ll keep an eye on it.  Regardless of how this plays out, 11” of snow over the past week is moving into all the nooks and crannies of the early season mountain.   The upslope snow anticipated over the next few days will move along the development of our initial bed surfaces.  How these bed surfaces progress in size will be the key factor in subsequent avalanche potential.

If you look for instability in a few places will you find it before the first official advisory? Yes.  Will it be a widespread problem found across the Ravines? No.  Don’t get caught by surprise and keep your eyes open for a pocket or two of instability.  The classic early season problems are usually found in Tuckerman’s Left Gully, Chute and numerous shelves and benches in the Center Headwall.  In Huntington, common locations have historically been found at the base of popular early season routes like Pinnacle and Odell.  Could instability be found in other locations? Of course, but these are where we see the majority of the early season developments.

  • As we progress towards the solstice daylight is waning.  A headlamp could become your best friend in the event of an injury or a longer than expected day.
  • Warm sun will undoubtedly make an appearance here and there loosening thin early season ice from the Ravine cliffs.  Be cautious when moving through or travelling below these locations.
  • Be sure to check current weather forecasts at the Mount Washington Observatory, posted at the Pinkham and Crawford Notch Visitors Centers as well as at the Harvard Cabin (after Dec.1st) and caretaker cabin in Tuckerman Ravine.
  • Avalanche hazards can grow quickly now that we have some bed surfaces beginning to develop.  Be sure to check as winter continues to take hold up here.


Winter begins as we drift away from the sun

As solar flux dissipates and the earth tilts away from the sun in the northern hemisphere on our annual trip around the sun, winter returns to Mount Washington!  The summit temperatures have been below freezing for over a week and the rock pile has received at least a little bit of snow on 9 of the past 11 days.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re not quite ready to pull out the ice tools and boards, but early winter has certainly arrived.  Hermit Lake has frozen over already and the Tuckerman Headwall already has an impressive amount of ice development.  However, we are in that time of the year when warm days are still inevitable so expect falling ice to be the dominate hazard until full winter arrives.  Yesterday while at Hermit Lake I heard icefall crashes in the Ravine so it is clearly happening.  Most of the largest ice has grown on the northern half of the Ravine surrounding the summer hiking trail.

As we move into November keep an eye on the summit weather and new snow amounts.  (We’ll do the same and will begin issuing avalanche advisories when warranted.)  Give any alpine hikes into, and through, the gulfs and ravines of our White Mountains some winter respect.  Think about how early winter has effected them and what hazards you may face in regards to cold conditions, icefall, slick surfaces under foot and remember to bring along the tools that will help you-microspikes, crampons and perhaps an ax very soon.

Refresh your avalanche knowledge and skills.  Of course assure your rescue techniques and equipment are up to snuff, but focus on learning what will keep you out of the avalanche to begin with, i.e. stability assessments, safe travel skills, and anticipating avalanche problems based on weather.  Sign up for an avalanche class and consider attending the Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop on November 9th in North Conway.  See the Agenda below or go to

As the snow picks up you’ll start hearing from us more often.  Let’s hope for a good winter but assure we act safely in it-that we can control!  Chris

3nd Annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop-ESAW2013

North Conway, New Hampshire 11/09/2013

0730 – 0815   Registration

0815 – 0830   Welcome, Introduction and Housekeeping – Kyle Tyler and Chris Joosen 

0830 – 0915   Avoiding Avalanches Through Quality Weather Observations in the Field

                       Rebecca E. Scholand, Mount Washington Observatory 

0915 – 1000   Winter Use in Baxter State Park

                       Ben Woodard Chief Ranger, Baxter Maine State Park and Bob Baribeau, Mahoosuc SAR

1000 – 1015   Break -1015 Raffle

1015 – 1100   Human Behavior at the Ski Area Boundary

                      Doug Richmond, Bridger Bowl Ski Patrol Director

1100 – 1200   Short Sessions

                           Chic-Chocs Avalanche Bulletin: Behind the Scenes

                           Julie LeBlanc, Haute Gaspesie Avalanche Center 15 min

                           Update on Eastern Man-Made Snow Avalanches

                          Roger Damon, Army Colonel , Engineer, NSP Patrol Director, Pilot, Retired    15min

                           AvaTech-Changing the Game in Proactive Avalanche Safety

                           Brint Markle, AvaTech 30 min

1200 – 1300   Lunch -1300 Raffle

1300 – 1345   The Two Stages of Wet Snow; the Basic Physics and Why We Care  

                        Sam Colbeck, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (Retired)  

1345 – 1430    Uncertainty in Avalanche Decision Making 

                         Dale Atkins, Recco and American Avalanche Association President        

1430 – 1445    Break – 1445 Raffle 

1445 – 1530    Using “Avalanche Problem” Descriptors to Communicate Risk

                         Tim Brown, American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education   

1530 – 1630    Short Sessions

                               Meteorological Variability on Mt Washington-Theoretical and Practical Applications

                               Jeff Lane, USFS Mount Washington AC and Cyrena Briedé Mount Washington OBS

                               Recco Avalanche Rescue System

                               Dale Atkins, Recco and American Avalanche Association President 15 min  

                               Bridger Bowl Avalanche Program and Operations

                                Doug Richmond, Bridger Bowl Ski Patrol Director 30min

1630                    Closing remarks and move to Social and Avalanche Vendor Booths Upstairs at IME