Annual spring snow melt creates significant glide cracks, or crevasses, and undermined snow in the Lip area of Tuckerman Ravine. We close a section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail where it passes through the Lip as a safety measure. This relatively short section stretches from Lunch Rocks in the Ravine to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail just above the Ravine. Ascending or descending through this area now has numerous hazards which greatly elevate risk to travelers. The closure also pertains to skiers and riders. The closure only pertains to this section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and will remain in effect until melt out eliminates these specific hazards.
The Sherburne Ski Trail is mostly rocks, mud, and bare ground, and is now CLOSED below Hermit Lake. This annual trail closure is meant to reduce erosion and aid in the retention of topsoil and vegetation on the trail. Without grass and perennial plants, more and more rocks will emerge from the snow earlier in the spring. Please enjoy the spring skiing at higher elevations, but preserve the trail by walking down to the parking lot on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Please do not ski down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail for the safety of other trail users. Thank you for respecting the trail closure and the experience of other visitors, present and future.
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2020/21 season. Instead, we will post an updated General Avalanche Information statement as needed, if significant snow or weather events that might vary from the typical daily changes that come with spring weather. We will also keep you informed about the official closure of the portion of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail where it passes by Lunch Rocks and through the Lip and above the Headwall. Observations from the field will continue to be a valuable resource, so please keep submitting photos, videos and observations here and we will do the same.
The switch to General Avalanche Information from a daily Avalanche Forecast does NOT mean that the mountains are now free of avalanches. If you spent much time in the mountains here, you understand how quickly wind slabs develop with just a few inches of snow and the legendary Mount Washington wind and terrain configuration. Be sure to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts linked below and pick your days carefully.
New snowfall and winter conditions are possible during any month of the year at higher elevations in the Presidential Range. One tool to help reduce the chance for unwelcome surprises due to snowfall, icing conditions or just raw, hypothermia weather is the weather record produced by MWObs summit staff. The NWS displays the summit hourly data here with hourly data from Hermit Lake shown here. Spring and early summer bring rapid changes to our upper snowpack, with conditions often changing by the hour. Plan accordingly for these changes by reading the weather forecast before you head out (MWObs Higher Summits and NWS Hourly forecast).
Useful Weather Forecasts:
- MWOBS Higher Summits Forecast -updated twice daily.
- NWS Hourly Point Forecast for Mount Washington – detailed view of what and when, hour by hour.
- NWS Mount Washington Forecast – useful for a quick look overall.
- MWOBS Hourly Weather Data – useful for a look backwards.
- Hermit Lake SNOTEL – very useful for temperature and recent snowfall information.
- NWS Area Forecast Discussion – look for section on “long term” for information on weather several days out
The MWAC Snow Ranger Team hosted a training with NEK9 on Sunday, Feb 14. These dogs are critical to finding lost people in the woods and find many people every year in Vermont and New Hampshire. The recent deep burial in the Ammonoosuc was a reminder that disaster planning needs to include deep burials and multiple burials. Recco units don’t work well with incidental electronics and the risk of burials deeper than a probe can reach is very real. Dogs are the best remaining option for finding people.
It was a great day working with both the handlers and dogs. We were barely able challenge their skills by running through repeated scenarios of finding a carefully buried human. It’s obvious they are an active, dedicated and organized team.
Wednesday, February 3, 2021, a NH Fish and Game officer contacted the lead snow ranger at the USFS Mount Washington Avalanche Center to ask for assistance in locating the vehicle of an individual who was reported missing on Tuesday night, Ian Forgays, a 54 year old male from Vermont. Recent communications between Ian and his friends suggested that he had been planning a day of backcountry skiing, either in Ammonoosuc Ravine or Monroe Brook on the west side of Mount Washington, on Monday, Feb. 1, prior to the start of a significant winter storm arriving Monday night and continuing Tuesday.
On January 22 at 3:20 pm, a skier was caught by an avalanche triggered by his party and carried from near the top of Left Gully almost to the floor of the ravine. A ~six inch slab of new and wind deposited snow released from the uppermost start zone from skier 2’s feet as skier 1 made their first turn. Skier 1 was quickly swept into and under the moving debris and lost their skis and poles. When the flow stopped, they found themselves buried face down, fortunately with their head very near the surface, but the rest of their body buried by two feet or more of debris. They were unable to move but could raise their head for a breath.
Skier 2 did not see their friend and skied away. (Edit: Skier 2 found their friend but, without a shovel, was unable to dig them out.) Ultimately, skier 2 alerted others down by the Connection rescue cache. Bystanders closer to the scene began to dig out skier 1. Others arrived, including Hermit Lake and Harvard Cabin caretakers and later, snow rangers, to assist.
Just prior to the avalanche, a snow ranger suggested to the two skiers, who did not have beacons, shovels or probes, that they ski the lower angled slope between Right Gully and LC or the lower section of Left, if they skied anything at all. They later told snow rangers that the excitement of new snow drove them to the top and into the upper start zone where the incident then unfolded. These two were very helpful to the community by honestly sharing their story with snow rangers.
There were no natural avalanches reported that day which carried a Moderate danger rating, though the forecast included possible human triggering of D1-2 wind slabs. This pair was among many poorly equipped skiers or skiers traveling alone. Low visibility marked conditions for the day with periods of moderate snow squalls and minor wind loading at the tops of gullies.
Reading the forecast carefully, applying safe travel techniques, and carrying the proper equipment are fundamental to recreating in avalanche terrain. It is critical to acknowledge that the majority if avalanche incidents and fatalities occur in Moderate danger rating days where the avalanche hazard may include the potential for isolated, stubborn but large avalanches OR widespread, smaller avalanches, such as this day. Both can carry real consequences.
Editors note: Skier one’s skis were found later and returned by a good samaritan. Also, Skier One reported that his GPS watch recorded a total vertical drop during the avalanche of 850′ and a max speed of 53 mph.