New snow and weather data

 

You may notice a couple of changes to the web advisory today. We frequently refer to the snowplot at Hermit Lake in our advisory but will be including the raw data which is collected every morning by the caretaker at the AMC operated facility there. You need to go to the full forecast to see the data and wind chart. As resources allow, we plan to roll out more of this type of data to help you make more informed decisions when venturing into avalanche terrain. The weather data provided by our partners at the Mount Washington Observatory continues to be critical to our forecast process but more data improves our accuracy and may prove helpful to the dawn patrol skiers and climbers out there. Special thanks to the AMC caretakers for getting up early to collect the data, Chris McKnight for the wind rose and High Charts for providing a free license.

WMAEF Continuing Education Series

Join us this Saturday, March 17, at 5pm at International Mountain Equipment (IME) for the third installment in the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund’s Continuing Education Series. Helon Hoffer will be reviewing fracture mechanics and exploring fracture arrest. We’ll be looking at the big wind slab avalanche that occurred on February 8 throughout the talk and discussing why the slab boundary stopped where it did. While this talk may raise more questions than answers, it will help give a better understanding of why dry slab release occurs the way it does.

Temporary Harvard Cabin Closing

Harvard Cabin will be temporarily closed mid-week due to a staffing shortage. The cabin will be open Friday and Saturday nights. This closure includes tenting outside the cabin. For those interested in overnighting in the Cutler River Drainage, you may do so at Hermit Lake Shelters. We will provide updates to this closure on our website or you may contact the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at (603) 466-8116 to see if there is availability.

Local Mountain Weather Course

The White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation and the NHOC are sponsoring a Mountain Weather Workshop in North Conway, NH. Senior Forecaster and Education Specialist Mike Carmon, of the Mount Washington Observatory, will be teaching topics relevant to avalanche forecasting and mountain travel in the White Mountains.

Topics will include weather variables and measurement, mesoscale and synoptic scale features, case studies on winter storms and forecasting challenges such as Norlun Troughs, Nor’easters, Alberta Clippers, Upsloping Events and more.

Sign Up Now!

This course is geared to avalanche professionals, guides, and mountain rescuers.

Registration is limited in number with scholarship seats available for $40 awarded by nomination to 2 members of each local rescue team. More seats will be available to people unaffiliated with local teams for $80.

 

The class is 16 hours long and spread over the following dates:

  • Wednesday, February 21, 5-9pm at IME
  • Friday, February 23, 5:30-9pm at the MWObs Weather Discovery Center (WDC)
  • Wednesday March 7, 5-9pm at the MWObs WDC
  • Wednesday March 21, 5-9pm at the MWObs WDC

 

Proceeds of the course will benefit the White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation.

 

Stability Test Alphabet Soup: What do they even mean? Continuing Ed at IME, 5:00 PM Saturday 2/17/18

Strategic Field Observations

CT22 Q1 SC, ECTP27, PST 60/100 End, no whumphing, some shooting cracks, I see wind blowing snow around, I have to push kinda hard to make a hand shear fail… What does this all mean? CAN I SKI IT?

We have these stability assessment tools and many more at our disposal. They’re all supposed to ultimately guide our “Go” and “No Go” decisions. Is this a simple process? No. Do you find it challenging? You’re not alone. Can we all get better at interpreting stability test results and snowpack observations? Yes.

A snowpack is constantly changing and we have a variety of avalanche problems to contend with every season. Varied conditions require a varied approach to snow stability assessment. Join us to dive into this topic at a FREE event this Saturday evening. We’ll use stability tests and other familiar snow stability assessment tools as a starting point in a deeper discussion about letting conditions dictate your observation strategies.

Strategic observations can help any of us make better decisions in the mountains. It’s all about having more good days and coming home in one piece. See you Saturday evening!

MWAC Continuing Education Series, #2

Mount Washington Avalanche Center and White Mountains Avalanche Education Foundation

Saturday, February 17, 2018

5:00 PM (approximately 1 hour total)

IME- International Mountain Equipment

2733 White Mountain Hwy, North Conway, NH 03860

Free to attend!

White Heat Tracks Project and Decision Making

Given the tendency of otherwise smart people to make foolish decisions at times, that get themselves hurt or worse, this project seems worth making an effort to support. Link below to the site that explains the project along with helpful Q & A’s. So far, this project has had no input from the Ice Coast.

White Heat Tracks Project seeks your input:

The aim of the White Heat Project is to generate new and usable knowledge on risk-taking behavior, and on factors behind decision errors in avalanche terrain in particular. The White Heat Tracks project is an extension to the previous “SkiTracks” project, and is a collaboration between a group of researchers at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø; Montana State University, in Bozeman, USA; and Umeå University, in Umeå, Sweden. We are asking people to complete a decision-making survey: (https://montana.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_74aRQuWMj0wbJHv) and if they have time and energy, also submit GPX tracks of their backcountry trips to “tracks@montana.edu

More information can be found here:
http://www.montana.edu/snowscience/tracks.html

And here: http://www.montana.edu/news/17430

Huge thanks to volunteers Paul Bazanchuk, Ryan Brouder & Terran Siladi

Huge thanks to volunteers Paul Bazanchuk, Ryan Brouder & Terran Siladi for helping us with this battery bank/inverter setup donated by the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine. 

Avalanche Talk, Saturday, January 20

The White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation, along with the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, is bringing back the Avalanche Education Continuing Ed Series at IME this winter. They will take place the 3rd Saturday of January (20th), February (17th) and March (17th). Come by IME at 5 pm to hear the MWAC Snow Rangers share the state of the snowpack, avalanche center and different topics each month. As you’re heading back from the mountains, stop by IME and feel free to bring your own beverages and food. MWAC Director and Lead Snow Ranger, Frank Carus, will be leading the first presentation on January 20th. He will discuss Avalanche Problems and Terrain Management as well as aprovide an Avalanche Center and Forecasting Update. We’ll see you there!

The costs of rescue

In 1978, a prolonged search for two missing climbers led to disaster. One of the rescuers involved recently told his story to an audience in Portsmouth on the radio show, “The Moth”. Great advancements in snow and avalanche science as well as avalanche rescue gear have been made since that tragic day, but mountain rescuers are exposed to a high risk environment on almost every rescue. Joe Lentini’s powerful story serves as a great reminder of the potential outcomes involved while recreating, working, or volunteering as a rescuer in avalanche terrain. Check it out:

https://themoth.org/stories/backside-of-the-storm

If you’d like to find out more about search and rescue in New Hampshire or contribute to the efforts of the volunteer mountain rescue community, check out the New Hampshire Outdoor Council.

Wet avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine

2018-01-14 Lip avalanche in the Headwall of Tuckerman Ravine

Starting late on Thursday, January 11th, southwest flow brought a prolonged period of rain to the region. This rain saturated the thick snowpack that has developed from the 144” of total summit snowfall to date this winter. By Friday night, over 2” of rain had fallen on the summit with temperatures in the 40’s F and nearing 50 F lower on the mountain at Hermit Lake. Sometime Friday the 12th a large wet slab avalanche occurred in the Headwall area of Tuckerman Ravine on a ski run and forecast area known as the Lip. The avalanche forecast for the day warned that, “wet slab avalanches may slide naturally without a human trigger today”, as well as, “the floor of Tuckerman Ravine is particularly threatened by a natural avalanche from the Headwall area.” After inspecting the site, it seems likely that the firm snowpack, weakened by rain, burst like a dam as water pressure built up in the stream channel beneath. The avalanche measured 160’ across the 12-20’ crown and ran 2,000’ with a vertical fall of 500’. By the avalanche size and destructive potential scales, this avalanche is classified as R3D3.5 or medium relative to path and capable of easily destroying wood frame houses or a railroad car.

Aerial few of the debris. People are visible near the end of the debris pile on the left.

This isn’t the first time for this type of avalanche in the Lip. The waterfall here creates this type of avalanche regularly in spring months as snow on the upper mountain melts, flows downhill, and saturates the snowpack. The one pictured below occurred on a busy spring ski day with two people narrowly escaping capture.

VIDEO: 2018-01-14   Aerial of Lip avalanche in the Headwall of Tuckerman Ravine

 

Volunteer help needed

As some of you may know already, our avalanche forecasting operation involves much more than snow study field work and sipping coffee while studying weather data on the internet. Our work is complicated by maintaining the equipment and trails necessary to provide for search and rescue response as well. Not only does this equipment, need maintenance, it also breaks down or is inefficient. We have some upgrades in the works that we hope will make the logistics of gathering and posting information more streamlined, which should free us up to pursue other important projects, like more in-person and virtual outreach and education efforts. Put we need a reliable power supply to do it.

One of the current projects that will help us out alot is to upgrade our electrical situation in the cabin at Hermit Lake. We have a recently purchased inverter and some batteries to pair with our generator and existing wiring and breaker panel that we’d like to install, but we haven’t the time, or frankly, the skills to do it. If you or someone you know is an electrician and could help us out, we’d love it. Please email me at mwactucks@gmail.com. -Frank

ESAW 2017: In the Books!

Thanks to everyone who attended the 2017 Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop! We were very pleased with the whole weekend and it’s largely thanks to you all for coming and hanging out.

A huge thanks to Jerry Isaak, Sarah Carpenter, Eric Knoff, Mike Carmon, and Ryan Matz for stellar presentations throughout the day.

In addition to this, a huge thank you to our presenting sponsors: DPS Skis and Outdoor Research. I think just about everyone in attendance walked away with something, so thank you also to: Backcountry Access, Catamount Trail Association, Granite Backcountry Alliance, Black Diamond, Julbo USA, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, American Avalanche Association, She Jumps, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, and Frontside Coffee Roasters for their donations and helping us pull this whole thing off!

A big thank you to the White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation for putting this whole weekend together. We’re very excited to see what Beth, Blake, Joe, Chris, and Frank do with this program and getting the kids safely into the backcountry.

Again, thanks for being there and supporting our mission. It looks like winter has arrived, we’ll see you on the hill soon!

Tonight at Allspeed Cyclery

Come to Allspeed Cyclery and Snow in Portland tonight at 6:30pm to show your support for MWAC! Frank will be giving on talk on terrain management and avalanche problems commonly found on Mount Washington. This will be a great opportunity to meet Frank in person and pick his brain about snow science and Lily the Avalanche Dog, especially what kind of sandwiches she prefers to eat. We’ll have lots of giveaways and refreshments. What better way to spend the evening watching the sleet come down than wishing it was snow with everyone else!

Meet Your ESAW Presenters: Sarah Carpenter

Sarah Carpenter has spent most of her life on skis. She has been working in the field of snow and snow science since 1998, when she started as a ski patroller at Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, MT. Sarah has led mountaineering trips in the U.S., Chile, India, Africa and Nepal for numerous companies. She teaches level 1, 2, and 3 avalanche courses throughout the west during the winter. She works a ski guide for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Exum Mountain Guides in addition to being the co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute.

One of Sarah’s passions is educating youth. She has done this very well through programs oriented at youth in the Jackson Hole area. With the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund up and running, we are very excited Sarah is joining us this year as one of the goals of the WMAEF is to educate this demographic. We are thrilled to talk to Sarah about how young is too young and some of the tools that she uses in Wyoming. Sarah will be giving two presentations tomorrow; the first about the varying degrees of wind-slab (maybe we can teach her a thing or two about the extreme far end of stubborn wind-slab) and the second will be about using checklists as a tool for decision making. This will be one talk that everyone will be able to learn something from.

Haven’t registered for ESAW yet?!?! Hurry up and go to www.esaw.org and sign up now. We look forward to seeing you tonight at IME and at Fryeburg tomorrow!

Meet Your ESAW Presenters: Mike Carmon

Mike Carmon is the senior forecaster for the Mount Washington Observatory. He joined the MWObs in 2008 as an intern after earning his B.S. in Meteorology from Rutgers University. After his internship, Mike was offered a job as the night-shift observer and stayed in this position for four years. In 2013, he became one of the shift leaders, adding the title Education Specialist in 2014. In 2015, Mike was appointed to Co-Director of Summit Operations.

For those of you who haven’t met Mike, he has lived and breathed Mount Washington weather for almost a decade. He is an invaluable resource to the Avalanche Center, always willing to take that morning phone call when we want to dig a bit deeper into the approaching weather. I’m always happy to see Mike’s name attached to the forecast, knowing he has it dialed. Mike is also working with MWAC by working closely with us this coming winter to create a mountain meteorology class. This weekend, Mike will be presenting two case studies of snowstorms that rolled through the White Mountains on April Fools Day and Pi Day. I really enjoy Mike’s presentations, this is one you won’t want to miss.