Photos from Sunday, March 26, 2017

Just a taste of Huntington and Tuckerman Ravine this morning. Bluebird skies but no traffic made for a very peacful sunrise.

Huntington Ravine

Damnation Gully

Yale Gully as well as Damnation have pockets of unstable snow near the top that likely reach wall-to-wall. Talking to climbers who traveled in both of these yesterda, they reported knee deep soft snow. These pockets will be heads up today when they start to get cooked by the sun and warm temperatures.

Central Gully was the only gully in Huntington that did not see climbers yesterday. Looking at the pillow of wind loaded snow that exists from top to bottom, I can see why folks went elsewhere.

Odell Gully has lots of ice a the moment. It’s hard to believe it’s almost clising time for the Harvard Cabin.

South Gully has a mix of sastrugi, old surface and few pockets of new snow. A skier reported triggering an isolated pocket of new snow yesterday.

The Overview of Tuckerman

One of my favorite views on this mountain. Hillman’s and the Boott Spur Ridge.

Dodge’s Drop looking very steep at the top

The Duchess

 

Thanks for the Support!

Last week, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine held a fundaraiser at Allspeed Cyclery and Snow in Portland. We enjoyed a great turnout and were treated to a discussion with Ben Leoni about his latest Working for the Weekend film, East Coast Avalanche. If you haven’t had the time to check out this film, it’s well worth 7 minutes. The crew does an excellent job of making sure everyone on the scene is safe and then taking the time in the film to talk about what happened. Ben fielded lots of questions at Allspeed and discussed what they learned and the big takeaways from the event. Kudos to Ben and the Ski the East team for a quality production.

A big thanks to everyone that helped make that night possible:

We look forward to events like these in the future. Again, many thanks to all who made this event possible, but a big thank you also to those who came out for the night to talk about snow.

March 11, Elevated avalanche danger and continued wind loading

5″ of snow in the past 24 hours combined with strong west winds make large, human-triggered avalanches possible in Tuckerman Ravine. As a result, expect Considerable avalanche danger in the Lip, Center Bowl and Chute. Wide spread but smaller wind-slabs in Huntington so expect Moderate danger there, possibly pushing towards Considerable in a few strong lee locations. Full advisory will be issued soon.

Harbingers of Spring

At the start of last week, the snow depth at Hermit Lake was 209cm. This morning, the height of snow (HS) is down to 163. This is a significant drop. In my mind, two things above Hermit Lake are signs that spring is on its way. The first is when the Little Headwall reopens and prevents skiing out of the Bowl. The second is when the waterfall hole next to the Lip opens. See the pictures for signs that spring is closer than I would like to think in late February.

Looking at the Bowl from Hermit Lake on the afternoon of February 26.

The Little Headwall. The visible water is the only exposed water on the steep section. Getting to this from above also involves navigating open water holes. It is possible to ski the trees to lookers left of the Little Headwall as well as the drainage to lookers right of the open water. Keep in mind getting to both of these options may involve some “mixed” skiing.

The waterfall hole in the Lip has opened. This will gradually grow in size and creates an additional hazard for steep skiing in the Bowl.

Yet another avalanche cycle…

A look into Tuckerman Ravine following the 8″ snow which fell on calm winds on Feb 15/16.  Slowly increasing NW winds into the 50-60 mph range Thursday afternoon ramped up higher through the night. Here’s a look at the avalanches that resulted and the terrain as of Friday at around 1pm. 68″ of snow has fallen in February with 94″ on the ground at the snow plot near Hermit Lake.

 

Note the crown line low on the slope below Chute. Ice crust was evident in several areas in or near debris.

 

Lobster Claw and other south facing lines are top to bottom.

 

Right Gully has really filled in and Sluice appears to have released a pretty good sized avalanche into Lunch Rocks if not in yesterdays storm then during the last storm.

 

It appears that most of Chute through Center Bowl and Lip avalanched once around the same time and then reloaded. Another crown was visible near the Tuckerman Trail traverse through the Lip as well.

 

Lunch Rocks is still visible but just barely. The upper crown line in the Lip is heavily eroded which indicates it failed early on. It’s just visible in the upper right.

 

Left Gully and a small slide below Chute Variation and the Elevator Shaft.

 

After the Storm

There is no doubt we’ll be talking about this storm for years. It seems like everyone experienced some of the greatest skiing on the east coast in a long time. That’s what 11.6″ of 7.6% density snow followed by 12″ of 8.5% snow will give you. The real question for us was what happened in the Ravines.

You may have noticed, we put the Extreme slats up yesteday. Frank, Ryan and I talked long and hard Sunday and Monday about what this means. Here’s a bit of our thought process. First, the likelihood of avalanches. That was an easy one. Yesterday morning, with the facts we had, we were certain that avalanches would take place. Second, travel advice. High danger says Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Extreme says Avoid all avalanche terrain. Again, the choice seemed easy to go to Extreme. Third, the size and distribution. This is always the though choice for us. Extreme says Large to very large avalanches in many areas. We always debate how big our slides are. Certainly not as big as they can get out west our abroad, so we have to keep it relative to our scale. A very large avalacnhe in my mind is the Bowl-alanche, when something in the Tuckerman Headwall triggers from Sluice over to the Chute. We get these occasionally, and in my mind, this is very large. So can we have this size elsewhere? Talking it out Monday morning, the storm had been delivering heavy snow on ESE winds and was just shifting counter-clockwise to the NW on mild winds for our standards. This had the potential to heavily load the north wall in Huntington as well as the Fan, creating conditions that could allow the north wall to go as one big slide. Again, this is very large in my mind. As to areas that receieved the High rating yesterday, our thought was that the size avalanche in those would not reach the very large size, partly due to the size of the gully, but also partly due to a lesser degree of wind loading taking place in these areas.

To further make Monday’s forecast trickier was the fact that this storm was not coming in on strong winds. When winds rip and we get this amount of snow (24″), the wind slab can grow very thick before finally releasing. Think very large. On the winds this storm was arriving on, we were thinking we might see a several cycles of softer slab rather than fewer cycles of firmer slab. Several medium to large avalanches rather than one cycle of very large avalanches was a possibility with this storm.

With all this in mind, I was very happy to see bluebird skies on my drive north to Pinkham this morning. A perfect opportunity to see what happened and hopefully confirm what we thought. The following is documentation of the carnage Brian and I found today. Every gully we forecast slid (except the Little Headwall) including multiple unnamed features and snowfields. Both Ravines had debris travel the farthest of the season. Particularly noteworthy, Hillman’s Highway jumped the dogleg. We are in the midst of a winter that is shaping up quite well.

Huntington: South and Odell

Huntington Ravine

The North Wall of Huntington

An example of the widespreadness of the avalalanche cycle. This unnamed gully is to looker’s left of Escape Hatch. It was one of the few visible crown lines that had not reloaded.

An impressive amount of snow in Tuckerman.

Left Gully and the Chute. Note the pillow lingering in the upper reaches of Left.

Lobster Claw, R Cubed, Q-Bert, and the Fourth Dimension. These gullies all grew substantially from the storm.

Lip, Sluice, and Right Gully, Note the crown in the Lip from early Tuesday morning.

Brian feeling very exposed on the floor of Tuckerman which has grown significantly.

The Boott Spur Ridge looking very filled in. The Lower Snowfields grew dramatically.

Hillman’s Highway from the debris tha jumped the dogleg.

The Lower Snowfields and Hillman’s from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Wow.

 

Back to the original thought of when do the Extreme slats get posted. We were certain that avalanches would take place and today we saw signs of at least one cycle in every forecast area. Travel advice of Avoid all avalanche terrain was appropriate. As to the size and distribution, we saw signs of large and very large avalanches in many areas. The feedback Brian and I received in the field today was great. We take our ratings seriously and validation of our ratings is always a great thing to see.

If this wasn’t enough, be sure to check out the weather forecast for tomorrow. While the snow totals are going down, we’re still looking at upwards of 12″ by Thursday morning with increasing winds. It might not be Extreme, but I’m excited for the high pressure moving in on Friday and getting visibility of more avalanches.

See you on the hill.

Helon.

Come see us at Ice Fest in North Conway

Swing by International Mountain Equipment in North Conway this afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 when the post-climbing social hour will be going on. Some of our forecast team, including our newest recruit, Ryan Matz, will be on hand to talk snow and avalanches or to just shoot the breeze. Snow Rangers may or may not be wearing a uniform depending upon whether adult beverages are being consumed so ask around if you are not sure who is who. Tomorrow night, our own Joe Klementovich will be presenting some of his amazing photography along with some unique historical photos at 7:30pm to warm-up the crowd before the headline act starts. See you there!

Submit Your Avalanche or Snowpack Observations

The website plugin that allowed observation submissions through our website hasn’t been functioning properly, leading to lots of confusing conversations with folks about information we never received. Some folks were submitting information through other channels like Instagram, Facebook messenger and occasionally through email at mwactucks@gmail.com. Thanks for those observations and please keep them coming. Recent observations are helpful to the community, and to us, for lots of reasons. The form and photo submission page on our website is again up and running in a simpler form. Don’t feel that you have to submit a super detailed observation that meets SWAG standards, though that is certainly welcome. Any information or photos, especially for natural or human-triggered avalanches, are really helpful. Click the Resources tab and slide down to the Submit Your Observations at the bottom of the list. Thanks, and have fun out there!

Website changes

You may have noticed the new map adjacent to our avalanche advisory on our homepage this week. MWAC superstar volunteer, Jeff Fongemie, created this map plugin and and brought to fruition a goal of ours to make it easier to visualize areas of hazard in our forecast areas. Additionally, many folks either don’t know the names and locations of our forecast areas or have some of the alternative run names for the areas in mind when looking at our written advisory. The details of the forecast can be hard to remember after an hour hike into the terrain but hopefully a visual display of the hazard ratings may help you identify places to go as well as avoid. Though it may seem obvious, it is important to remember that the graphic is more a tool to help you understand the avalanche problem than an actual map to navigate through the hazard. For that reason, we drew the polygon shapes of the avalanche paths in the generally area of the feature and generally larger than it’s largest historical path. The location of each polygon is however a good reflection of the compass orientation and aspect, to some degree, of the slope so identifying avalanche problems due to prevailing wind loading or scouring, and solar gain should be more apparent.

Above all, continue to read our advisory, the weather, the snowpack history and then reassess as you enter the terrain. Snow and weather changes and with it, so does the hazard so think critically and realize that there is much more to the story than the ultra-basic message contained in a one-word rating.

Check out the map. We hope it helps.

Thanks also to Jon Hall who put it a lot of work and is doing some interesting stuff with 3D mapping of avalanche terrain.

 

Huntington Ravine on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It was hard to find any wind slab that formed from Sunday’s one inch in Huntington Ravine. True to form, strong winds scoured gullies down to the melt-freeze crust from last Thursday. That being said, the snow coverage in places is impressive. Thanks to several December storms that came in on south winds, Escape Hatch, South, Odell and Central Gullies are well-filled in with snow. All of the ice bulges in those can currently be avoided on snow, albeit perhaps a narrow strip of crampon-worthy snow. Check out the following pictures from yesterday and today:

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Escape Hatch

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South Gully

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Odell Gully

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Mike Pelchat and Matty Bowman on Pinnacle

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Central Gully

The power of the sun is impressive. During the day today, the fan underneath the north wall was softening quite nice. Lots of small icefall from the cliffs around Diagonal and lots of rock showing in the northern gullies.

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Yale Gully

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Damnation Gully

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North Gully

Thinking ahead to tomorrow, snow is still in the forecast. It’s looking like around 5″ by the time the sun rises tomorrow. Winds are dead calm at the moment, but will increase to the mid-20s and swing as far as the SE. Snow showers may continue through the day tomorrow with another few inches accumulating on the ground.

Capture

Courtesy of the National Weather Service

See you on the hill.

-Helon

Photos on January 11, 2017

Huntington Ravine

Huntington Ravine from the old Dow Cache site

Huntington Ravine from the old Dow Cache site

South Gully

South Gully

Yale and Damnation Gullies

Yale and Damnation Gullies

Escape Hatch

Escape Hatch

Wind loading on the Boott Spur Ridge

Wind loading on the Boott Spur Ridge

Great to see lots of people enjoying the new snow today. Get it while you can, as it looks like rain is on its way.

Weather forecast

Courtesy of the National Weather Service

Post-nor’easter

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Photo Condition Update

Huntington Ravine

December 13, 2016

pinnacle-and-central

Looking up into the fan of Huntington. You may even be able to see climbers topping out Cloudwalkers.

 

odell

Notice the enlarged snowfield below the ice in Odell. Still a bit bony in the upper reaches.

 

south-adn-odell

South Gully is almost snow from top to bottom. Still pretty thick down low.

 

Tuckerman Ravine

December 13, 2016

lobster-claw

Still very early season in Lobster Claw.

 

bowl-with-crown

The Bowl. Things to notice besides my thumb: The crown in the bottom left of the photo continues over to lookers left under the Chute and is rapidly filling in. Also, while the center Headwall looks blurry, it is from the blowing snow pouring down over the ice.

 

left

Left Gully and the Chute looking much larger than last year in mid-December.

 

 

Hiring Update

USAJOBS is now accepting applications for the Lead Snow Ranger. This position would be year-round and act as the director of MWAC

This job includes, but is not limited to: avalanche forecasting, conducting search and rescue operations, promoting the district’s dispersed recreation program.

Applicants must have avalanche field experience demonstrating the knowledge to thoroughly comprehend, analyze, and apply factors affecting snow stability and avalanche potential to reduce public risk and increase employee safety.

For additional information about the duties of this position, please contact Justin Preisendorfer at 603-466-2713 ext. 1224 or at jpreisendorfer@fs.fed.us.

Applications will be accepted until midnight on Tuesday.

Volunteers and Partners Make all the Difference

Thanks to a great day of effort from all these volunteers! We had a great day of work trimming the Sherburne in hopes of an epic winter.

June 25 work day

Photo: Tyler Ray