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

 

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.

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

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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

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Still very early season in Lobster Claw.

 

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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.

 

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

 

 

Tuckerman Photos – May 27, 2016

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What's left of the Headwall is pretty badly undermined

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Left Gully has pretty much fallen apart. The Chute isn't doing much better.

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Almost looks like summer in here

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Looking down the short snowfield above the Lip

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The Headwall area

Tuckerman Photos – Friday May 20, 2016

Tuckerman Photos – April 16, 2016

Weekend Update – Friday April 15, 2016

Un-spring like conditions, April 10, 2016

20160410 Hillmans and Dodges

Dodge’s Drop and Hillman’s Highway. Tracks still visible in both from descents yesterday.

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Old surface visible as gray surface.

20160410_Lip and Sluice

Two sets of tracks through the Lip made yesterday are fully covered along with the waterfall hole in the Open Book area. Upper Sluice looks pretty full of new smooth and likely slabby snow.

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Temperature at Hermit Lake is in the mid-teens F at 9am.

Weekend Update – April 1, 2016

Photos and Observations – March 8, 2016

Helon and I took advantage of a warm sunny day to get up into Tuckerman. Our primary objectives were to look at the existing snowpack and get a handle on what today’s danger was, for anyone coming up later today, and for what the emerging heat wave might do to the snowpack.

Helon approaching the bowl. Please note that if you are standing where Helon is, you are most definitely in avalanche terrain even though you are standing in the flats.

Helon approaching the bowl. Please note that if you are standing where Helon is, you are most definitely in avalanche terrain even though you are standing in the flats.

For those few who came up today, they were rewarded with good stability in Right and Left Gully, but different conditions. Left Gully’s snow stayed cold and dry despite the +7C ambient air temperature. In one location, Helon found a thin 4F+ slab layer sitting on top of a loose graupel layer with very easy compression test results. Snow test results don’t always tell the whole story though. Helon’s impression was that the Moderate rating was appropriate. One of the skiers in the gully tested the slope with a finely executed faceplant, which is often a more realistic test of a slope’s stability than compression tests. (I’d name names, but the Harvard caretaker might not want his identity revealed.)

Helon heading up toward Left Gully. The crown line in the picture was from the 8" snowfall on March 1-2.

Helon heading up toward Left Gully. The crown line in the picture was from the 8″ snowfall on March 1-2.

Right Gully had a much different environment than what was found in Left. Rather than cold dry snow, the surface layer was saturated with melted snow. At 11:45, the wet layer was 7cm deep. By 12:45, it was twice that or more. The loading that came in with yesterday’s 5cm snowfall didn’t create much new slab in Right, so my earlier concerns regarding stability of this layer were quickly erased as the sun baked the slabiness right out of the upper layer.

Looking at the top of Right Gully from about 2/3 up.

Looking at the top of Right Gully from about 2/3 up.

Standing in the middle of Right Gully for a long time, I began to look around at the terrain, and I realized that the snow I was standing on was probably 8-10′ lower than where it is in a typical winter. Trees whose tops are usually the only part visible were standing proud over my head. At the top of the gully, rocks that we see melt out sometime in early May have not even been buried this year. It really sunk home how poorly we’ve done for snowfall this year.

A one meter deep slab, with 3cm of facets sitting on top of the crust.

A one meter deep slab, with 3cm of facets sitting on top of the crust.

The 1F+ (hand hardness scale) slab in Right Gully was 100cm deep down to a hard, hard crust. The very top of the snowpack was wet snow from the heat and sun. Cooler snow was found down below, with a few centimeters of 1mm facets above the crust. I found it hard to really get a good look at the facets – the air temperature was +7C so as soon as I put some on a crystal card they began to melt. This facet layer gave two compression tests at CT21 and CT23. An extended column test did not propagate. I also got negative results with a shovel tilt test and shovel shear test on a suspected weak layer at 37cm down from the top. Generally speaking, these are good test results for the stability of the slope at the time the tests were done, but the facet layer is concerning for what might happen with further warming.

Helon getting set up for an extended column test, which resulted in an ECTN.

Helon getting set up for an extended column test, which resulted in an ECTN.

In the Sluice, Lip, and Chute, as well as the left side of the Center Bowl and in the hangfire, there is a good chance that the facet layer remains intact, and this might become reactive tomorrow or Thursday as the upper slab becomes wetter and wetter.

Here are some other pictures from the day:

Central Gully

  Central Gully

Boott Spur Ridge

Boott Spur Ridge

Tucks headwall area from Right Gully

Tucks headwall area from Right Gully

I’m running out of time for this post now, so be sure to check tomorrow’s advisory for more information and stability ratings for the day.

Jeff Lane