Early Winter Information – December 19, 2015

This is an updated early winter informational statement. A General Bulletin or an Avalanche Advisory will be used when conditions warrant. This early season posting is to communicate that some initial winter hazards on Mount Washington are beginning to grow, requiring some risk assessment and thought on your part.  We’ll monitor conditions closely and will issue a General Bulletin Avalanche Advisory when the likelihood and consequence of avalanches increase. Current conditions in the ravines are more similar to late fall than typical December. Very little snow has fallen so far this season, and average temperatures have been well above normal.

Please consider the following as you plan your trip:

  • Hiking trails through steep terrain (e.g. Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine trails) may be covered in ice and snow. Mountaineering skills and equipment are required for safe travel on these routes. Microspikes are not a substitute for real crampons in steep icy terrain.
  • Icefall hazards will continue as temperatures fall and rise. Ice climbing routes have been subject to above freezing temperatures are recently as December 18. As of December 19, forecasts include more warm days, with the summit possibly reaching above freezing on Christmas Day.
  • The length of daylight is very short at this time of year. Carry a headlamp or two, even if you have no expectation to need it.
  • Check weather forecasts before heading out. Weather above treeline is often much worse than down at the base. You can find the MWObs summit forecast here or the National Weather Service summits forecast here.
  • Avalanche hazards can exist in very small areas. Expect a handful of micro/nano sized bed surfaces to accept the loading of new snow. Although not enough to justify an avalanche General Bulletin or Avalanche Advisory, be prepared for some extremely isolated areas of instability with future snowfalls. Be sure to check back for updated information as winter continues to take hold up here.


If you are dreaming about snow, wondering if you’ll ever be knee-deep in powder ever again, there are plenty of online resources to help you feel the pain of early winter in the Northeast. Avalache.org has a map on its homepage showing danger ratings from across the country. I’d recommend this as a first stop if you want a quick glimpse of where the snow has been falling recently. (And if you haven’t been paying attention, some areas out west have been doing quite well so far.) The Forest Service National Avalanche Center site is another good one for snow safety information.


Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856