East Side Closure lifts Monday, June 8

The USDA Forest Service is making every effort to expand access to recreation sites within the context of CDC guidance and state and local government orders for residents, while prioritizing employee and public health and safety. The White Mountain NF (WMNF) is working closely with state and local partners to determine the best path forward to safely reopen sites closed in response to the pandemic. As a result of those efforts, the east side closure of Mount Washington and the Cutler River Drainage will be lifted on Monday, June 8th. Services will be limited with no camping allowed in the Cutler River Drainage, including at Hermit Lake Shelters and tent platforms or Harvard Cabin.

The WMNF asks the public to please recreate responsibly. Snow rangers are no longer on site and law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues so be prepared to perform your own rescue.  Please seek out the AMC caretaker at Hermit Lake, or the new visitor information window at Pinkham Notch if you need assistance. Dial 911 for emergencies and be prepared to start your own rescue. It could be a long wait for rescue personnel to arrive. This is not the time for the typical large groups in Tuckerman Ravine and now more than ever, novice visitors should leave their skis at home.

Currently, conditions on the mountain are more typical of snow found in late April or May during most average years. This season was an average year for total snowfall but when combined with limited melting events, we are left with an east-side snowpack well above average in depth. Spring hazards are now plentiful with snow and ice on most shaded or wind-loaded trails above 3,500′. Those planning to hike to the summit from Pinkham should have boots and crampons and, ideally, an ice axe due to several sections of steep snow at tree-line and on the summit cone where a slip could end badly.

All photos were taken Friday, June 5th. This is the first half of the traverse across steep snow before the summer Lionhead Trail emerges from treeline. There is a cliff band below this slope behind a thin screen of trees which may, or may not, stop a fall. As more folks travel this trail a trough develops which can make it a bit safer but in freezing conditions or after a period of warming, the slope remains a hazard. Be prepared with ice axe and crampons on stiff soled boots.

The Tuckerman Ravine trail is now closed where it passes through the Headwall. The crevasses and waterfall hole make this section impassable for skiers and extremely dangerous for hikers and their would-be rescuers. To understand the reasoning behind the closure, see this video. The summer Lion Head Trail is the shortest route to the summit from Pinkham and the typical route for folks when snow remains in Tucks. The Lion Head Trail has several long stretches of steep snow that create significant hazard for unprepared hikers. Stiff soled boots, crampons and an ice axe will lower your risk of a long, sliding fall in those sections.

 

Left Gully remains skiable top to bottom and Sluice ice has fallen completely. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the moats and waterfall holes are open and they are deep! Here’s another view in this video taken from Right Gully.

 

Hillman’s Highway is also still filled in top to bottom. Be alert for undermined areas! If you hear water, you may be near or over a thin spot. These holes can be nasty and surprisingly deep. You can best avoid these by booting up the edge of the gully and by giving any existing holes a wide berth. Holes tend to appear first in the lower half of the gully. That’s a good place to move towards the edge of the couloir.

 

Glide cracks like this one in the fork of Hillman’s are prevalent and obvious throughout the terrain. Mostly they are small and harmless.