General Advisory 12-18-2012

Expires Thursday at midnight, December 20th 2012

This is the initial GENERAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY for the 2012-2013 season. A new General Advisory will be issued if conditions warrant or within 72 hours of this release.  This General Advisory pertains only to Tuckerman due to the lack of snow cover in Huntington Ravine. Advisories for Huntington will begin when needed.

A General Advisory is issued when there are limited instabilities within the entire forecast area. However, there are snowfields that are growing in size and may harbor some instabilities. Some examples in Tuckerman include Left Gully and the Chute. These are the two areas in the Ravine that grow in size the earliest in the season and present the largest potential bed surfaces for future snow to load on. Yet, the smaller snowfields that develop in between ice bulges across the Center Bowl can be more problematic.  This can be true because the ice flows attract early season climbers, often “testing” more snow instability potentials.  Keep this in mind and don’t underestimate these smaller patches of snow on your chosen ice climbing route.  Many unstable slabs may be sitting on top of blue water ice with poor bonding at their interface.  In the early season when the mountain is under a General Advisory, you need to make your own avalanche stability assessments and evaluation before venturing into some of these questionable areas. Keep in mind that avalanche activity may occur before the issuance of a 5-scale forecast and if a snowfield is big enough to recreate on, it’s big enough to avalanche.

In anticipation of this first advisory day I took a look back to see how far behind we are this season.  To the surprise of my failing memory we are actually ahead of last year’s advisory writing by 5 days!   With that said the gifts of snow aren’t exactly falling out of old man Nick’s sleigh.  It’s hard not to take it a little personally as I self-examine what I did this year to deserve a big bag of coal (i.e. little snow and some rain.)   But I’m trying to put that behind me as we have entered a better precipitation pattern, now all we need is some cold temperatures to help it all be snow.  Sunday and Monday’s Mount Washington summit snow totaled to about 9” (22.5cm).  This is expected to be followed on Tuesday by snow, freezing rain and probably rain for avalanche terrain, perhaps heavy at times.  As cold air mixes back in Tuesday night into Wednesday snow is expected to return, giving the summits another 4-6”….maybe.   The main point to take home is we are in a new pattern of regular precipitation for the foreseeable future.  At this time of the year new snowfall can make a remarkably rapid change in potential avalanche conditions, so start paying attention to the daily weather and new snow amounts.  I am always impressed how quickly the landscape changes during this time of the season.

Check www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org frequently as we move through late December and certainly check for the latest avalanche advisory before heading into avalanche terrain. We’re excited to be back at it and look forward to seeing you in the mountains!

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin. Posted 0930 12-18-2012. A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service

2012-12-18 Print-friendly