General Advisory 12-23-2011

Expires midnight Sunday, December 25, 2011

This is the initial GENERAL AVALANCHE ADVISORY for the 2011-2012 season. Although I can’t say we’re getting a windfall from Santa right now at least a few stocking stuffer snow shots are picking up the holiday spirit. It’s certainly about time as we started wondering if the first advisory of the season would ever happen. This General Advisory pertains only to Tuckerman due to the lack of snow cover in Huntington Ravine. Advisories for Huntington will begin when conditions warrant.

A General Advisory is issued when instabilities are isolated within the entire forecast area. However, it’s important to realize that avalanche activity may occur within these locations before the issuance of a 5-scale forecast. This is a critical fact to remember. Within the General Advisory there are isolated snowfields that are growing in size and may harbor instabilities. Some examples in Tuckerman include Left Gully and the Chute. Some smaller snowfields are developing in between ice bulges across the main Center Bowl that attract climbers early each season. Under a General Advisory you need to make your own avalanche stability assessments before venturing into these slopes. Conditions are beginning to change quickly, so check www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org frequently as we move through late December and certainly check for the latest avalanche advisory before heading into avalanche terrain.

As of mid-morning on Friday 12/23/11 the summit has picked up approximately 3” (7.5cm) of 10% snow with another 1-2” (2.5-5cm) expected through tonight and again on Saturday. Snow has been transported on building winds from the W and NW and these are expected to increase into the 50-55mph (80-90kph) range overnight before decreasing. This scenario will increase the size of snow slopes and contribute to our concerns about the specific areas discussed above.

OTHER GENERAL EARLY SEASON CONCERNS—We are in early winter in the high mountains so remember trails going through ravines and gulfs require winter gear, equipment, and skills. Be aware that a small slab or sluff can be very dangerous. This is particularly true for early season ice climbers. As climbers pick their way through a route they will usually cross small pockets of snow. Often this snow has been deposited over blue ice, making for a poor bond at the interface. Consider this ahead of time and place protection before crossing suspect slopes. It doesn’t take much snow to knock you off your feet and without much snow on the ground even a short fall can be a significant problem. Remember, if a snowfield is big enough to recreate on, it’s big enough to avalanche.

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 3:30p.m. December 23, 2011. A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

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

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