General Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:21 a.m., Monday, May 24, 2010

A General Advisory is currently issued for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts using the 5-scale danger rating system for the remainder of this season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain. Other springtime hazards exist that you should be aware of. Please read on for details.

Mt. Washington in late spring can be an incredible place to visit, however, the conditions you encounter might be very different than other mountains and trails in the area. It is your responsibility to be prepared with knowledge and appropriate gear. First, plan ahead for the weather. Late season snowfalls are not uncommon and can create avalanche hazards. Also remember that weather on the mountain and in the ravines can change quickly, so be willing to alter your plans according to the conditions.

In Tuckerman Ravine the spring snowpack is melting away, leaving behind CREVASSES and UNDERMINED SNOW that should be avoided. Crevasses are created when the steep snowpack is able to slide slowly downhill, opening up fissures that can be quite deep. Undermined snow refers to any place where water has been able to erode the snow from below and leave a potentially weak snow bridge that is prone to collapsing. This hazard is often difficult to assess until it’s too late; if you must travel over undermined snow try to do so only on the thickest, most supportive, and most structurally sound snow bridges. Better yet, travel on bare ground or fully supported snow.

FALLING ROCK AND ICE is also a significant concern. As the warm weather melts out the ice that has been holding in place a season’s worth of loose rock and ice, spontaneous rockfall and/or icefall may occur. A general rule of thumb is to stay aware of what’s going on around you and to have a plan in place for what you’ll do if something falls from above. Over the years, many people have been injured on Mt. Washington by falling rock and ice. In addition to paying attention to what’s above you, also think about what lies below you if you are traveling on steep snow. A sliding fall into a pile of boulders or into a crevasse can have severe consequences. It helps tremendously to hike up what you plan to descend so you can assess this hazard at a leisurely pace.

The section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. Hikers heading above treeline should seek an alternate route; the Lion Head Trail is one option.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. This advisory expires at midnight Wednesday, May 26.

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