Unless updated this advisory expires at midnight, Friday 5-25-2012
This is a late-season General Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain under a general advisory. A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant or within 72 hours. A general advisory will be in effect until complete melt out later this spring/summer.
Snow conditions in Tuckerman Ravine at this time of the year are changing rapidly. Through this transition season towards summer there are numerous hazards you should be aware of so you can avoid them. The potential consequences to these hazards can range from minor to severe, but remember that even a minor injury in a backcountry location can be a big problem. Assure you have read the latest summit weather forecast before heading up the mountain.
Undermined snow is very dangerous, particularly in the bottom of Tuckerman Ravine. Numerous streams and water channels run underneath the snowpack, and the snow bridges over the top of them are very thin in some places. A prominent example of this is in the floor of Tuckerman, as you approach Lunch Rocks. Below an eggshell of snow might be a 10 foot drop into a rocky streambed, so pay attention to where you’re walking and if you must walk on snow, stay on thick, strong snow.
Crevasses have opened up in a lot of locations. This hazard will mostly affect people heading into steeper snow-covered terrain. The majority of these are in the Center Bowl, Lip, and Sluice areas. Falling into one of these can result in the severest of consequences. Pay attention to where you’re climbing or skiing.
Falling ice and rock has seriously injured and killed many people over the years. You will want to always be alert to what is above you, and have a plan in mind for what you’ll do when something falls from above. The main icefall issues can be found from the center and left side of the Headwall.
Long sliding falls on steep snow are also common in late spring. At this point in the season, there are no steep snow surfaces without obstacles in the fall line. Sliding into rocks, ice chunks, trees, crevasses, etc. all are common ways people hurt themselves. If you’re climbing steep snow, be sure you have the equipment and skill necessary to stop your fall if you should slip.
Tuckerman Ravine Trail Closure
A section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is closed to all use. The closed area spans from Lunch Rocks to the junction of the Alpine Garden Trail and includes the Lip area. The trail is open from Pinkham Notch to the floor of the ravine, and from the summit down to the Alpine Garden Trail. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out and the severity of consequences should you fall. The Lion Head Trail is one alternative route to the summit. If you use motorized access to the summit of Mt. Washington, attempting to descend into the ravine through any route is not recommended. You will not be aware of the hazards below.
- 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 caretaker at Hermit Lake Shelters.
Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger USDA Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest