Variable conditions on the west side

By Ryan DeLena

Date of Observation: March 2, 2019  11:40 AM
Location of Observation: Ammonoosuc Ravine

Our trip to Ammo was rather interesting today, with a fair amount of surprises. As we skinned up, snow conditions in the bushes areas below varried from step to step. We left the main drainage and began skinning up the south basin of Ammo, which still has a lot of running water. I had to hand onto a tree to get above a waterfall section. As we began skinning toward Central Gully, we encountered upside down snow. I dug a 2 hand pits, both revealed the slabs will easily fracture cleanly off the bed surface. I don’t want to use technical terms for an informal observation, but I would call it a sudden planar fracture. These slabs appeared be present in the bottom half of Central, until a point of obvious scouring. This was very alarming to see on a day with low danger. We decided to venture around the curve of South Gully to get a read on the conditions and make a final decision on weather to ski or not. Once we were just over 50 feet in, the slabs were getting shallower with every step until they were non existent. The rest of South Gully was all pencil hard windslabs, with some spots scoured to the February 8th ice crust near the very top. The majority of our descent was more of a fall hazard than it was an avalanche hazard. Open water and bushes still not only present a terrain trap hazard, but a challenging and treacherous exit to the ravine.


ABOUT THESE OBSERVATIONS

Snowpack observations are one part of the complex puzzle which is your decision to enter avalanche terrain. Some observations may include stability tests. It’s important to understand that the results of a stability tests are seldom conclusive anywhere, but particularly in snow climates and terrain like ours where the primary driver of instabilities is wind drifted snow. Many stability tests exist and each works best with specific avalanche problem types. Stability test results should never be used alone as an indication that a slope or conditions are safe particularly when more obvious red flags are present. Please use this page as part of your information gathering process, but don’t make decisions based on a single piece of information. A good article that summarizes some of the issues associated with snow and avalanche observations can be found here.

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