Red Flags in Tuckerman

By Helon Hoffer | Mount Washington Avalanche Center

Date of Observation: March 22, 2019  1:00 PM
Location of Observation: Little Headwall

We ascended from Hermit Lake toward the Bowl via the Little Headwall. Using the looker’s right fork of the Little Headwall as our route, we remotely triggered a soft slab that released about 30 ft from us. SS-ASr-R1-D1-S. Upon arrival at Hermit Lake this morning at 10, we found about 10cm of 7% snow in the courtyard. The wind had not affected the snow yet and we talked to two skiers in Hillman’s who said the wind was just beginning to affect the snow when they turned around at the Y. By the time we left Hermit Lake heading up at 12:30, snowfall rates had increased dramatically and the moderate wind speeds had reduced visibility to 300 ft. The slab we triggered in the Little Headwall consisted of the slab that formed after 10am. The snow that had not been wind affected remained on the slope. We found this worthwhile to note as the slope reloaded in about 10 minutes. When we returned 45 minutes later after traveling to Connection Cache, we found the slope had avalanched again, again within the new snow (pictures 3 and 4), and slightly higher on the slope. We think it is more likely we remotely triggered this from above as we continued ascending without noticing than it naturally released. We also observed shooting cracks throughout our tour.


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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