Tuckerman 11/30

By Sarah Goodnow | AMC- Hermit Lake Caretaker

Date of Observation: November 30, 2019  11:00 AM
Location of Observation:

Conditions in Tuckerman today (Saturday) consisted of variable wind slab with small areas of old surface in the mix. The wind slab in question resulted from the ~15 cm of snow that fell on Wednesday and Thursday with wind loading that continued through Friday. I traveled in left gully and the area where the summer hiking tail intersects the sluice. On the right-hand side of the bowl, old surface means a melt freeze crust. On the left-hand side of the bowl, old surface means wind hammered snow that blew in on Monday 11/25 and is distinguishable by its glossy appearance (it’s also etched with boot and ski tracks). In left gully, patches of old surface were present just below the choke. New wind slab was smooth in appearance and free of sastrugi. Even in left gully.

When I say new wind slab was variable, I mean that while the surface layer was generally Pencil or 1F+ in density, its thickness varied from a couple centimeters to over 30 cm thick in strong lee areas. There was always less dense snow underneath, maybe 4F, sometimes Fist and again, variable in thickness as well. I did a number of hand shears focused on the interface between old snow and new snow. Some were not very resistant, but none were even remotely planar.


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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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