Slow progress, but it’s moving in the right direction

Wow, we’re almost halfway through December and there’s still not enough snow to warrant posting the first General Advisory. Yesterday Joe and I took a walk up into both ravines to check up on conditions. Winter is beginning to get a foothold on the mountain, but what we have right now is similar to what I’d think of as early November conditions on a “normal” year. On Mt. Washington there is often no such thing as normal. The mountain always seems to be changing, so keep tabs on the current weather and conditions rather than make the assumption that things will be as they were in years past.

Ice climbing conditions in Huntington are developing slowly due to recent warm weather. There is ice in many of the gullies, but its quality should be viewed with suspicion. For example, yesterday’s warm sun was penetrating into the snow and ice on the northern gullies even though temperatures remained slightly below freezing. Yale, Damnation, and North gullies all had very discontinuous stretches of ice with rock and frozen turf in between. The lack of snow isn’t a concern only in these gullies. Pretty much all the gullies have scant snow coverage in places where one might usually expect to have some. We talked to a party that climbed Odell yesterday, and they reported the snow that was there was hollow and collapsing. The concern wasn’t avalanches, as these descriptors often are red flags for instability, instead it was that the snow lacked the strength to give them solid support underfoot. Remember, it’s still early season for ice climbing. Think about how the top outs might be without sufficient snow cover. You might want to leave behind your pickets and bring some rock protection instead.

Tuckerman is looking similar to Huntington–very little snow and ice that is developing slowly. The very top of Left Gully has the largest snowfield in the ravine, but most of the gully has very thin coverage similar to the rest of Tuckerman Ravine. Ice is forming in the Headwall and Lip area, including the Open Book. All around, you should expect ice to have water running behind it and possibly be detached from the relatively warm rock. The Sluice ice really hasn’t developed at all for this time of the year, probably due in part to its aspect facing directly into the sun.

We will continue to monitor conditions, and begin posting General Advisories when conditions warrant. If you’ve already got your trip planned and are coming regardless of the conditions, you would be wise to keep tabs on weather events in the days leading up to your trip. One good snowstorm could significantly change the landscape very quickly.

Finally, I’d like to plug our social media sites as a way for you to keep tabs on what’s going on. If you are a Twitter user, you’ll get a tweet any time we post a new advisory. Our Facebook page will also have a post within 15 minutes or so of the new advisory being posted. We’ll also be using our Facebook page to share interesting snow and avalanche related information throughout the season. Check these out if you’re interested and share them with your friends, but keep this page bookmarked for the official avalanche advisories and latest photos.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience.
  • You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters.

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

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