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General Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:21 a.m., Monday, May 24, 2010

A General Advisory is currently issued for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts using the 5-scale danger rating system for the remainder of this season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain. Other springtime hazards exist that you should be aware of. Please read on for details.

Mt. Washington in late spring can be an incredible place to visit, however, the conditions you encounter might be very different than other mountains and trails in the area. It is your responsibility to be prepared with knowledge and appropriate gear. First, plan ahead for the weather. Late season snowfalls are not uncommon and can create avalanche hazards. Also remember that weather on the mountain and in the ravines can change quickly, so be willing to alter your plans according to the conditions.

In Tuckerman Ravine the spring snowpack is melting away, leaving behind CREVASSES and UNDERMINED SNOW that should be avoided. Crevasses are created when the steep snowpack is able to slide slowly downhill, opening up fissures that can be quite deep. Undermined snow refers to any place where water has been able to erode the snow from below and leave a potentially weak snow bridge that is prone to collapsing. This hazard is often difficult to assess until it’s too late; if you must travel over undermined snow try to do so only on the thickest, most supportive, and most structurally sound snow bridges. Better yet, travel on bare ground or fully supported snow.

FALLING ROCK AND ICE is also a significant concern. As the warm weather melts out the ice that has been holding in place a season’s worth of loose rock and ice, spontaneous rockfall and/or icefall may occur. A general rule of thumb is to stay aware of what’s going on around you and to have a plan in place for what you’ll do if something falls from above. Over the years, many people have been injured on Mt. Washington by falling rock and ice. In addition to paying attention to what’s above you, also think about what lies below you if you are traveling on steep snow. A sliding fall into a pile of boulders or into a crevasse can have severe consequences. It helps tremendously to hike up what you plan to descend so you can assess this hazard at a leisurely pace.

The section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. Hikers heading above treeline should seek an alternate route; the Lion Head Trail is one option.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. This advisory expires at midnight Wednesday, May 26.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 7:55 a.m., Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

The weather forecast for the towns surrounding Mt. Washington is about as good as it gets for the next five days or so. Up on the mountain we might see a couple more clouds, but in general it will be pretty nice weather to be out and about. This prelude to summer is going to continue the melting that has been taking place in Tuckerman Ravine. Although I hate to see the snow departing at such a rate, the silver lining is the snow surface. We’re down to very old snow that has seen a winter’s worth of compaction, so the end result is a firm base with a soft layer of corn on top. It’s a lot better than those days in April when this type of heat created a bottomless layer of soggy wet snow. This melting also continues to keep CREVASSES and UNDERMINED SNOW in the front of our minds as some of the most significant hazards you’ll face if you come up to ski. You’ll do well avoiding the worst areas by staying out of the center of the bowl. Be particularly careful as you approach the edge of the snow near where it meets the cliffs; the edges often become undercut and prone to collapsing. This scenario is playing out in the Sluice area, making it difficult to find a safe location to put on your skis here. It’s also a good idea at this time of the year to stay aware of what’s going on above and around you and have a plan for what you’ll do when something falls from up above. Most of the substantial ice has already fallen, but there are always other things that can fall in your direction such as loose rocks, dropped snowboards, or tumbling skiers. And speaking of tumbling skiers, think about what lies below you as you choose your line. Falling fast into a crevasse or pile of talus is a rough way to end your ski season! In the past two days we’ve seen a skier fall into the boulders at the top of Lunch Rocks and a tree, rock, and mud fall event from the cliffs above the Chute. These are just two examples of why you should stay aware of what’s going on around you.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:35a.m., Friday, May 21, 2010

Printable version

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Well it’s now been several days since the Ravine has been below freezing and the snowpack is receding at a rate comparable to my friend Greg’s hair line. And even though you probably don’t know him, take my word for it that it’s going fast. The amount of bald rock on the Headwall is quite substantial compared to what was there just a few weeks ago. There appears to be a stretch of sunny and warm weather approaching, so expect the pace to keep up for a while. This melting continues to keep CREVASSES and UNDERMINED SNOW in the front of our minds as the most significant hazards you’ll face if you come up to ski. You’ll do well avoiding the worst areas by staying out of the center of the bowl. Be particularly careful as you approach the edge of the snow near where it meets the cliffs; the edges often become undercut and prone to collapsing. It’s also a good idea at this time of the year to stay aware of what’s going on above and around you and have a plan for what you’ll do when something falls from up above. Most of the substantial ice has already fallen, but there are always other things that can fall in your direction such as loose rocks, dropped snowboards, or tumbling skiers. And speaking of tumbling skiers, think about what lies below you as you choose your line. Falling fast into a crevasse or pile of talus is a rough way to end your ski season!

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

I’ll be heading up into the Bowl to day with a camera in hand and hopefully posting pictures on our website this afternoon. A new Weekend Update will also be posted this afternoon, so if you are interested in exactly how much snow is left or want to hear the latest thoughts on weather check back in then. If you’re having difficulties getting the current avalanche advisory or weekend update, please accept my apologies. Our host server crashed a couple weeks ago and we have been unable to resolve the problems. We are attempting to limp through the next couple weekends. You can always get the latest avalanche advisory by calling (603) 466-2713 extension 4.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, the Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 7:45a.m., Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Printable version

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

The good weather will continue today especially if you’re an early riser. Increasing clouds are in the forecast along with a slight chance of a late day rain shower. We are most definitely into the last stretches of the ski season and with that come some hazards that you’ll want to be alert for. Each season is different, so it’s important to make your decisions based on the current conditions. For example, Paul, a long-time volunteer ski patroller and all-around great guy, was impressed this past weekend by how far up into the floor of the ravine you need to go before getting onto snow. It’s true, you’ll be on the rocky hiking trail almost all the way to the bottom of Lunch Rocks. Most seasons the floor takes longer to melt out, but this year there were fewer large avalanches to send debris down onto the floor, which means it takes less time to melt out this area.

Currently, the hazards you should be most concerned with are UNDERMINED SNOW and CREVASSES. For the most part, the crevasses are very visible and quite obvious to anyone with his or her eyes open. You’ll see that the worst areas are in the Headwall and Lip, and if you look over toward Left or Right Gully you’ll see far fewer. Undermined snow is a little harder to see, so be on the lookout for open holes with running water, areas of sagging snow, or moats formed near rocks. All of these are indicators that the snow might not be as supportive of your weight as you’d like. FALLING ICE has been less of a concern lately, but there is still some ice waiting to fall to the floor of the Ravine. This can be found mostly in the Headwall and Sluice areas. It’s always a good idea to stay aware of what’s going on above and around you and have a plan for what you’ll do when something falls from up above.

Most recent visitors would agree that the best places left to ski or ride in Tuckerman Ravine are Right and Left Gullies. The runouts have melted out quite a bit, but the upper sections still hold a good amount of snow. The lower portion of the Chute has also been skiing well. If you move over closer toward the Headwall, you’ll be dealing with more crevasses and undermined snow, as well as a floor that’s littered with large blocks of ice that have already fallen. Personally, I would spend my time doing laps in the Right or Left side before even thinking about doing a run from below the Headwall.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 7:45a.m., Monday, May 17, 2010

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

For the start of this week it looks like some great weather to get out into the mountains. Today we will have clear skies and decreasing wind speeds. Temperatures will be seasonable and cool, but the sun and lack of winds should make it feel fairly warm. Tomorrow will be more of the same though with a few more clouds. This past weekend I heard several people remark how amazingly little snow is left in the Ravine, but I heard just as many others comment on how good the coverage is for this time of year. I guess this underscores the idea that each year is different and you should always make your your decisions based on the current conditions. Currently, the hazards we are most concerned with are UNDERMINED SNOW and CREVASSES. For the most part, the crevasses are very visible and quite obvious to anyone with his or her eyes open. You’ll see that the worst areas are in the Headwall and Lip, and if you look over toward Left or Right Gully you’ll see far fewer. Undermined snow is a little harder to see, so be on the lookout for open holes with running water, areas of sagging snow, or moats formed near rocks. All of these are indicators that the snow might not be as supportive of your weight as you’d like. FALLING ICE has been less of a concern lately, but there is still some ice waiting to fall to the floor of the Ravine. This can be found mostly in the Headwall and Sluice areas. It’s always a good idea to stay aware of what’s going on above and around you and have a plan for what you’ll do when something falls from up above.

Most of yesterday’s visitors would agree that the best places to ski or ride in Tuckerman Ravine are Right and Left Gullies. The runouts have melted out quite a bit, but the upper sections still hold a good amount of snow. The lower portion of the Chute was also skiing well yesterday. In fact, I didn’t hear a single person complain about the quality of the snow, and today should be just as good. If you move over closer toward the Headwall, you’ll be dealing with more crevasses and undermined snow, as well as a floor that’s littered with large blocks of ice that have already fallen. Personally, I would spend my time doing laps in the Right or Left side before even thinking about doing a run from below the Headwall.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:00a.m., Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Yesterday was a pretty miserable day and most visitors spent a good deal of time trying to find a piece of the Hermit Lake porch that allowed some reprieve from the driving rain. Conditions were perfect for hypothermia and we saw lots of cold visitors sporting soaking wet jeans and cotton sweatshirts. Luckily today will bring the return of the sun and the mountain air should remain dry for the most part. As the sun went down yesterday evening so did the mercury and lock-up of the snowpack occurred at upper elevations. Hermit Lake remained above freezing through the night and I believe that the Ravine danced right around the freezing point for the last 12 hours. The temperature at the summit is currently 29F (-2C) and expected to fall a bit more this morning before rebounding to the mid 30s F (2C). The wind is blowing at 40mph (64kph) up top and forecasted to pick up with gusts over 70mph (113kph). Is today a perfect day for spring skiing? Not exactly. Is it better than yesterday? Heck yeah! The crux today will be finding the right place to make some turns. When looking for good soft snow think about a slope’s exposure to the sun and wind. Areas like Right Gully and the Lobster Claw will offer better solar gain and protection from the NW winds but their southern exposure has had them melting fast so watch the runouts!

Snow conditions are one consideration when developing your plan but there are other mountain hazards that should go into your route selection. Though lots of ice has fallen at this point in the season ICEFALL is still one of your biggest concerns. Recognizing where icefall may occur and formulating a plan is critical. Don’t linger under ice including spots like the Lunch Rocks unless you have the protection of a large boulder. Once the ice has fallen it still presents a hazard by creating an obstruction in your runout. With potentially icy conditions in some places today you’ll want to keep long sliding falls in the front of your mind. An ice ax and the ability to self arrest will help you avoid sliding into rocks or ice or into a crevasse. Speaking of CREVASSES, they are numerous and widespread and present a very real threat today. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls the snowpack downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. Steer well clear of these at all costs. By definition you won’t see the UNDERMINING that has taken place beneath the snow, but you can be on the lookout for clues to the worst locations. Sagging snow, open holes with running water, and “moats” near rocks are all indicators of undermining. Avoid these areas and stay on top of the snow.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:34a.m., Saturday, May 15, 2010

Printable version

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Thick fog and clouds have consumed the mountain overnight brought in by the passing cold front working its way through the region. Dawn triggered some precipitation which consists of freezing rain and drizzle on the higher summits as temperatures flirt with the freezing mark at 30F (0C). Depending on your elevation you may see either a wintry mix or rain today. Wind velocities will drop from 40-55mph (65-88kph) this morning to 30-45+mph (50-77+kph) later today. As the front passes temperatures are anticipated to fall into the mid 20’s (-3/-4C) turning any lingering precipitation back to the frozen variety. In prelude to this occurring there are convective cells moving into the area bringing the possibility of thunderstorms and potentially delivering heavy localized rainfall this afternoon. Although this is not an absolute I would be prepared for it by having the right gear and being below treeline in the afternoon if possible. In the end the first half of the weekend will not prove to be the most glorious day the mountain has ever seen. However, in true New England style tomorrow will be a whole different story as the sun will rule supreme over the day’s weather bringing a nice contrast to today. Until then the fog and rain today will add complexities to our general spring hazards discussed below. The thick fog expected will limit visibility considerably from time to time keeping you from seeing rocks and ice on the Ravine floor, crevasses and other holes in the snow, and falling ice from above. The intermittent flat light will exacerbate the low visibility and will be a more consistent problem the higher in elevation you go. Some freezing weather this week brought some minor new ice development which rain should cause to fall today. A more substantial consequence will come from any of the lingering larger ice from the winter which is still hanging on in a few locations in the Headwall and Sluice. Since you won’t be able to see this for yourself today, we posted some photos to our website from yesterday.

The snow available for skiing enjoyment gets a little smaller day by day; you’ll need to balance the amount of turns with the building hazards in your fall line. It’s especially important at this time of year to hike up what you plan to ski down so you can assess the conditions before dropping in on top of them. This is particularly true today in periods of limited visibility due to fog and rain. The biggest issues you’ll be facing are CREVASSES, UNDERMINED SNOW, and FALLING ICE. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls the snowpack downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. A little bit of newer snow has filled in the openings of some crevasses which might give you a false impression of where they start and end, so be very conservative around all crevasses. By definition you won’t see the undermining that has taken place beneath the snow, but you can be on the lookout for clues to the worst locations. Sagging snow, open holes with running water, and “moats” near rocks are all indicators of undermining. Avoid these areas and stay on top of the snow. Although trailing a bit behind crevasses and undermining as the main concern icefall will continue to be an issue. As already alluded to massive amounts of ice have already succumbed to gravity and fallen from the walls to the floor of the Ravine. Some additional pieces of ice remain in all areas waiting for today’s rain to join its family in the floor. Keep your eyes and ears open for this hazard and have a plan in mind should icefall occur while remembering fog will make this very challenging.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences.

The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:34a.m., Saturday, May 15, 2010

Printable version

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Thick fog and clouds have consumed the mountain overnight brought in by the passing cold front working its way through the region. Dawn triggered some precipitation which consists of freezing rain and drizzle on the higher summits as temperatures flirt with the freezing mark at 30F (0C). Depending on your elevation you may see either a wintry mix or rain today. Wind velocities will drop from 40-55mph (65-88kph) this morning to 30-45+mph (50-77+kph) later today. As the front passes temperatures are anticipated to fall into the mid 20’s (-3/-4C) turning any lingering precipitation back to the frozen variety. In prelude to this occurring there are convective cells moving into the area bringing the possibility of thunderstorms and potentially delivering heavy localized rainfall this afternoon. Although this is not an absolute I would be prepared for it by having the right gear and being below treeline in the afternoon if possible. In the end the first half of the weekend will not prove to be the most glorious day the mountain has ever seen. However, in true New England style tomorrow will be a whole different story as the sun will rule supreme over the day’s weather bringing a nice contrast to today. Until then the fog and rain today will add complexities to our general spring hazards discussed below. The thick fog expected will limit visibility considerably from time to time keeping you from seeing rocks and ice on the Ravine floor, crevasses and other holes in the snow, and falling ice from above. The intermittent flat light will exacerbate the low visibility and will be a more consistent problem the higher in elevation you go. Some freezing weather this week brought some minor new ice development which rain should cause to fall today. A more substantial consequence will come from any of the lingering larger ice from the winter which is still hanging on in a few locations in the Headwall and Sluice. Since you won’t be able to see this for yourself today, we posted some photos to our website from yesterday.

The snow available for skiing enjoyment gets a little smaller day by day; you’ll need to balance the amount of turns with the building hazards in your fall line. It’s especially important at this time of year to hike up what you plan to ski down so you can assess the conditions before dropping in on top of them. This is particularly true today in periods of limited visibility due to fog and rain. The biggest issues you’ll be facing are CREVASSES, UNDERMINED SNOW, and FALLING ICE. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls the snowpack downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. A little bit of newer snow has filled in the openings of some crevasses which might give you a false impression of where they start and end, so be very conservative around all crevasses. By definition you won’t see the undermining that has taken place beneath the snow, but you can be on the lookout for clues to the worst locations. Sagging snow, open holes with running water, and “moats” near rocks are all indicators of undermining. Avoid these areas and stay on top of the snow. Although trailing a bit behind crevasses and undermining as the main concern icefall will continue to be an issue. As already alluded to massive amounts of ice have already succumbed to gravity and fallen from the walls to the floor of the Ravine. Some additional pieces of ice remain in all areas waiting for today’s rain to join its family in the floor. Keep your eyes and ears open for this hazard and have a plan in mind should icefall occur while remembering fog will make this very challenging.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences.

The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:34a.m., Saturday, May 15, 2010

Printable version

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Thick fog and clouds have consumed the mountain overnight brought in by the passing cold front working its way through the region. Dawn triggered some precipitation which consists of freezing rain and drizzle on the higher summits as temperatures flirt with the freezing mark at 30F (0C). Depending on your elevation you may see either a wintry mix or rain today. Wind velocities will drop from 40-55mph (65-88kph) this morning to 30-45+mph (50-77+kph) later today. As the front passes temperatures are anticipated to fall into the mid 20’s (-3/-4C) turning any lingering precipitation back to the frozen variety. In prelude to this occurring there are convective cells moving into the area bringing the possibility of thunderstorms and potentially delivering heavy localized rainfall this afternoon. Although this is not an absolute I would be prepared for it by having the right gear and being below treeline in the afternoon if possible. In the end the first half of the weekend will not prove to be the most glorious day the mountain has ever seen. However, in true New England style tomorrow will be a whole different story as the sun will rule supreme over the day’s weather bringing a nice contrast to today. Until then the fog and rain today will add complexities to our general spring hazards discussed below. The thick fog expected will limit visibility considerably from time to time keeping you from seeing rocks and ice on the Ravine floor, crevasses and other holes in the snow, and falling ice from above. The intermittent flat light will exacerbate the low visibility and will be a more consistent problem the higher in elevation you go. Some freezing weather this week brought some minor new ice development which rain should cause to fall today. A more substantial consequence will come from any of the lingering larger ice from the winter which is still hanging on in a few locations in the Headwall and Sluice. Since you won’t be able to see this for yourself today, we posted some photos to our website from yesterday.

The snow available for skiing enjoyment gets a little smaller day by day; you’ll need to balance the amount of turns with the building hazards in your fall line. It’s especially important at this time of year to hike up what you plan to ski down so you can assess the conditions before dropping in on top of them. This is particularly true today in periods of limited visibility due to fog and rain. The biggest issues you’ll be facing are CREVASSES, UNDERMINED SNOW, and FALLING ICE. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls the snowpack downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. A little bit of newer snow has filled in the openings of some crevasses which might give you a false impression of where they start and end, so be very conservative around all crevasses. By definition you won’t see the undermining that has taken place beneath the snow, but you can be on the lookout for clues to the worst locations. Sagging snow, open holes with running water, and “moats” near rocks are all indicators of undermining. Avoid these areas and stay on top of the snow. Although trailing a bit behind crevasses and undermining as the main concern icefall will continue to be an issue. As already alluded to massive amounts of ice have already succumbed to gravity and fallen from the walls to the floor of the Ravine. Some additional pieces of ice remain in all areas waiting for today’s rain to join its family in the floor. Keep your eyes and ears open for this hazard and have a plan in mind should icefall occur while remembering fog will make this very challenging.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences.

The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit..

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Posted: 8:24a.m., Friday, May 14, 2010

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised. A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain.

Early this morning a drop in wind speed associated with a shift in direction began a period of light snow and freezing fog for the higher summits. Sporadic precipitation should continue and turn to all rain quickly as temperatures climb above freezing towards 40F (4.5C). Wind velocities will build into the 70mph (112kph) range by late in the day as a prelude to the cold front coming our way behind the warm front we’re dealing with this morning. Convective cell potential exists for the afternoon bringing a possible thunderstorm in addition to today’s rain. Temperatures will drop tonight into the 20’s (-3/-4C) which will bring the return of snow and mixed precipitation types through the dark hours into the beginning of the weekend. A wintry mix should prevail with the summit mercury climbing to the freezing mark on Saturday with peak winds around 70 mph (112kph) in the morning dropping to 35-40mph (56-64kph) later in the day. We’ll have more on Saturday’s weather in our weekend update this afternoon. We continue to struggle with some technical problems with our website that began a week ago but we should have this posted by early afternoon.

Available snow for skiing enjoyment gets a little smaller day by day, but the diehard mountain slider will still find something to ski or ride if they just can’t put the boards away yet for the summer. You’ll need to balance the amount of turns with the building hazards in your fall line. These usual springtime hazards should be on the backcountry traveler’s watchlist today. It’s especially important at this time of year to hike up what you plan to ski down so you can assess the conditions before dropping in on top of them. The biggest issues you’ll be facing are CREVASSES, UNDERMINED SNOW, and FALLING ICE. As the snowpack deteriorates and gravity pulls it downhill it rips and tears apart leaving cracks and chasms of varying sizes. Some are only big enough to grab a ski or board while others could eat you and your entire group in one quick gulp. Please don’t feed the crevasses it only gives them bad habits. By definition you won’t see the undermining that has taken place beneath the snow, but you can be on the lookout for clues to the worst locations. Sagging snow, open holes with running water, and “moats” near rocks are all indicators of undermining. Avoid these areas and stay on top of the snow. Although trailing a bit behind crevasses and undermining as the main concern icefall will continue to be an issue of concern. Massive amounts of ice have already succumbed to gravity and fallen from the walls to the floor of the Ravine. Some additional pieces of ice remain in all areas waiting for warmer temperatures to join its family in the floor. Keep your eyes and ears open for this hazard and have a plan in mind should icefall occur.

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail is CLOSED TO ALL USE from Lunch Rocks to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail. This includes the Lip area and the section of the hiking trail from the floor of the Ravine through the top of the Headwall. Only this section of the trail is closed, and it includes the Lip. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of crevasses and undermining that develop in this area during the spring melt-out. A fall in this area would have severe consequences. The Lion Head Summer Trail is open and provides an alternate route to the summit.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters or the HMC caretaker at the Harvard Cabin. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Tuckerman Ravine has LOW avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain in Huntington Ravine. A danger of falling ice exists and will persist until it all comes down.

Thunderstorms and rain showers during the overnight will continue on and off for the mountains today. Weather forecasts are expecting thunderstorm potential and precipitation to continue through Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. Adding to these pleasantries wind velocities are gusting over 60mph (95kph) this morning with temperatures hovering around 40F (4.4C). Unfortunately, there is nothing in the weather forecasts to indicate a return of sunny weather any time soon.

Today, as well as through the week, springtime hazards will continue to flourish and get worse. These have grown substantially in the past week, with conditions changing dramatically from day to day. Icefall has been a huge concern and will continue over the next few days as warm temperatures and rain help send large chunks of ice to the floor of the Bowl. A tremendous amount of ice still hangs in the Sluice as well as in the Center Headwall, so don’t linger below this looming hazard. At this point in the season Lunch Rocks is one of the most likely places to get hurt or killed by falling ice as it is in the direct run out of both the Headwall and the Sluice. Crevasses have also begun to emerge and you’ll need to keep a watchful eye for them as you hike up your intended line of descent. The Lip and Headwall area have the greatest number of cracks opening up. What you see on the surface is often much smaller than the opening underneath the snow, so give them plenty of space and travel carefully around the edges to avoid punching through. Undermined snow increased dramatically over the past week as temperatures stayed above freezing for a full 7-8 days before dipping briefly below the freezing mark. We are heading back into around the clock melting as the next 48 hours will remain above 32F (0C) all the way to the higher summits. Trying to ski/ride from the Bowl down to Hermit Lake is now akin to gambling with your life. Large sections of snow have been collapsing into the river. On Saturday one lucky skier went for a cold swim and was able to be pulled out by another person, and this was just trying to walk back through the woods to Hermit Lake. Do yourself a favor and walk down to Hermit Lake when leaving the Bowl. There are still plenty of turns to be had on the mountain but visitors need to be on high alert for the springtime hazards that have killed and injured many people over the years. When choosing your lines or your resting spots make sure you assess which hazards you face and develop a plan for dealing appropriately. As you change locations through the day continue to constantly assess the new problems you may be facing. Never stop looking for the objective hazards the mountain may be throwing your way. Realize this may be difficult during times of fog and low visibility. Personally I would stay clear of icefall runouts, which is most of both Ravines, if I cannot see the ice coming due to fog. There is likely nothing worse than hearing a loud thundering crack and smashing of ice heading in your direction and not being able to see it.

The Lion Head Winter Route is open as is most of the John Sherburne Ski Trail. The bottom section of the trail is now closed and you’ll need to watch for bare spots up to that point. Cross over to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at the rope to avoid deep mud and water on the ski trail and walk the short section to the parking lot. This will be better for you and protect the ski trail from erosion. The Harvard Cabin is closed for the season leaving Hermit Lake Shelters as the only camping option on the east side of Mt Washington.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

This is the Official Tuckerman Ravine website.  Occasionally the remoteness of Tuckerman Ravine, weather, or communication problems prevent the website from being updated immediately.  Check the date, and if it is not the most recent, you can also call the National Forest Service’s 24 hour avalanche hotline at (603) 466-2713 (ext. 4)

Avalanche Advisory

Tuckerman Ravine has LOW avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are very unlikely and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated pockets. Normal caution is advised.

A General Advisory is currently issued for Huntington Ravine. We are done issuing daily avalanche forecasts for Huntington for the remainder of the season. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain in Huntington Ravine. A danger of falling ice exists and will persist until it all comes down.

After a stretch of very busy days with sunny summer-like weather, Mt. Washington has begun to fall under the shadow of lowering clouds. This is the result of a warm front heading our way, which will bring with it some winds on the front end and precipitation beginning this afternoon. Summit temperatures are currently below freezing so there is a chance it will start as a mix of snow, ice, and rain but it will transition to all rain. If this information puts you into a bad mood, try thinking of the positive side of things. For example, we’re forecasted to get well under a half inch of water equivalent by tomorrow morning. Compare this to the 3.5″ that fell early last week. It’s kind of like finding a marshmallow bunny that’s been hiding under your couch since the weekend–you’re not really sure why you should be happy about it, but you smile and eat it anyway. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the weather forecasts to indicate a return of sunny weather any time soon.

Today, as well as through the week, springtime hazards will continue to blossom. These have grown substantially in the past week, with conditions changing dramatically from day to day. Icefall has been a huge concern and will continue over the next few days as warm temps and incoming rain help send large chunks of ice to the floor of the Bowl. A tremendous amount of ice still hangs in the Sluice as well as in the Center Headwall, so don’t linger below this looming hazard. At this point in the season Lunch Rocks is the most likely place to get hurt or killed by falling ice. Crevasses have also begun to emerge and you’ll need to keep a watchful eye for them as you hike up your intended line of descent. The Lip and Headwall area have the greatest number of cracks opening up. What you see on the surface is often much smaller than the opening underneath the snow, so give them plenty of space and travel carefully around the edges to avoid punching through.Undermined snow increased dramatically over the past week as temps stayed above freezing for a full week before they finally dipped below freezing. Huge volumes of water coursed below the snowpack creating issues in a number of areas. Trying to ski/ride from the Bowl down to Hermit Lake is now akin to gambling with your life. Large sections of snow have been collapsing into the river. On Saturday one lucky skier went for a cold swim and was able to be pulled out by another person, and this was just trying to walk back through the woods to Hermit Lake. Do yourself a favor and walk down to Hermit Lake when leaving the Bowl. There are still plenty of turns to be had on the mountain but visitors need to be on high alert for the springtime hazards that have killed and injured many people over the years. When choosing your lines or your resting spots make sure you assess which hazards you face and develop a plan for dealing appropriately.

The Lion Head Winter Route is open as is most of the John Sherburne Ski Trail. The bottom section of the trail is now closed and you’ll need to watch for bare spots throughout the remainder. Cross over to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at the rope to keep out of the mud and protect the trail from erosion. The Harvard Cabin is closed for the season leaving Hermit Lake Shelters as the only camping option on the east side of Mt Washington.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, or the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

This is the Official Tuckerman Ravine website.  Occasionally the remoteness of Tuckerman Ravine, weather, or communication problems prevent the website from being updated immediately.  Check the date, and if it is not the most recent, you can also call the National Forest Service’s 24 hour avalanche hotline at (603) 466-2713 (ext. 4)

Avalanche Advisory for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Tuckerman Ravine and Huntington Ravine have HIGH avalanche danger today. Natural and human triggered avalanches are likely on a variety of slope angles and aspects. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. The only exception to this is the Little Headwall which has Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Use caution in steep terrain.

Well any other day I’d say I’d be excited by what I’m seeing here at Hermit Lake. There is about 4″ of dense snow on the ground with some deeper drifts and it is currently snowing pretty hard. I’ll take all the snow we can get pretty much any day, but the unfortunate side of this weather event is what’s to come later. Warm air will slowly infiltrate the upper elevations bringing with it a change from snow to mixed precipitation and then rain later. It’s already climbed to 26F (-3C) at the summit and is just above freezing here. The avalanche danger today is going to steadily rise through the day in both ravines. As precipitation changes over to mixed and rain, it will enter the realm of “High.” However, it’s important to remember that the danger will pass through “Considerable” earlier in the day with natural avalanches being possible even prior to any rain. Ultimately, travel in avalanche terrain today is not recommended.

If, after reading the paragraph above, your plans still include heading into either ravine, I’d suggest going back and re-reading the first two paragraphs and asking yourself if spending a wet day with High avalanche danger is really the what you want to do. With heavy rain in the forecast for the next few days, I’m personally planning some quality indoor activities to keep busy. This storm system is a potent one, with up to an inch of water equivalent by midnight tonight and the potential for up to 4″ (10cm) of water equivalent by the time it’s all over late Wednesday. As far as the potential for avalanches goes, two things are in my mind for today. First is the new snow which is falling with forecasted winds to be S shifting W at 50-70mph (80-113kph) early in the day. This would be enough to create instabilities even if the forecast wasn’t for snow changing to rain. The second issue is the older slabs that existed primarily in Tuckerman Ravine and are sitting on top of the rain crust from about a week ago. Dumping rain on these slabs would also increase the avalanche danger. Putting both of these issues together and thinking about what effect the rain will have brings me to my belief that natural avalanches will be taking place today in most areas by the end of today. Some of these will be wet slabs and others may be wet loose snow avalanches, but regardless, I wouldn’t want to be hit with either type.

The warm wet weather over the next few days followed by clear, sunny, and warm weather will do some significant damage to the snow cover across the mountain over the week to come. I would expect the Little Headwall, which already has some open water holes, and the brook leading out of the Ravine to become dangerously undermined by meltwater. Also expect icefall and rockfall hazard to increase as free water melts the bonds between the ice and rocks allowing them to succumb to their natural gravitational urges. Finally, travel off the beaten path may become a nightmare of soggy postholes. Due to the posthole factor it’s probably not a good week to try sledding the Sherburne Ski Trail or bushwacking down the Great Gulf; you’re much better off with flotation on your feet or sticking to well-traveled routes.

The Lion Head Winter Route is open. The John Sherburne Ski Trail is skiable all the way to Pinkham Notch.

Please Remember:
Natural events such as avalanches are impossible to accurately predict in every instance. This Advisory is one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. It should be used along with safe travel techniques, snow stability assessments, an understanding of weather’s effect on the snowpack, and proficiency in avalanche rescue.
You should obtain the latest weather forecast before heading into the mountains. Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters or the HMC caretaker at the Harvard Cabin. A new avalanche advisory will be issued tomorrow and this advisory expires at midnight.

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

Three Human Triggered Avalanches- Center Bowl

This was a very warm and busy day with three human triggered avalanches, three head lacerations, and two lower leg injuries. Avalanches were a concern as recent snowfall had developed slabs in lee areas a couple days earlier. These slabs had been subject above freezing temperatures for a full day and night, leading to the Lip, Headwall, and Bowl being posted at Considerable on Friday the 24th and Moderate danger for the 25th. Additionally, the potential for falling ice from the Sluice and Headwall areas was another cause for concern.

The first patient of the day fell in the center Bowl area and injured his lower leg in the fall. One Snow Ranger and one Ski Patroller had to briefly delay hiking to him as a safety measure. When the area became sufficiently clear of traffic, they brought a litter to the patient, loaded him into it, and quickly moved to a safer location for further assessment. The second patient fell in the upper Chute and injured his knee and thigh during the fall. As a safety measure, lookouts were posted above the patient as well as off to the side. Both patients were splinted and transported to Pinkham with the help of numerous bystanders who were willing to help out.

All three head lacerations were bandaged and the patients were able to walk themselves down to Pinkham. One cut the back of his head when he attempted a backflip on a man-made jump in the floor of the ravine. A second fell off a cliff while skiing the left side of the Headwall. The third fell while carrying his skis down a steep section between the Little Headwall and the Lower Snowfields. He slipped and fell into another person’s ski edge, causing a facial laceration.

As mentioned, three human triggered avalanches took place, all in the center Headwall area. This area, as well as the Bowl and Lip (including the Sluice) were rated at Moderate avalanche danger. The avalanche advisory for the day discussed the unusual avalanche issues for the day related to continued warming of recently developed slabs over an older more stable bed surface. Despite the Moderate rating, numerous people were skiing almost every line imaginable in the Headwall area. Just prior to noon, the first slab avalanche was triggered by sluff created as a person attempted to descend the center Headwall. A little more than an hour later a second and slightly smaller slab released farther left of the first slide. This snowboarder was carried with the debris but not buried. The third avalanche involved hangfire that remained between the first two slides; the trigger for this one was able to remain on his board and not be carried with the slide. In addition to the Headwall, we were concerned about stability issues in the Lip and Sluice. Stability was decreasing as the day progressed due to increased melting; however, skier compaction of the Lip from the day before and early on this day helped stabilize this area before the decreasing strength of the slab reached the critical threshold. Somehow, the Sluice did not see any traffic except for a couple riders at the very end of the day. The avalanches that occurred are not the usual type for Mt. Washington. As an example, the second slide released after many people, perhaps up to 30, had already descended the same area that day. Warm slabs can still retain their cohesiveness while the meltwater breaks down their tensile strength. We believe this is what happened to the slabs that released here. In these cases the trigger was human but it also could have been entirely natural.

It is difficult for us, as professional avalanche forecasters, to fully understand the human factors involved in the decisions visitors were making throughout the day. We believe there existed a wide variety of attitudes and perceptions of the hazards on the mountain this day. The vast majority of visitors listened to our advice and made safe decisions. Others listened to our safety messages then allowed other human factors to take priority. There were also some who understood the hazards and willingly chose to accept the risk involved. We also believe there are others who truly did not understand the magnitude of risks they were dealing with. In this case, several key pieces of bulls-eye data existed (i.e. recent avalanche activity in one part of the Headwall gives a clear indication that snow may be unstable on other similar slopes). We are thankful for the relatively low number of injuries on such a busy day and feel lucky that no injuries resulted from the three avalanches. We want to emphasize that our role in Tuckerman Ravine each spring goes beyond helping out those who are injured. We firmly believe that with good information visitors will make better and safer decisions. We are here to provide information and guidance that will help you have a positive experience. Please seek us out anytime you have questions about what hazards exist on a given day!

Avalanche Accident in Tuckerman Ravine

Two climbers were involved in an avalanche accident in Tuckerman Ravine. The accident took place on a sunnier-than-expected Saturday early in the spring skiing season. The weather forecast had called for mostly cloudy skies, summit temperatures falling to 15F, and winds ranging from 25-40mph. The morning avalanche advisory discussed the snowpack staying frozen for most of the day, with the best chance of warm soft snow being on south-facing aspects. Northerly aspects were expected to remain cold and frozen through the day. DZ and TF, both athletic and experienced mountaineers, were climbing the steep snow route known as “Dodge’s Drop” unroped, each with two technical ice axes and crampons. They had recently climbed Hillman’s Highway and were familiar with the terrain on the Boott Spur Ridge. The plan was to climb the route to access the hiking trails to the summit of Mt. Washington, then descend through Tuckerman Ravine.

For much of the climb, the surface conditions were refrozen springtime crust. The party reported they were enjoying the climbing conditions when on this surface. At times, they encountered small areas of newer softer snow but this surface was more difficult to climb, so they opted for the old surface when possible. Nearing the top of the climb, they encountered an isolated pocket of relatively new slab. The upper climber (DZ) reported he was unable to swing his axes through the new snow into the crust, his boots were getting full penetration when kicked into the snow, and the snow was fully supporting his weight. He stated that he decided to move left to get around the slab both for stability reasons and for the easier climbing on the crust. As he was working himself toward the edge of the slab the avalanche released.

DZ recognized what was transpiring and was able to see the fracture line propagate upwards from his feet to a point about 6-8 feet above him. The fracture then propagated outward and the slab began to slide downhill. TF was about 10 feet below and slightly to the side of DZ. He had both ice tools sunk into the snow. The initial slab, which DZ was entrained in, pulled out more snow above TF. He attempted to hold on against the force of the slab pouring over him but he was eventually pulled off his stance. Both individuals were carried downhill, and each reported being airborne at some point. DZ stated he was impressed by how much time he had during the course of the slide to figure out what to do. He said he was unsure of whether to try to self arrest or swim to stay on top. At one point he discarded one tool and attempted to self arrest with the other. He felt the pick engaging the crust, but was unable to stop himself. He also reported that during this time he saw his partner slide past him, indicating he at least managed to slow himself to some degree. The avalanche carried them over a small cliff (hence DZ reporting being airborne for “3 heartbeats”) and down into a treed slope below. The compressive force of the snow impacting the slope below the cliff was quite strong; it ripped both ice axes out of TF’s hands and they both felt as though their clothes and gear were also being pulled loose. They came to rest in the trees with most of the debris though some of the debris continued to run farther downslope. Both individuals came to rest on top of the snow; no excavation was required.

The avalanche was witnessed by a crowd in the courtyard of Hermit Lake Shelter’s caretaker’s cabin. The commotion alerted a Snow Ranger (Jeff Lane) who saw the climbers sliding into the trees. The caretaker of the shelter site was climbing nearby in Hillman’s Highway; he established communication with the climbers who yelled to him that they were all right. The caretaker continued over to the climbers to assess their injuries more thoroughly. Meanwhile a Snow Ranger and one member of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol headed uphill to tie in with the party. DZ suffered a small laceration on his forehead, a broken pinky finger, sprained ankle, some ligament damage in his knee, bruising on his thigh and shin, and abrasions on both elbows. The abrasions were caused by sliding on the icy crust while wearing only a synthetic t-shirt. TF reported that he lost his vision momentarily when they came to rest but regained it soon after. He also suffered multiple abrasions on both arms and hands, ligament damage in one knee, and a bruised pelvis. The climbers were escorted to the Snow Ranger cabin at Hermit Lake where they were more thoroughly assessed and treated. From here, they were transported to the parking lot in the USFS Snowcat, where they were released into their own vehicle for transportation to a local hospital.

Snowpack information: On the night of April 6, 2009 Mt. Washington received a soaking rain transitioning to mixed precipitation and snow. Total water equivalents from this event were 0.71” recorded on the summit, with 1.2” of this coming as snow. Lower on the mountain at Hermit Lake the USFS manual snowplot precip can had collected 1.45” water equivalent with 1.9” of this falling on the storm board as snow. This rain event soaked the snowpack then refroze, giving us a baseline below which there have been no stability issues. Overnight on April 8, the summit recorded 0.4” of new snow. This new snow was not sufficient to raise the avalanche danger above Low for any of the nearby forecast areas in the days following this relatively small snowfall. It’s worth noting the ability of the wind on Mt. Washington to transform seemingly insignificant snow totals into deeper slabs. One excellent example came earlier this month. On April 4, the summit recorded 0.6” new snow. The following morning USFS Snow Ranger Brian Johnston found slabs averaging 9-10” in sheltered lee areas, with one slab measuring 24” deep. Although the snowfall responsible for this avalanche was only 0.4”, winds had been able to develop deeper slabs in isolated areas. This slope has a NNE aspect, and recent weather had been warm but not sufficiently warm to create a melt freeze cycle on northerly aspects. This isolated pocket was able to remain cold and dry while similar slabs in nearby areas with different aspects had been skied numerous times without incident in the days between the snowfall and the avalanche. The fracture line from this avalanche was estimated to average 6” deep and 30-40 feet wide. The slab depth at DZ’s high point was at least 12”.

Summary: These two climbers were incredibly fortunate. This route is generally considered “no-fall” territory due to numerous rocks, cliffs, and trees in the fall line. The total vertical drop of their fall is estimated to be around 800 feet. They managed to pass through the rocky section of the fall unscathed, with the injuries being sustained only after being carried into the trees. Ironically the avalanche which caused their fall likely helped protect them from more significant injuries as they probably rode on the debris cushion to their resting point. Falling this distance with crampons on, ice tools in hand, and going over small cliffs usually concludes much worse. That they were able to walk themselves down from an incident such as this is remarkable to say the least.

From an avalanche perspective, the climbers had chosen a reasonable route. Although Dodge’s Drop is not one of the forecasted areas on the mountain it is adjacent to Hillman’s Highway which is one the 8 forecasted slopes and gullies of Tuckerman Ravine. All 8 areas were forecasted at “Low” at the time of the accident and where heavily skied without incident. Some isolated pockets of instability did exist but between skier compaction; skiers cutting up the continuity of these pockets; and solar gain baking out any fracture propagation potential they became inconsequential by late morning. Dodge’s is a northern facing slope which makes it slow to react to sunny days as it does not receive direct solar gain. Slabs on these aspects often require higher ambient air temperatures for rapid settling compared to southern facing slopes which react very quickly to solar radiation. Using an avalanche forecast issued for an adjacent slope to your intended ascent/decent as a tool is a smart use of your available resources. In addition to the forecast discussion points however always consider how your intended route might harbor different instability issues. The slab they triggered was small and isolated; if this were in a forecasted area it would be considered an “isolated pocket.” The climbers recognized the hazard when they encountered this pocket and were attempting to mitigate it as best as they could when the fracture initiated. Many valuable lessons can be learned from this event, two are offered here as they are not uncommon occurrences on Mt. Washington. First, it’s important to recognize that “Low avalanche danger” does not mean “No avalanche danger”. Isolated pockets of instability can be present under a Low rating and you should be capable of recognizing and assessing this hazard for yourself. Second, it underscores the importance of being able to assess hazards before dropping in over the top of them. In this instance, there was at least one skier known to be hiking up Hillman’s with the intention of descending Dodge’s Drop. It’s quite likely that this skier would have triggered the pocket if the climbers had not. Whether the hazard is avalanches, crevasses, undermined snow, etc., it’s always a good idea to assess for hazards before descending from above.