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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

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

Avalanche North Gully Huntington Ravine

During the afternoon of Sunday, March 30, Forest Service Snow Rangers at Hermit Lake were alerted to an avalanche incident in North Gully in Huntington Ravine. A climber elsewhere in the ravine witnessed the slide and was able to connect with 911 via a cell phone. Two Snow Rangers responded with snowmobiles and were on the scene 18-20 minutes after the incident took place. The details that follow were gathered from the climbers involved.

Two climbers were emerging from North Gully onto the more open slopes above the gully. After simul-climbing the gully’s midsection, they unroped and began to climb the snow up toward Ball Crag. They identified an area of potentially unstable snow and decided to move off to the side of the slope and travel one at a time. One of the climbers triggered an avalanche but neither were caught or carried in the slide. Unsure of the outcome below, they quickly worked their way around the ravine and descended the Escape Hatch to see if anyone needed help.

A second party of two believed the first party had already finished the climb, and began the first ice pitch. The leader arrived at a fixed belay above the first pitch of ice and clipped his rope to the anchor with a carabiner. He was in the process of backing up the anchor when the avalanche came from above. At this point the anchor was serving as a piece of protection and he was essentially still on lead.

The avalanche carried the leader downslope over the top of the first pitch of ice. The belayer was unanchored at the bottom and was lifted upslope and into the ice. He was able to maintain control of the belay and the fixed anchor held, resulting in approximately a 50 foot fall for the leader. Both climbers were shaken up, sore, and had damaged their helmets in the fall. Examinations by Snow Rangers at the scene found no serious injuries. The climbers stayed overnight at the Harvard Cabin, where the following morning they reported general soreness but no other injuries.

The weather leading up this incident is an example of a classic setup for an avalanche cycle. On Friday, March 28, Mt. Washington received 6.4” of 7.8% density snow. Hermit Lake recorded almost 8” from the same weather system. Friday night and Saturday the winds wrapped from the W to the NNW and increased in velocity before falling again on Sunday (from 1mph Friday afternoon to a peak of 99mph Saturday then back down to single digit speeds Sunday). Evidence of natural avalanche activity was visible Sunday morning in several locations, including Hillman’s Highway, South Gully, Raymond’s Cataract, the Lion Head Summer Trail, the East Snowfields of the summit cone, and in small snowfields that descend from Lion Head toward the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Avalanche danger for North Gully on Sunday was rated Moderate.

Fortunately this incident turned out well for all parties involved. It very easily could have been worse. Several lessons can be gleaned from this incident:
·          Choice of route. Five of eight gullies in Huntington had Low avalanche danger while three (North, Damnation, and Central) had Moderate.  In regards to snow stability, choosing anther gully would have been a safer option.
·          Climbing below another party. Ice climbing below others always carries additional risk, whether it’s from falling ice and rocks or avalanches. The party that was hit by the avalanche understood that climbing under another party was a bad choice.  They thought that the gully was clear and that it was safe to start up.  It is difficult to see the entire gully from the base of the ice, but a short walk to a better vantage point is all that is required for a view of the entire gully.
·          Ongoing stability assessments: The top party did a good job of recognizing the unstable snow at the top of the climb. Traveling one at a time off to the side of the area in question helped prevent them from being caught in the avalanche. Had they wanted to protect themselves further, they could have roped up again and climbed to the top using belays and protection.

Sliding Fall Huntington Ravine

A climber was injured from a sliding fall while descending in Huntington Ravine.  A party of two started up Odell Gully around 3:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.  After completing the main ice climbing section, they traversed to the east to begin their descent.  Neither of them had their headlamps with them and darkness complicated their descent.  According to the party, they were in the lower section of the Escape Hatch when one of them lost his footing and began a sliding fall.  Unable to self arrest, he slid approximately 150 feet before slamming into a tree and stopping.  The fall resulted in injuries to his back and legs.  The two were able to get to the Harvard Cabin under their own power where local guides and the caretaker provided assistance to the climber and notified the USFS Snow Rangers who arrived at the Harvard Cabin around 9:30 pm.  The patient was reassessed, immobilized on a backboard and transported to Pinkham Notch via snowcat where he was transferred to an ambulance and brought to the hospital.  We later learned that the patient fractured two vertebrae in his lower back and had numerous sprains and contusions.

Lessons Learned:  This was the third sliding fall injury in three days that may have been prevented with a quick self arrest.  The surface that all of these occurred on is a very hard icy snowpack from the January thaw, which is difficult to stop on.  If you don’t arrest your fall immediately you will get out of control fast.  In each of these incidents, the parties involved did a good job getting to the Harvard Cabin under their own power.

Sliding Fall – Huntington Ravine

A party of four was ascending the Fan in Huntington Ravine when one of them fell and slid into two other people in his party causing them to fall as well.  One of three involved in the fall was unable to self arrest on the icy surface and tumbled about 50 feet before hitting a rock.  He sustained a soft tissue injury to his left thigh.  The patient’s party was able to assist him down to the Harvard Cabin and notified the caretaker of the incident and requested assistance.  A Snow Ranger assessed his injuries and transported the patient to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile.

Avalanche Solo Climber Huntington Ravine

At 9:20 pm on January 18 the USFS Snow Rangers were informed that a solo climber was overdue from his climb in Huntington Ravine.  The overdue climber had signed into the winter climbers register at Pinkham Notch with the plan of climbing Central Gully in Huntington Ravine.  According to his friends who reported him overdue, he had experience in many gullies in Huntington Ravine and had talked about Odell Gully as another option for his day.

A team searched the access routes into Huntington Ravine between 10:00 pm and midnight on the 18th.  Due to snow stability concerns, search teams didn’t enter avalanche terrain until first light the next day to begin searching Huntington Ravine.  Shortly after sunrise, the missing climber’s body was found in avalanche debris below Odell Gully.  The climber was on top of the debris and died as a result of being avalanched out of Odell Gully.  He was put in a technical litter, lowered 500 ft to the floor of the Ravine and transported to Pinkham Notch by the USFS snowcat.

The avalanche danger rating for January 18 was posted High for all forecast areas in Huntington Ravine.  The definition of this rating states natural and human triggered avalanches are likely, unstable slabs are likely on a variety of aspects and slope angles, and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.  This rating was based on active wind loading of new snow that had been accumulating since snowfall began around 4 am that morning.  Winds associated with the storm began out of the south before shifting to the west around 12:00 pm and increasing to the 60-70 mph range with a peak gust on the Summit out of the west of 86 mph (139 kph) at 5:42 pm.  Recorded snow totals from this storm were 3.9” (10 cm) at Hermit Lake and 3.1” (7.9 cm) on the summit of Mt. Washington with locally higher amounts.  The density of the snow was lighter at the beginning and became heavier through the day with an average density at Hermit Lake of 12.8%.  Odell is a popular climbing route with sections of snow and grade 2 and 3 ice.  It faces E and ENE and has multiple avalanche start zones.  The winds associated with this storm were ideal for loading Odell by starting out of the south and wrapping around to the west.  It is believed that the climber triggered the avalanche, though this is not conclusive.  The size of the avalanche was classified as D2R3.  D2 refers to the destructive force of an avalanche and means that it could bury, injure or kill a person.  R3 means that the avalanche was medium sized relative to its normal path.  Evidence of natural avalanche activity from this storm was observed on similar aspects.

We would like to thank Mountain Rescue Service, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Harvard Mountaineering Club and the Mount Washington Observatory for assisting in this incident.

Lessons learned:  It is easy to look at incidents such as this one and make simple judgments on the victim’s actions.  Undoubtedly, most people would change their plans when a current avalanche forecast projects avalanches as being likely on their intended route.  Nonetheless, the majority of our avalanche fatalities and serious accidents have occurred in areas that were posted with High avalanche danger.  This contrasts with the general trend around the world where the majority of accidents happen under a Considerable rating.  Though this accident did happen in an area that was rated as High, it could have occurred under a rating of Low, Moderate or Considerable.

As a solo climber you are often exposed to a greater degree of risk than a roped climber.  In this incident the size of the avalanche probably had little to do with the outcome.  Had the victim triggered an isolated pocket of unstable snow, as is feasible under a rating of Low, the end result would likely have been similar.  Although a rope cannot save you from all mountain dangers it does substantially increase the size of your safety net if used properly.  When approaching a suspect area the best use of a rope incorporates solid protection that is located to the side of the pocket or snowfield in question.  This is by no means a failsafe tactic but it does provide some extra security should you be knocked off of your feet by snow, falling ice, etc.

Secondly it is worth noting that the US 5-Scale Danger Rating System is a continuum and not a series of 5 distinct categories without overlap.  Within any particular rating there is also a range and we frequently try to discuss this in the daily avalanche advisory.  When the victim passed the Harvard Cabin the avalanche advisory stated the following:  “N-facing aspects will be the first to move up into the High rating with E and S-facing aspects to follow as the winds shift.”   Armed with this data, it would be prudent to consider the other options if one was determined to climb a gully in the ravine that day.  By the time the victim was approaching the start of the climb the winds had begun their forecasted shift and Odell Gully was in the direct lee of wind loading.  Farther to the right, gullies such as North and Damnation likely had less loading occurring and would have had smaller sections of suspect snow to navigate.

Mountain skills are complex and require a high degree of technical training in a variety of disciplines.  This climber had a lot of experience climbing in Huntington including numerous solo ascents of gullies.  He was well prepared to deal with the weather and steep mountain terrain found in Huntington Ravine.  As is often the case in avalanche accidents, it appears that his technical climbing experience surpassed his knowledge of mountain snowpack.  In addition, the victim was not carrying any avalanche safety equipment.  Though it did not make a difference in this scenario, carrying this equipment provides an additional tool should the unthinkable occur.  Even if climbing alone this gear can help you out when things go bad.  Other climbers in the area could locate you if you were buried while wearing a beacon and you could provide the same service for them. With this said, self sufficiency is paramount in avalanche rescue so having a party of two or more is needed. Having these items with you should be standard practice anytime you enter avalanche terrain.