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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!

Four Injuries

USFS Snow Rangers and the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol assisted with four injured visitors. Each patient was able to evacuate themselves without further assistance beyond Hermit Lake. The first patient was a participant in the Inferno pentathlon who fell during the ski leg and dislocated his shoulder. The dislocation was reduced and the shoulder immobilized. The second patient fell while climbing Left Gully, sustaining abrasions to both forearms as a result of his efforts attempting to self-arrest without an ice axe. The third patient fell while climbing above Lunch Rocks. He also dislocated his shoulder; this dislocation was reduced and immobilized for his walk to Pinkham.

The fourth incident of the day is worthy of further analysis. This skier began to descend the Lip in the late afternoon when he realized the surface was much more firm and steep than he had anticipated. At some point before descending, he dropped his ski poles down the Lip, stepped out of his skis, and began to climb back upward to the ridge. He traversed over to the top of the Sluice, where conditions were not much better than in the Lip. Upon descending, he lost control and began a tumbling fall that ended just short of Lunch Rocks. He was able to walk himself down the Snow Ranger Quarters at Hermit Lake where he was examined by Snow Rangers and the MWVSP. It was determined he may have suffered a minor concussion but was otherwise all right. At the request of the caregivers, he returned later in the evening for a follow-up evaluation before spending the night at his shelter. This incident involves a few common hazards we see each spring. First, when the sun begins to set behind the ridge, the snow surface can quickly turn very icy and slick. Second is descending an unknown route without first climbing it to determine its nature. The Sluice is every bit as steep as the Lip, but also has cliffs and a runout into Lunch Rocks making falls especially precarious. Skiing at the top of your ability in unfamiliar terrain without poles and with a large pack can be very challenging; sometimes walking down can be a good option. Kudos to the patient’s friends for encouraging him to get checked out by trained personnel.

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.

Snowboarder caught an edge in the Lip – torn ACL

A snowboarder caught an edge in the Lip causing him to tumble about 300 feet to the floor of the ravine. The victim tore his ACL during the fall. USFS Snow Rangers and members of MWVSP splinted the injured leg and he was able to walk with assistance to Hermit Lake, where he was loaded into the USFS snowcat for transportation to Pinkham Notch.

Sliding fall injuries

At approximately 1:00pm a mountaineer was taking a photograph in the vicinity of the Lip when he lost balance and fell about 300 feet to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. He sustained a lower leg injury as a result of the fall. The patient was splinted and packaged into a litter which was brought down to Pinkham on the USFS snowcat. While this was taking place, a snowboarder injured his left leg in a sliding fall in Tuckerman Ravine. He was evaluated by the MWVSP and was able to walk to Pinkham under his own power.

Two injured skiers

Two incidents involving skiers occurred almost simultaneously in Tuckerman Ravine in the late afternoon. At about 4pm, a skier descended the Sluice and as he transitioned into the floor of the Ravine his skis broke through a crust layer causing him to fall. The skier suffered a lower leg injury just below the top of his ski boot. At the time, the AMC caretaker from Hermit Lake and a friend were hiking to the ravine to have a look around. They saw bystanders packaging the skier into a litter retrieved from the Lunch Rocks cache and went to assist. As this party was working their way down the floor of the ravine, another skier fell in Right Gully, injuring his knee. This skier was able to walk to Hermit Lake under his own power while the first skier was brought down via the Little Headwall. USFS Snow Rangers transported both skiers from Hermit Lake to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center by snowcat.

Back to back skier triggered avalanches in the Lower Snowfields and Hillman’s Highway

Back to back skier triggered avalanches in the Lower Snowfields and Hillman’s Highway resulted in one injury. Around 1230 a party of three were skinning up the Lower Snowfields. One person decided to head down while the other two continued up. The top skier stopped at the top of the “Christmas tree” for a break when he heard his remaining partner yell, “slide!”. Prior to the slide, both individuals observed shooting cracks propagating from their skis. The lower of the two people was caught and carried about 750 feet down the Lower Snowfields (D2R3*). During the ride, the victim swam feet first in an attempt to stay on top of the debris. At one point he hit a tree with his upper right ribcage. Debris momentarily went over his head and his mouth was packed with snow. When he stopped he was on his back and partially buried. He self extricated and a bystander showed up shortly after to help him. U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, members of the Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol and Mountain Rescue Service responded and were on scene in 20 minutes. The priority was to help the victim and assure no other people were caught in the slide. An initial search, a beacon search and thorough interviews with witnesses were conducted. The patient was able to walk to Hermit Lake under his own power where he was reassessed and transported down to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile.

Forty-three minutes after the initial avalanche, another one occurred in Hillman’s Highway (D3R3). Response time was immediate due to the proximity of the rescue crew working in the Lower Snowfields. Six people were in the gully at the time of the avalanche and some reported that it came from the top and was a natural avalanche. Confirmation of a natural avalanche was difficult due to low clouds and blowing snow. All witnesses stated that nobody was caught in the avalanche. With enough uncertainty about this fact, we conduced an initial search, a beacon search, a Recco search and a dog search. A probe team was mobilized to the area and held out of avalanche terrain for safety reasons. Clouds cleared and the fracture line became visible in the middle of Hillman’s Highway allowing us to confirm that the trigger was likely a person. We were able to deduce this due to the odd location of the fracture line, the suspicious amount of hangfire left above and the proximity of the people in the gully to the fracture line. Witnesses and bystanders stated that no one was missing and that they believed no one was caught. Based on this information and significant scene safety concerns we called off the search. Safety concerns included the instability of adjacent slide paths that run into the bottom of Hillman’s and the large amount of unstable snow left above the fracture line in Hillman’s, which included both of it’s primary start zones.

We are very happy that more people were not injured and no one was killed in these incidents, as this could have been a plausible outcome. Statistically, most avalanche accidents occur under Moderate and Considerable ratings. On this day, the Lower Snowfields were rated Moderate and Hillman’s Highway was rated Considerable. Both of these ratings state the potential for human triggered avalanches as being possible and probable respectively.

* “D” represents the destructive force of the avalanche on a scale of 1-5. “R” represents the size of the avalanche relative to the path, also represented on a scale of 1-5.

Sliding Fall – Tuckerman Ravine

A climber injured his leg after falling down Tuckerman Ravine. He was with two friends and the three of them climbed Central Gully, hiked across the Alpine Garden and began descending into Tuckerman Ravine at dark. He was wearing crampons at the time of the fall but his ice axe was secured to his pack. He said he was not using it because by the time he realized he needed it, the terrain was too steep to take his pack off. During the descent, he lost his footing and fell between 400 and 600 feet to the floor of the Ravine, injuring his leg during the fall. One friend went to Hermit Lake to get help while the other assisted his friend to the rescue cache near the bottom of the Ravine. Snow Rangers, personnel from the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol and the AMC, and overnight guests staying at Hermit Lake responded to help the patient. The patient’s leg was splinted and he was carried down to Hermit Lake which involved one 300′ rope lower. At Hermit Lake, the patient was reassessed and then transported to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile. This incident took 15 people 3.5 hours to complete.

If this person had his ice axe out during the fall he could have arrested himself and prevented this accident. We often see people descending Tuckerman Ravine in icy conditions without the proper equipment, particularly in the spring. An ice axe and the ability to use it properly are critical for safe travel in steep terrain. The combination of the axe and the knowledge of its use provide a reliable means of stopping yourself on steep snow in the event of a fall.

Climber fall – Lobster Claw in Tuckerman Ravine

A mountaineer was injured while descending the Lobster Claw in Tuckerman Ravine. During the descent, he lost his footing and took a tumbling fall down the gully injuring his hip. Snow Rangers and a member of the Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol assessed his injuries and assisted him down to Hermit Lake where he was transported to Pinkham Notch in the USFS snowcat. This incident involved four rescuers and took three hours to complete.

Skier Fall – Headwall

The victim fell while skiing on the left side of the Headwall. She somersaulted and fell approximately 100′ injuring her right knee. She was able to make it to Lunch Rocks where she rested and put ice on her knee. While walking out of the Ravine her knee became very swollen and she had difficulty walking. She sought assistance from the Mount Washinton Volunteer Ski Patrol. Her knee was assessed and it was determined she would most likely not be able to walk out to Pinkham. Her knee was bandaged and her leg immobilized. She was transported in a litter down to Pinkham. This incident took 10 people 1 1/2 hours to complete.

Skier Fall – Chute

The victim fell approximately 500′ while skiing in the Chute and collided with another person’s ski equipment. The victim sustained a laceration on his head and an avulsion on his right forearm. He was treated by members of the Mount Washinton Volunteer Ski Patrol and was able to walk out to Pinkham on his own. This incident took 2 people 1 hour.

Snowboarder Fall -Lip

The victim was boarding on the Lip when she fell approximately 800′. She complained of pain in her wrist and sustained abrasions to her back. She was treated by a USFS Snow Ranger. She was able to walk out to Pinkham on her own. This incident took 1 person 1 hour.