The Slow Start to Winter

It’s been almost a month since we last wrote and it sure has been a slow start to the winter season.  We have seen a light showing of early winter here and there with cold air and white out conditions, but we’ve also had a fair amount of warm weather dominate in between.  During the first 5 days of the month we picked up 7.7” (19.5cm) of snow getting us off to a nice white mountain and putting us all in the winter mood.  A half an inch of rain followed on day 6 beginning a fairly quiet snow period over the past two and half weeks with only another 4.7” (12cm) falling, giving us 12.4” (31.5cm) for the month so far.  This is quite behind the 41” (104cm) average for November and with mild air on the way we should be in an incremental slow crawl into a more consistent winter pattern.  So if you usually come up during the early winter season expect ice/snow conditions to be more like early autumn particularly with rain and warm conditions we’ve seen.  Also anticipate any early season ice that rapidly forms during cold shots after warm periods to be quite variable and detached in a number of places due to the warm rock beneath.  As the air temperatures shoot up and down the actual heat of cliffs and turf are slower to change so always treat early ice with a bit of skepticism.  We are watching the weather and conditions every day and will begin a General Advisory or 5 Scale Danger Rating when needed.

Take some time this early season to get out your avalanche safety tools and practice. Your beacon should get some fresh AA or AAA’s put into it, inspect your probe, shovel, avalung, air bag, and whatever else you use to give yourself a “little” better chance of survival.  I say a little better chance because getting caught in an avalanche is always very bad and in New England it can be even worse because of our terrain and relatively low snowfall.  Rocks, trees, terrain traps and cliffbands are typically in your runout paths so getting caught is not an option.  Having the critical safety equipment is very important, but do not allow it to influence good decision making.  Sharpen your mind by taking an avalanche course.  It will help you make quality choices for you and your group during mountain trips this winter.  Avalanche course providers are all listed on our website.  Learning about avalanches is a lifelong pursuit; never stop seeking out more information.

A few big changes this season that you’ll being hearing more about on www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org are:

1.     A revised 5 Scale Danger Rating System for North America for the 2010-2011 season.  

2.     The addition of several forecasted gullies in the Tuckerman Ravine area being implemented this winter.

3.     RSS Feeds and Twitter on our new website.

4.     The White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund.

Keep coming back to our new website www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org for changes and updates on these topics and of course new avalanche advisories and pictures.  Bookmark the new site as our old site tuckerman.org has been retired to make some more modern features available for you.  We look forward to the winter season, talking to you every day, and feeling the Mount Washington wind shake us about.  You’ll hear more from us soon.  Chris