Tuckerman Photos – May 27, 2016

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What's left of the Headwall is pretty badly undermined

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Left Gully has pretty much fallen apart. The Chute isn't doing much better.

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Almost looks like summer in here

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Looking down the short snowfield above the Lip

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The Headwall area

Un-spring like conditions, April 10, 2016

20160410 Hillmans and Dodges

Dodge’s Drop and Hillman’s Highway. Tracks still visible in both from descents yesterday.

20160410_Center Bowl thru Left

Old surface visible as gray surface.

20160410_Lip and Sluice

Two sets of tracks through the Lip made yesterday are fully covered along with the waterfall hole in the Open Book area. Upper Sluice looks pretty full of new smooth and likely slabby snow.

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Temperature at Hermit Lake is in the mid-teens F at 9am.

Photos and Observations – March 8, 2016

Helon and I took advantage of a warm sunny day to get up into Tuckerman. Our primary objectives were to look at the existing snowpack and get a handle on what today’s danger was, for anyone coming up later today, and for what the emerging heat wave might do to the snowpack.

Helon approaching the bowl. Please note that if you are standing where Helon is, you are most definitely in avalanche terrain even though you are standing in the flats.

Helon approaching the bowl. Please note that if you are standing where Helon is, you are most definitely in avalanche terrain even though you are standing in the flats.

For those few who came up today, they were rewarded with good stability in Right and Left Gully, but different conditions. Left Gully’s snow stayed cold and dry despite the +7C ambient air temperature. In one location, Helon found a thin 4F+ slab layer sitting on top of a loose graupel layer with very easy compression test results. Snow test results don’t always tell the whole story though. Helon’s impression was that the Moderate rating was appropriate. One of the skiers in the gully tested the slope with a finely executed faceplant, which is often a more realistic test of a slope’s stability than compression tests. (I’d name names, but the Harvard caretaker might not want his identity revealed.)

Helon heading up toward Left Gully. The crown line in the picture was from the 8" snowfall on March 1-2.

Helon heading up toward Left Gully. The crown line in the picture was from the 8″ snowfall on March 1-2.

Right Gully had a much different environment than what was found in Left. Rather than cold dry snow, the surface layer was saturated with melted snow. At 11:45, the wet layer was 7cm deep. By 12:45, it was twice that or more. The loading that came in with yesterday’s 5cm snowfall didn’t create much new slab in Right, so my earlier concerns regarding stability of this layer were quickly erased as the sun baked the slabiness right out of the upper layer.

Looking at the top of Right Gully from about 2/3 up.

Looking at the top of Right Gully from about 2/3 up.

Standing in the middle of Right Gully for a long time, I began to look around at the terrain, and I realized that the snow I was standing on was probably 8-10′ lower than where it is in a typical winter. Trees whose tops are usually the only part visible were standing proud over my head. At the top of the gully, rocks that we see melt out sometime in early May have not even been buried this year. It really sunk home how poorly we’ve done for snowfall this year.

A one meter deep slab, with 3cm of facets sitting on top of the crust.

A one meter deep slab, with 3cm of facets sitting on top of the crust.

The 1F+ (hand hardness scale) slab in Right Gully was 100cm deep down to a hard, hard crust. The very top of the snowpack was wet snow from the heat and sun. Cooler snow was found down below, with a few centimeters of 1mm facets above the crust. I found it hard to really get a good look at the facets – the air temperature was +7C so as soon as I put some on a crystal card they began to melt. This facet layer gave two compression tests at CT21 and CT23. An extended column test did not propagate. I also got negative results with a shovel tilt test and shovel shear test on a suspected weak layer at 37cm down from the top. Generally speaking, these are good test results for the stability of the slope at the time the tests were done, but the facet layer is concerning for what might happen with further warming.

Helon getting set up for an extended column test, which resulted in an ECTN.

Helon getting set up for an extended column test, which resulted in an ECTN.

In the Sluice, Lip, and Chute, as well as the left side of the Center Bowl and in the hangfire, there is a good chance that the facet layer remains intact, and this might become reactive tomorrow or Thursday as the upper slab becomes wetter and wetter.

Here are some other pictures from the day:

Central Gully

  Central Gully

Boott Spur Ridge

Boott Spur Ridge

Tucks headwall area from Right Gully

Tucks headwall area from Right Gully

I’m running out of time for this post now, so be sure to check tomorrow’s advisory for more information and stability ratings for the day.

Jeff Lane

Huntington Photos, February 23, 2016

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Damnation desperately wanting more snow

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Escape Hatch

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Yale Gully

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Huntington south side

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Tucks had an ominous gray cloud while the snow was lit by morning sunshine.

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Hillman’s area

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North Gully

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Helon contemplating his next move on the second pitch of Pinnacle.

Photos from January 22, 2016

Looking into the mid section of Chute from above the narrows.

Looking into the mid section of Chute from above the narrows.

AMC Caretaker on her day off. She is a dedicated and adventurous skier to ski this stuff.

AMC Caretaker on her day off. She is a dedicated and adventurous skier to ski this stuff. Though pockets of softer snow could be found, they were heavily wind affected and variable in density.

"Nope, no soft snow here either."

“Nope, not much soft snow up here either.”

An overview of the lean snowpack. Note the pile of boulders at the exit to Right Gully.

An overview of the lean snowpack. Note the pile of boulders at the exit to Right Gully. Things are certainly filling in but we could use some more gifts from above to smooth things out and fill things in. The smooth snow in the Sluice is firm “wind board”.

Chris checking for the ingredients for future buried weak layer in Right Gully.

Chris in the Sluice after checking for the ingredients for future buried weak layers in Right Gully.

Northern gullies still blown mostly free of snow. These climbs would take your average party longer than when good neve (firm snow) abounds.

Northern gullies still blown mostly free of snow. These climbs would take your average party longer than when good neve (firm snow) abounds.

Huntington Photos – January 20, 2016

The clouds cleared today from Huntington while Tucks was still socked in. Good visibility confirmed our suspicion that the terrain would have been scoured hard by strong winds.

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Avalanche Cycle – January 17, 2016

20160117 Tuckerman Bowl

The Center Bowl and Lip area of Tuckerman. Snowfields are growing here and beginning to be active slide paths.

Helon and I got up into Tuckerman early this morning and were treated to the sight of two fresh piles of avalanche debris and one older pile. With our avalanche eyeballs wide open, we welcome the arrival of the 2015-2016 avalanche season. The recent slides were likely from overnight or early this morning, as they were both very soft and had slightly different levels of wind effects on the debris. The older slide was probably from earlier this week.

20160117 Chute

Looking up into the Chute variation, the narrows of the Chute is out of sight on the right. The crown was probably a couple feet deep or more in the center of this photo.

The first of the recent pair came from the Chute. We believe all the debris came from the crown lines visible in the picture, across the narrows of the gully, into the variation to the lookers’ left of the main path, and down along the buttress. Debris from this was approximately 2′ deep, some less, some more. The crown ranged in size from a few inches deep to a few feet deep.

20160117 Left side of Tuckerman

Two debris piles are visible, one above Helon and the other above and right of him. Crown lines are in the narrow sections of the Chute and far left side of the headwall.

The second of the pair was from the far left side of the Center Bowl, just to the lookers’ right of the Chute. The crown was still visible beneath the ice bulge, although wind loading was ongoing and working to fill it in. This slide was a little smaller than the Chute, with debris being about 12-18″ deep and a max crown depth of 18″ (just a guess, as we couldn’t access the deepest location and it had been partially reloaded.)

Even though we hadn’t yet begun using the 5-scale danger rating system, these new slides were not completely unexpected. We were a little surprised at the size; I’d call them both D1.5R1, but they are at the larger end of the R1 size. The one that surprised me a little is the older slide that crossed the hiking trail down low in the flats. The trajectory of this shows it coming from the Center Bowl and left side of the Center. Based on how far it ran in lean conditions and weather history, it was likely a pretty hard slab.

20160117 Debris in floor of Tuckerman

Avalanche debris in the floor of Tuckerman. The hiking trail is on the left side of this picture, under the debris. The extent of the tracks on this pile tell us that the slide happened before this weekend.

Here's clear evidence of an avalanche. These trees are flattened by the debris near the toe of the runout.

Here’s clear evidence of an avalanche. These trees are flattened by the debris near the toe of the runout.

After returning down to Hermit Lake, we got a report of another small avalanche triggered by a skier. This was in the area we call “Chicken Rock Gully,” which is the small terrain feature that fills in between the Open Book and Lunch Rocks, and from the top you can go right into the Sluice or Left into the Lip. The party triggered the slide near the rocks at the top of this slope. They reported that it was about 4-6″ deep, 40′ wide x 50′ long, and ran down to the bottom of Lunch Rocks.

Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
Mount Washington Avalanche Center