Apr 182014

This Advisory expires at midnight.

Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features. These pockets do exist particularly from the Lip through the Center Bowl. Other secondary pockets exist in other locations such as in the Sluice, on the traverse between the Sluice and the Lip, etc. It is important to understand there is still potential to trigger a pocket from midweek’s snow, albeit isolated.

Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when traveling in avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Wind deposited snow across the Center Bowl, and especially in the Lip area, that occurred on Wednesday is still the primary concern. These Wind Slabs stabilized a bit yesterday as temperature flirted with the freezing mark under bright sun. Higher temperatures in avalanche terrain today, perhaps close to 40F, will likely move cold wind slab issues towards a Wet Loose and thin Wet Slab concern.

WEATHER: Clear conditions and good 100 mile visibility with temperatures just below freezing made for a nice “winter” day on Thursday. Today, summit temperatures should break the freezing mark while increasing clouds start to knock down solar gain influence this afternoon. Winds from the S will move to the SW and increase to 40+mph (64kph). Looking forward, snow showers overnight and colder air will be in place tomorrow, but we’ll discuss that more in this afternoon’s Weekend Update.

SNOWPACK: +/-2” of rain on Tuesday followed by sub-zeroF temperatures created a bomber concrete snowpack by Wednesday that would have taken a trigger of planetary proportions to cause avalanches. A couple of inches of snow that fell since then are the problem now that Frank discussed yesterday, and I mention above. Slabs are scattered around primarily in the Center Bowl and Lip and are not to be walked into blindly, but don’t quite make into the Moderate rating. This is due to their overall lack of widespread continuity, size in the steepest terrain, the snow surfaces texture allowing good adhesion, as well are the generally roughness of the surfaces caused by the weekend traffic. Rain did knock down the size of bumps in the Lip, etc. but all these types of features are assisting in keeping new snow in place. Again, have an eye open for instability and do your stability tests to have good information to help your choices. A prudent and thoughtful user can avoid problems with some flexibility.

Additionally, be sure to consider new snow may be covering the beginning of developing crevasses and holes. Some of these drifts may be obscuring possible deep slots that opened during recent heavy rain and warm temperatures. You are most likely to find these on steep snow slopes beneath buttresses of rock or ice in the Headwall/Lip and Sluice areas. Be aware of the potential to punch through into these slots. The main waterfall hole, marking the Lip/Center Bowl boundary, opened during the rain storm, but some thin ice and snow is now concealing the hazard from view. The Open Book waterfall hole in the fall line of the Lip, 2/3rds the way down towards the floor, could make a sliding fall extremely consequential. Choose your line carefully!

OTHER HAZARDS: 1. Micro-spikes and other creeper style traction devices may be helpful on some lower angle trails, but they simply are not adequate for steep terrain! Be prepared for steep, firm snow and fast, icy surfaces. A fall on steep terrain today on the old surface would be next to impossible to self-arrest. Don’t fall especially above a crevasse or streambed. 2. Warm conditions will return the ice fall menace! The Sluice ice, behind Lunch Rocks, make this a horrible place to sit. Ice fall across the Lip through the Center Bowl is also looming waiting to be heated. Next to sliding falls this has been out #2 injury maker over time. Do not linger in their runouts! 3. Recent rain and warm weather really melted out snow spanning streams like the one that flows out of Tuckerman. With our deep snowpack, the distance from snow surface to rushing streambed below could make it difficult to climb out of some of the holes should you fall in. 4. The Sherburne ski trail is what you would expect after 2″ of rain followed by freezing temperatures. You can still make it to the parking lot but expect detours around ice, large bumps, bare spots and open water drainages.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This advisory is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
  • Anticipate a changing avalanche danger when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers, the AMC at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or the Harvard Cabin. Posted 0815. 4-18-2014. A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.

Christopher Joosen, USFS Snow Ranger.

2014-04-18 Print

 Posted by at 8:21 am
Apr 182014

This is a transition time for the snowpack in the ravine. As each week passes, we are losing more and more snow. In this season of change, we begin to see a wide variety of conditions. Over the course of this past week, we’ve seen… hot days that brought river levels to flood stages (Monday), a rain event that dropped 2″ or so of rain on the summit (Tuesday), a couple inches of new snow (Wednesday), a day with great snow on S-facing slopes and icy conditions on N-facing slopes (Thursday), and a day where pretty much every surface in Tucks softened nicely (Friday). In addition, we’re beginning to see the emergence of all the annual springtime hazards, such as falling ice, undermined snow, and crevasses.

After we get past the possibility of a light sprinkling of sleet tonight and some clouds early in the day tomorrow, this weekend has the potential to offer some decent weather for playing around in the mountains. From what I’m seeing right now, Sunday’s weather looks better than Saturday’s. The temperatures will be a little warmer, but the real difference will be with the wind speeds. Expect a breezy day on Saturday, but Sunday you might find very calm conditions. (I’m not a weather forecaster, so don’t take my word for it…check the real forecasts for yourself!)

We get a lot of questions during this time of the year. That’s a good thing, it means at least some people are actually thinking about what they’re doing and not blindly following others. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing as well, and what’s more, everyone wins when we can provide good information. Here are the most common questions I’ve fielded recently, with answers that are current as of Friday afternoon:

  1. “Is it good up there?” or “What’s good?” This is a tough question to answer, because good can mean so many things to so many people. It is a very personal, subjective concept. Are you asking about avalanche conditions, softness of the snow, snow coverage, the weather, etc.? We can often figure out what you mean, but it helps if you ask more specific questions, such as:
  2. “How’s the snow coverage in the ravine?” Right now, it’s doing pretty well for this point of the year. Some runs are hurting a little, such as Lobster Claw and Right Gully. The tops are more than a little bushy. Other areas such as Hillman’s and Left Gully are doing pretty well. The tops are also a little thin, but you can still get top-to-bottom runs. The slopes in the middle of Tuckerman are holding up well. You’ve got continuous snow coverage from top to bottom in the Sluice, Lip, left side of Center Bowl, and Chute. The ice cliffs in the middle have melted enough to deter most rational people.
  3. “Can you ski out the Little Headwall?” Yes and no. The fact is, the Little Headwall has melted out and is a wide open waterfall, so no, you cannot ski out on the Little Headwall. If you’re really inquiring about whether or not you can keep your skis on to descend from the bowl to Hermit Lake, well, you can, but it’s not recommended. I guarantee you that it is far faster, easier, and more fun to hike out on the trail then put your skis back on at Hermit Lake. (People generally HATE this answer, the responses we get often remind me of this classic). You might be thinking, what’s the worst that can happen? One outcome could be collapsing a snow bridge and ending up in a chest deep pool of water. If you stay away from the water, you could take a wrong turn and end up at the top of some cliffs. Or your friends who are waiting at Hermit Lake might just drink all the beer while you try to figure out how to get down through the maze of ski tracks.


    Looking down the streambed on the route the Little Headwall

  4. “How is the Sherburne?” It’s open to the bottom, but expect large moguls, icy sections, and a lot of bare spots. We’ll be keeping an eye on this and closing the lower sections as they continue to melt out.

That’s about it for commonly asked questions. Now let’s get to the one we wish more people would ask:

  1. “What hazards can we expect up there?” This largely depends on the day, the weather, and the crowds. The annual spring hazards, such as crevasses and icefall, are emerging. Falling ice will be the biggest threat this weekend, particularly when it’s warm  . There is a chance that we’ll see some crevasses begin to open up. In fact, we thought we had seen the early stages of this early in the week, but a closer look today makes me believe we currently have very limited potential for someone to fall into a crevasse or waterfall hole (subject to change with more melting, of course.)
    A large chunk of ice in the Sluice, directly above Lunch Rocks.

    A large chunk of ice in the Sluice, directly above Lunch Rocks.

    Long sliding falls is a good possibility, especially early in the morning or late in the day. As usual, we recommend an ice axe and crampons (not microspikes) for travel in steep terrain.

    Avalanche danger is currently Low. I don’t expect that to change much this weekend.

    The danger posed by other people on the mountain can be significant. If you are below someone who is falling, you need to be able to move out of the way. The best thing you can do is not be there in the first place.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Seriously, we are in the business of giving information, so ask questions. Even dumb questions are welcome. While we prefer you do some pre-trip planning, we understand that some things are just not clear until you see them for yourself. If you come up this weekend, don’t be afraid to ask questions from those who are in the know. As always, check the avalanche advisory and weather forecasts before heading up the hill.


Tucks Headwall Friday around noon.

Tucks Headwall Friday around noon.

The Sluice, Friday around noon.

The Sluice, Friday around noon.




 Posted by at 6:45 am