This advisory expires 1200 midnight, April 1, 2012
Tuckerman Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features. Huntington Ravine is under a General Advisory. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments when using avalanche terrain in Huntington. A danger of falling ice exists, and will persist until it all comes down.
Sorry folks, you won’t find any clever April Fool’s jokes in this advisory. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor; I’ve just learned through the years that no matter how obvious you think a joke may be, someone will take you seriously and then inevitably be let down. We want people coming here to have positive experiences. Yesterday, a couple hundred visitors did just that, allowing the sun sufficient time to turn icy boilerplate into edgeable snow on southerly aspects and to cook much of the avalanche threat out of the freshly deposited patches of new snow. I don’t think a single person skied Left Gully from anywhere near the top, which shows good judgment on the part of all, as it remained a steep, hard, and very frozen bump run through the day.
Today the mountain will display its ability to quickly change weather. Currently, the slopes are basking in sunshine with virtually no wind at all; it’s a perfect morning to throw on your down jacket and take your coffee to the caretaker’s porch for a while. Later today will be a different story on the mountain. Lowering clouds and snow are in the forecast for this afternoon and evening. Winds will continue to be very light for the day. Most of the precipitation will come during the overnight hours, so I don’t expect this to create new avalanche concerns through today. However, there may be lingering pockets of unstable snow from the past week’s snowfalls. These would most likely be found in areas with a more northerly aspect that didn’t see traffic yesterday. Before pointing your boards toward every untouched piece of new snow on the mountain, you would be wise to do some stability assessments in that snow. Conditions today will be dependent on how long the clouds hold off. If the sun stays on the slope for several more hours, surfaces could soften and offer decent skiing. However, as the clouds begin to block the sun, expect this process to come to a screeching halt, refreezing anything that had softened.
With the frozen surfaces comes the potential for very dangerous sliding falls. Every year we see numerous people climbing very steep and icy slopes (e.g. the Lip) without an ice axe and crampons. Remember, complete incompetence is not a prerequisite to having a misstep. Anyone can slip and fall, no matter how good you are. The fact is, even very experienced mountaineers with all the right equipment would still have a very difficult time self arresting under the current conditions on some slopes in Tuckerman, so play it safe.
As we continue to have seasonably cold weather and even some more snow this week, the development of hazards such as falling ice, undermined snow, and crevasses will be slow. Generally speaking, warmer and sunnier days will bring these hazards to the forefront, while on colder days they will step back and let sliding falls take the center stage. Two recommendations are worth remembering. First, Lunch Rocks is in the fall line of ice crashing out of the Sluice and Headwall areas. Even on the cooler days, you’re better off parking yourself lower down in the bowl or off on the left side to avoid icefall hazards. Second, climb up what you plan to descend. This gives you an opportunity to check for hazards such as crevasses at a leisurely pace.
Thanks to cold weather and the 13.5” of snow in the past week, our snow cat has been able to extend the skiable snow farther down the Sherburne. If today’s forecast is at the upper end of the range (i.e. 5” or more in the next two days) we may open the trail all the way to Pinkham Notch on Tuesday.
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.
A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.
Jeff Lane, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856