After a brief respite from the arctic cold today when temperatures climbed to about 5F above zero, temperatures will dip down again tomorrow before warming a bit for Sunday. It looks as if highs on the summit will be around -10F on Saturday and 0F on Sunday. Winds will increase from 35 to 75 mph through Saturday so keeping the revelry to a reasonable level tonight to allow for an early start in the morning might improve your odds of success. Looks like dewpoint and temperature will be flirting with the same digits so expect broken clouds and fog on the ground with some limits to visibilty on Saturday though things should clear out late Saturday night in time to let the mercury to drop further. Saturday night will offer a legitimate winter camping challenge for those so inclined. Clouds look likely to be clearing out Sunday, possibly with some upsloping mountain snow showers on Saturday before they do.
Snow stability should be pretty darn good in most of our forecast area. If you went looking for trouble you’ll be able to find it but most areas are scoured out by Wednesday and Thursdays high winds. In fact, the area beneath the ice in Center Headwall over towards the Lip and down to the upper left of Chicken Rock gully was sporting a crown line with a pretty sizeable debris pile on the floor. The striations on the surface of the debris from the intense windscouring was testimony to the power of 100+mph winds (160kph) to move wind and snow and grind away at the snow surface. Climbers will find good cramponing in most areas with ankle deep boot pentration even in areas with deposited, wind rippled snow. Watch out for the old gray surface beneath it all which has essentially the same density and friction coefficient of water ice. Crampons and ice axe are essential equipment in these conditions due to the wide ranging spatial variability which borders on the harder, icier end of the spectrum.
Be sure to check the advisory daily as changes to weather forecasts can change our avalanche hazards, sometimes significantly.
We are joining the Friends of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center tonight beginning at 6pm at the Frontside Grind in North Conway Village. Join us for a couple short Snow Ranger talks, a silent auction, and food and Refreshments. See you there or in the Hills!
Tuckerman Ravine hasModerate and Low avalanche danger. Sluice and the Lip have Moderate avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are unlikely but human triggered avalanches are possible. The rest of forecast areas in Tuckerman Ravine have Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features.
Huntington Ravine has Low avalanche danger. Natural and human triggered avalanches are unlikely except in isolated terrain features.
The thermometer sits at 5F (-15C) at Hermit Lake right now making it feel downright balmy after the previous two days of arctic cold which, fortunately, were days off for me. Yesterday afternoon, heavyweight winds in excess of 100+ mph (160+ kph) battered our remaining snow like a mismatched bantamweight sparring partner leaving the poor snow whimpering in the corner. Most gullies in Huntington are scoured down to the old icy surfaces. Some areas in Tuckerman Ravine have pockets of fresh, reactive windslabs but mostly contain larger areas of rippled, wind hammered drifts. The hard surfaces remaining in both Ravines would allow for relatively easy crampon travel but a falling climber would accelerate quickly on the older, hard refrozen base layer of snow. Focused route finding would allow a hearty climber to skirt the pockets of drum-like hard slab over much softer sugary ice crystals created by our extreme temperature gradients of the last 48 hours. And I use the term “hearty climbers” since gusty winds blowing 55-75mph (90-120kph) with higher gusts and cold temperatures (high of 0F, -18C) on the summit will definitely keep the cold challenge and risk level in the exciting range. Climbers setting their sights on Huntington climbs should bring their “A” game when it comes to rope management and quick transition times at the belay.
Still, today is a decent climbing day with good visibility to allow for navigation and the micro-level route finding necessary to avoid those isolated areas of wind loaded snow. A few notable areas to give a wide berth are the Lip and the expanse of snow below it, as well as the bowl-like feature beneath Sluice ice and above Lunch Rocks where the summer Tuckerman Ravine trail traverses left into the Lip.
As mentioned over the past couple of days the old hard surfaces are still causing a traction problem in a number of locales. These old surfaces are camouflaged by newer snow in places and threaten skiers and climbers with long sliding falls.
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 8:45a.m. 1-25-2013 A new advisory will be issued tomorrow.
Frank Carus, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856