Weekend Update for March 23-24th

It sure was nice to see another big avalanche cycle this week. There’s lots of debris across the entire floor and easy to see where it came from, Sluice. The crown line wrapped from the buttress between Right Gully and Sluice across the ice and around toward the Lip, running right over “Lunch Rocks” across the floor and into the bushes below Left Gully. This should serve as a little reminder to anyone hanging out in the floor and thinking they’re not in avalanche terrain. Once you get to the first aid cache, under the current conditions, YOU ARE IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN![singlepic id=862 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Piecing together the cycle it looks like Left Gully ran during the storm, as well as the Lip and Center Bowl. The most recent was Sluice covering much of the debris from the others. Frank and I got up to the crown-line not before getting through some seriously hard old surface, seriously hard. We checked out the far climbers right of Sluice and measured it between 30 and 40 cm deep. If you had plans to get some skiing in near Sluice, the bed surface gets harder the higher you go, and then there’s that hang-fire looming overhead. The good news is that there are some other options that would appeal to a skier or snowboarder today, but light is fading fast and the weather is dropping visibility as well as dropping some snow flakes. Based on increasing winds and a winter like day in store for Saturday you might have missed out, but I’ll leave the details to Jeff……

Looking ahead at the weather for the upcoming first weekend of spring, I’m sorry to say that it won’ t resemble spring much at all. In fact, it won’t even resemble a nice wintery day. “Full winter conditions” are what you can expect for Saturday. Upslope snow showers are a likely scenario for tomorrow. Temperatures will be cold and NW winds will be ramping up to speeds that make it very difficult to simply stand upright. Not only will this make traveling above treeline a challenge, but it will relocate snow from wherever it currently sits to somewhere on the eastern flanks of the mountain.

As far as avalanche danger is concerned, you can expect increased danger ratings tomorrow in Tuckerman and Huntington based on the wind loading that will likely be taking place. If speeds get very strong, there might be some scouring taking place, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it when I can’t see what’s going on above me. On Sunday, clouds will persist but winds will be on the decline, though not reaching too low of speeds. So overall, I would probably not expect to get too far into avalanche terrain this weekend without taking on a good amount of risk. While our forecasts are focused on the Cutler River Drainage, I would also expect increased risk of avalanches tomorrow in many of the other gulfs and ravines around the Presidentials, especially those with a E or S aspect.

One additional note: The Little Headwall and brook leading out of the ravine have improved with the new snow, but they are still not without hazard. Skiers today had a couple close calls where they collapsed the weak snow bridges in the streambed. [singlepic id=871 w=320 h=240 float=center]

Joe and Jeff