Snow Ranger

Nov 282013

The first substantial Nor’easter screamed through our region in the 36 hours before Thanksgiving.  A brief shot of snow was followed by substantial icing at the upper elevations and then heavy rain.  Total water for the event was between 2.4″ (6cm) and 2.6″ (6.6cm) of melt depending on elevation.  Ravine temperatures hovered in the mid to high 40’sF for a good part of the rain event before the freefall of the mercury began locking up the remaining snowpack.  Reviewing the pictures of Tuckerman that were posted on 11/27 will give you a good idea where existing snowfields exist, albeit smaller due to melting.  Rain and warm temperatures hit these snowfields and areas of water ice pretty hard.  What is left are a handful of small snowfields that will act as the bed surface for potential future avalanches when new snow is load on them.  These isolated areas are now very hard and icy making it tough for new loading to bond well.  New snow on these icy hard surfaces could cause instabilities to keep your eyes open for but they cover so few locations we have not yet begun a general advisory.

Of all the terrain we assess mid winter we are only talking about +/- 2-3% of snowfield coverage right now. With that said some of these are sporadically spread through areas where ice climbers have historically chosen as routes through the Tuckerman Headwall and Lip.  A climber paying attention even just a little bit will note many options to avoid new snow pockets when choosing a line. Climbers should also consider the plummeting temperatures rapidly refreezing melt and rain water.  Use some extra caution in the days following this freeze up and expect quite variable conditions.    Expect many areas of ice to be detached, a mix of wet-yet brittle, and thin.

The topics I mentioned in the last posting on 11/24 still hold as true as additional things to keep in mind.  “The classic early season problems are usually found in Tuckerman’s Left Gully, Chute and numerous shelves and benches in the Center Headwall.  In Huntington, common locations have historically been found at the base of popular early season routes like Pinnacle and Odell.  Could instability be found in other locations? Of course, but these are where we see the majority of the early season developments.

  • As we progress towards the solstice daylight is waning.  A headlamp could become your best friend in the event of an injury or a longer than expected day.
  • Warm sun will undoubtedly make an appearance here and there loosening thin early season ice from the Ravine cliffs.  Be cautious when moving through or travelling below these locations.
  • Be sure to check current weather forecasts at the Mount Washington Observatory, posted at the Pinkham and Crawford Notch Visitors Centers as well as at the Harvard Cabin (after Dec.1st) and caretaker cabin in Tuckerman Ravine.
  • Avalanche hazards can grow quickly now that we have some bed surfaces beginning to develop.  Be sure to check as winter continues to take hold up here.

I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

Print Version 11-28-2013 Informational Posting

May 222013

A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant or within 72 hours.

A General Advisory is in effect for Tuckerman Ravine. You will need to do your own snow stability assessments.  A general advisory for Tuckerman will be in effect until complete melt out later this spring/summer. We are no longer monitoring conditions in Huntington Ravine.

Well there is really no way around it, the weather will be less than pleasant over the next 4 days unless you’re a seal.  Rain showers and thunderstorms with lightning is in the mix for the foreseeable future.  Some period of heavy rain with the potential for ground lightning strikes are possible.  This weather will also exacerbate the deteriorating spring hazards discussed below.  Be sure to read the latest summit weather report from the Mount Washington Observatory before heading up the mountain.

  • FALLING ICE. Ice is still falling! Over the years many people have been severely injured or killed by falling ice in Tuckerman. The most hazardous locations are in the center and right side of the ravine, including Lunch Rocks, the Sluice, and under the Lip-Center Bowl area. Warm weather and rain increase the potential for icefall to occur.   Avoid spending time in high risk areas such as under the headwall or at Lunch Rocks.
  • CREVASSES AND WATERFALL HOLES. These are growing larger in many locations, the most dangerous locations are in the Lip and Center Bowl. Give them plenty of room, since they are often much larger beneath the surface than what you can see from above and can be much deeper than you might expect. Breaking through weak snow into one of these could be fatal for you or someone in your group. Give these areas plenty of room when hiking up or skiing down.
  • UNDERMINED SNOW. As the snowpack continues to get thinner, this problem gets worse. It is most prominent in places where there is flowing water beneath the snowpack, which includes most of the gullies. While the snow may appear thick and strong on top beware that the snow may be bridging this hazard. When in doubt probe aggressively with a ski pole or ice axe. If you see small holes in the snow or near large rocks, realize there may be large open spaces under the surface.
  • SHORT RUNOUTS.  As snow begins melting uphill pay close attention to your runouts and what you may run into if you fall.  Even a fall down low can be unfortunate when the snowline ends on a 35 degree slope.  Pick your routes with this in mind.

A SECTION OF THE TUCKERMAN RAVINE TRAIL IS NOW CLOSED TO ALL USE. This section extends from Lunch Rocks at the floor of the Ravine to the top of the Headwall where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail.  This includes no skiing or riding through the Lip area. Only this section of the trail is closed. This annual closure is due to the magnitude of the crevasses and undermining, and the severe consequences of a fall in this area.

Attention aux randonneurs!  Une section du sentier du Tuckerman Ravine est présentement fermé à toutes les activités.  Cette section est située entre Lunch Rocks et le sommet du Headwall jusqu’où ce dernier rejoint le sentier du Alpine Garden. Cette fermeture inclut également toute activité de descente dans le secteur du Lip. Seulement cette section du sentier est fermé. Cette fermeture annuelle est due à l’ampleur des crevasses et à la gravité qu’occasionnerait une chute dans ce secteur.

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.
  • For more information contact the Forest Service Snow Rangers or the AMC at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center or Hermit Lake Shelters.
  • Issued Wednesday, May 22, 2013.  A new advisory will be issued when conditions warrant.

Christopher Joosen, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713  TTY (603) 466-2856

2013-05-22 Print Version