Latest avalanche advisory for Mount Washington’s Cutler River Drainage – Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines

Avalanche Advisory for Friday, December 9, 2016

All forecast areas of Huntington and Tuckerman Ravine have CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely. Dangerous avalanche conditions will exist today. Cautious route-finding and conservative decision making are essential. Little Headwall and Lower Snowfield are not forecast due to lack of snow.

AVALANCHE PROBLEM: Strong winds are forming new wind slabs in many areas of our terrain today. In most areas these wind slabs will be particularly sensitive to human triggers. Expect some of the forecast areas with more advanced, larger bed surfaces to produce fairly large avalanches which could run into the lower angle terrain. Blowing snow will hamper visibility and make travel into or beneath any avalanche path a sketchy proposition.

WEATHER: Upsloping air rising over the Presidential Range and a cold frontal passage mark the weather today. Temperatures will drop through the day with snow showers producing up to 6” of lower density snow. Forecast wind speeds today (50-70 mph) will be prime for loading the new snow into our terrain. Ultimately the wind could reach into the 90’s mph which will scour out some of the northern gullies in Huntington and harden the wind slabs in Tuckerman. Sustained loading speeds will occur before that so expect peak potential avalanche activity to occur mid-day and into the evening.

SNOWPACK: Almost 2 feet of snow fell on the summit and in our wind fetch zone over the past week. The Bigelow Lawn and Alpine Garden areas, which form our fetch zone, are well filled in, flat, smooth refrozen slush and will not hold the snow in place. Wind will easily transport this snow to create new wind slabs. Initially moderate wind speeds transported this snow into our terrain, first on southwest winds which loaded the lookers left side of Tuckerman and many of the less bushy gullies in Huntington. The snow is surprisingly deep in many areas with climbers earlier in the week in thigh deep snow in pooled areas, mid-calf in others. The snow had a thin, sensitive wind skin with unreactive graupel layers scattered through the terrain last weekend with little opportunities to stabilize much through the week as several passing weather systems have generated light snowfall. I would expect the thin wind slab or mid-pack graupel layers to serve as the weak layer in a wind slab avalanche today.  Despite the disconnected bed surfaces in areas like the Lip and Center Bowl in Tucks, these avalanches are likely to be large enough to bury a person in the terrain traps that exist or to cause traumatic injuries due to the boulders and cliffs that are yet to be buried.

Remember that the bridge work continues on the Tucks Trail so use the detour on the Huntington Ravine trail. Some folks may opt to skin up the Sherburne trail so be on the lookout for them and for machinery on the ski trail.  Be on the lookout for construction debris at crossover number 7 around a mile down from Hermit Lake. It is marked but high winds and drifting could change that. Be sure to report any avalanche activity or snowpack observations through our observation link under the Resources tab above. Internet connections continue to be challenging so check posted advisories at slatboards.

Please Remember:

  • Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This bulletin 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, or the AMC at Pinkham Notch or Hermit Lake.
  • Posted 9:15a.m., Friday, December 9, 2016. A new bulletin will be issued when warranted.

Frank Carus, Snow Ranger
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2716

2016-12-09

General Bulletin for Wednesday, December 7, 2016

This bulletin will expire at 12:00 midnight on Friday, December 9, 2016.

General Bulletins are issued when isolated areas of unstable snow exist within our forecast areas. Forecasts using the 5-scale danger rating system will be issued when snowfields and bed surfaces develop further. Please remember that avalanches can occur before a 5-scale forecast is issued. A new General Bulletin will be issued if conditions warrant or within 72 hours.

Winter delivered 27.8″ of snow to the summit of Mount Washington since December 1. For comparison, last December the summit recorded 29″ over the entire month. Over the past two days, 7.5″ fell on NW winds averaging 34 mph.  Late on Sunday, winds diminished to the teens and swung to the south, eventually regaining strength and returning to NW, maxing out at 67 mph early on Tuesday, December 6.This shift in winds is evident in the current snowpack with multiple fist to finger hard layers under wind slabs which formed on lee slopes. Field work Tuesday showed lingering instabilities that make safe travel in our forecast area challenging at the moment. Snowfields are growing, but are still broken up by rock buttresses and ice floes in some areas. With the snowpack that currently exists, triggering a small pocket in either ravine would have dire consequences due to rocky and shrub filled runouts. Snowfields are currently the largest in Left Gully and the Chute in Tuckerman and North, Damnation, Yale, and Central in Huntington. Debris under Left and the Chute is clear evidence that avalanches can occur under a General Bulletin and that travelers should have their avalanche skills in hand when entering terrain.

Low pressure building from the Great Lakes will send a cold front toward New England over the next few days that should deliver another round of snow. Ten inches of new snow on the summit by Friday is forecast with conditions prime for upslope snow events. Winds will be starting today, Wednesday, SW 15-30 mph shifting to the W by nightfall. By Friday morning, we may see winds increasing to 70 mph, bringing us up to and through the prime speeds for loading slopes. As the Bigelow Lawn and Alpine Garden are well filled in right now, this smooth fetch will allow snow to blow into our forecast areas, creating an upside down windslab. These wind slabs will sit atop a buried layer of graupel that can be found on multiple aspects in both ravines.  Snowfields will continue to grow and will become capable of larger avalanches. Just a week ago, it still seemed like fall; now it’s looking like we’re moving quickly into full-blown winter.

Below Hermit Lake, travel is still affected by the construction taking place on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The trail remains closed for a section and it is recommended that hikers use the detour on the lower Huntington Ravine Trail and Raymond Path. For those skiing and riding the Sherburne, be prepared for variable conditions (powder, scoured old surface, open water bars, mud, and ruts and rocks turned up from the snowcat in operation for the construction crew.) Please be on the lookout for heavy equipment traveling to and from the construction site. Also be aware of the old bridge debris temporarily piled at the junction of the Sherburne and #7 Crossover.

Please Remember:
• Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This bulletin 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 7:30a.m. December 7, 2016. A new General Bulletin will be issued when conditions warrant.

Helon Hoffer/Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest
(603) 466-2713 TTY (603) 466-2856

2016-12-07