Avalanche Forecast for Friday, January 10, 2020

This information was published 01/10/2020 at 7:12 AM.
A new forecast will be issued tomorrow.

NOT THE CURRENT FORECAST

This is an archived avalanche forecast and expired on 01/10/2020 at midnight.


The Bottom Line

Wind driven snow that accumulated through the week remains a concern in steep terrain. Evaluate snow carefully and understand that these slabs may be firm underfoot but could crack and fail under your weight. Thin spots in the slab such as over a boulder or the ice bulge in the Main Gully in Gulf of Slides can be the weak spot where a crack develops. Move one at a time and avoid pillows of hollow snow when you can. Human triggered avalanches remain possible today giving us a MODERATE avalanche danger rating.

2020-1-10 Printable forecast


Mountain Weather

An approaching weather system will bring warming temperatures and frozen forms of precipitation turning to freezing rain and rain by day’s end. The temperature at 3-4,000 is already above freezing with much colder air pooling in the valleys below. Precipitation falling today should not affect snow stability but will certainly make skiing or hiking unpleasant. Wind will be from the west at 60-80 mph with summit temperature reaching 30 by the end of the day.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab

Aspect/Elevation

Likelihood

Size

Wind slabs exist in many areas after the wind loading that occurred through the week. These slabs have not settled and bonded yet. Most of these will appear hard and stubborn underfoot but they contain weak layers of softer snow and rest on an icy and flat (though coarse from riming) bed surface that has proven itself to be a contributor to what is a lingering avalanche problem. Look for and avoid wind driven snow piled up at the base of steep areas such as low in Chute and Right Gully as well as in sheltered locations like Odell Gully and mid-slope in the south snowfields of Gulf of Slides.

  Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Forecast Discussion

Tuckerman Ravine with crown stretching from the apron of Chute, across the adjacent buttress, up into Center Bowl and all the way across the upper Lip, which was reloaded after the slide. Jan 9, 2020. 

Field reports are limited but good visibility allowed some observations yesterday in a few areas. The most recent avalanche cycle is a good reminder that small amounts of snow can build large slabs and can produce natural avalanches. The large avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine is dramatic and it’s location high across the Headwall and into the upper Lip is not typical and likely a result of the low wind speeds that allowed snow falling earlier in the week to accumulate higher in the terrain than it usually does. Two other field reports indicate avalanches occurred low in the exit from Diagonal, above the Harvard ice bulge and also a report from outside our forecast area on North Baldface. 

There is no hard evidence as to where exactly the college group triggered the avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine for those of you wondering. Suffice it to say that crown lines weren’t visible in the locations that could have produced an avalanche with no injuries from the Lip or Sluice. Perhaps things reloading and an exceptional degree of luck played a role or perhaps the group wasn’t where they thought they were. In any case, inexperience and unfamiliarity with the terrain combined to create a significant close call that could have ended tragically. Please do your homework, navigate carefully or hire an experienced guide. Mount Washington may be short but it is fierce.

Tuckerman Ravine, L and Middle, Huntington Ravine, R. Jan 9, 2020. 

Additional Information

The Sherburne and Gulf of Slides ski trails are snow covered to Pinkham Notch.

Details on daily snowfall totals, precipitation type, total depth of snow and other information can be found on our page devoted to snow study plot data. Click here to check it out.

Recent snowpack and avalanche observations can be found here and on Instagram. Your observations help improve our forecast product. Please take a moment and submit a photo or two and a brief description of snow and avalanche information that you gather in the field.

Snow Plot Information

DateHN24HN24W
(SWE)
Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
03/27/20
05:11
Trace 2.0 MMNC163 CM-3.5 C8.0 C-12.0 CBrokenSnowView
03/26/20
05:05
0 CM 0 MM0CM165 CM-12.0 C3.0 C-13.0 CClearNo precipitation
03/25/20
05:08
Trace 0.2 MM25CM169 CM-13.0 C0.0 C-13.0 CClearNo precipitation
03/24/20
05:07
27 CM 18.0 MM 9%NC171 CM-4.0 C-4.0 C-11.5 COvercastSnowView
03/23/20
05:08
0 CM 0 MM0CM144 CM-10.5 C-3.0 C-18.0 CScatteredNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

Thank you Mount Washington Observatory for providing daily weather data from the summit of Mount Washington.

DateMax TempMin TempTotal (SWE)24H Snow & IceWind AvgWind Fastest MileFastest Mile DirAvalanche Activity
03/25/2024 F9 F 0 in in11.8 MPH27 MPH

140 (SE)

03/24/2025 F9 F 0.1 in in28.5 MPH54 MPH

310 (NW)

03/23/2023 F1 F 0.67 in in27.1 MPH56 MPH

160 (SSE)

03/22/2010 F-2 F 0 in in20 MPH50 MPH

310 (NW)

03/21/2020 F-5 F 0 in in57.7 MPH124 MPH

290 (WNW)

03/20/2043 F20 F 0.31 in in66.5 MPH145 MPH

260 (W)

03/19/2036 F14 F 0.02 in in26.5 MPH50 MPH

180 (S)

03/18/2021 F9 F 0.03 in in39.7 MPH94 MPH

290 (WNW)

03/17/2021 F6 F 0.25 in in52.4 MPH109 MPH

280 (W)

03/16/2014 F1 F 0 in in21.3 MPH50 MPH

240 (WSW)

03/15/207 F-3 F 0.0 in in42.1 MPH71 MPH

300 (WNW)

03/14/2014 F6 F 0.09 in in76.9 MPH117 MPH

270 (W)

Please Remember:

Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This forecast 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.

Avalanche danger may change when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.

For more information contact the US Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC visitor services staff at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or seasonally at the Harvard Cabin (generally December 1 through March 31). The Mount Washington Ski Patrol is also available on spring weekends.

Posted 01/10/2020 at 7:12 AM.

Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest