From nearby Lyme, NH, we are pleased to welcome Sam Colbeck back to the Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Sam is an Emeritus Researcher and former Senior Research Scientist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover NH. With the metamorphosis of fallen snow as a primary research interest through his career, he contributed pioneering advancements to our understanding of how snow grains change over time. In 2000, the American Avalanche Association named Sam an Honorary Member, their highest award. His work as a true snow scientist includes but also extends beyond our world of avalanches, with research influencing all things snow, from military operations and nuclear power plants to ski racing. The Ragged Mountain ski patroller and avid skier will surely lead the charge to awaken your snow brain on November 3rd.
We are pleased to introduce Brian Lazar, the Deputy Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center since 2010. Brian has been working in the field of snow and avalanches for the last couple decades. He began backcountry skiing in Colorado as a college student, soon becoming a mountain guide and avalanche course instructor. After a decade or so of guiding and teaching in a variety of snow climates on both sides of the equator, Brian returned to graduate school where he earned a MS in Engineering, studying snow and ice mechanics in Alaska’s Chugach range, and conducting research at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. He worked for many years as a consultant to the ski industry, investigating snowpack runoff and potential changes to seasonal snowpacks as a result of climate change.
A key figure in avalanche education, the former Executive Director of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), remains a curriculum developer and board member. He is also a member of the American Avalanche Association (AAA) Education Committee, an AAA Certified Instructor, and an AIARE course leader. We are certainly excited to learn from Brian at ESAW, and we hope you are too! Get your tickets here: esaw.org
The Crystal Cascade Bridge as well as Bridge #3 are currently under construction. The Tucks Trail has two separate closures that must be navigated as you ascend to Hermit Lake. Rather than the normal start to the trail behind the AMC Trading Post, the trail begins up the Sherburne. The detours are well-signed and will add no distance to your hike.
Annual spring snow melt creates significant glide cracks, or crevasses, and undermined snow in the Lip area of Tuckerman Ravine. We close a section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail where it passes through the Lip as a safety measure. This relatively short section stretches from Lunch Rocks in the Ravine to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail just above the Ravine. Ascending or descending through this area now has numerous hazards which greatly elevate risk to travelers. The closure also pertains to skiers and riders. The closure only pertains to this section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and will remain in effect until melt out eliminates these specific hazards.
Hiking this time of year can be especially challenging as warm temperatures make shorts and lightweight hikers more comfortable than soft shell pants and mountaineering boots. Trails can change from knee deep rotten snow to bullet-proof ice is a matter minutes in cool temperatures and shade. Currently, the Lion Head summer trail and winter route are equally challenging but for different reasons. The Summer route has stretches of ice remaining and a long traverse through a snowfield at tree-line that has been the seen of some pretty bad falls. The winter route is generally steeper and the steepest section now is exposed rock and frozen mud. While never technically closed, the summer route is exposed to significant avalanche hazard and only becomes the recommended route to the summit from the east side of the mountain when avalanche hazard subsides. We have reached the point in time when the summer route becomes a good alternative. That said, there is still ice along with that steep and potentially icy slope near treeline. Be prepared and equipped for icy conditions on the summer trail when it’s cold at that elevation, along with rotten and deep snow as it warms up.
The Tuckerman Ravine trail through Tuckerman Ravine is nearing the point where a closure makes sense. If you plan to ski the Lip, understand that the waterfall holes are open below you and create the potential for a fatal fall into a 70′ deep or more hole.
You may notice a couple of changes to the web advisory today. We frequently refer to the snowplot at Hermit Lake in our advisory but will be including the raw data which is collected every morning by the caretaker at the AMC operated facility there. You need to go to the full forecast to see the data and wind chart. As resources allow, we plan to roll out more of this type of data to help you make more informed decisions when venturing into avalanche terrain. The weather data provided by our partners at the Mount Washington Observatory continues to be critical to our forecast process but more data improves our accuracy and may prove helpful to the dawn patrol skiers and climbers out there. Special thanks to the AMC caretakers for getting up early to collect the data, Chris McKnight for the wind rose and High Charts for providing a free license.
Join us this Saturday, March 17, at 5pm at International Mountain Equipment (IME) for the third installment in the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund’s Continuing Education Series. Helon Hoffer will be reviewing fracture mechanics and exploring fracture arrest. We’ll be looking at the big wind slab avalanche that occurred on February 8 throughout the talk and discussing why the slab boundary stopped where it did. While this talk may raise more questions than answers, it will help give a better understanding of why dry slab release occurs the way it does.
Harvard Cabin will be temporarily closed mid-week due to a staffing shortage. The cabin will be open Friday and Saturday nights. This closure includes tenting outside the cabin. For those interested in overnighting in the Cutler River Drainage, you may do so at Hermit Lake Shelters. We will provide updates to this closure on our website or you may contact the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at (603) 466-8116 to see if there is availability.
The White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation and the NHOC are sponsoring a Mountain Weather Workshop in North Conway, NH. Senior Forecaster and Education Specialist Mike Carmon, of the Mount Washington Observatory, will be teaching topics relevant to avalanche forecasting and mountain travel in the White Mountains.
Topics will include weather variables and measurement, mesoscale and synoptic scale features, case studies on winter storms and forecasting challenges such as Norlun Troughs, Nor’easters, Alberta Clippers, Upsloping Events and more.
Registration is limited in number with scholarship seats available for $40 awarded by nomination to 2 members of each local rescue team. More seats will be available to people unaffiliated with local teams for $80.
The class is 16 hours long and spread over the following dates:
- Wednesday, February 21, 5-9pm at IME
- Friday, February 23, 5:30-9pm at the MWObs Weather Discovery Center (WDC)
- Wednesday March 7, 5-9pm at the MWObs WDC
- Wednesday March 21, 5-9pm at the MWObs WDC
Proceeds of the course will benefit the White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation.
Strategic Field Observations
CT22 Q1 SC, ECTP27, PST 60/100 End, no whumphing, some shooting cracks, I see wind blowing snow around, I have to push kinda hard to make a hand shear fail… What does this all mean? CAN I SKI IT?
We have these stability assessment tools and many more at our disposal. They’re all supposed to ultimately guide our “Go” and “No Go” decisions. Is this a simple process? No. Do you find it challenging? You’re not alone. Can we all get better at interpreting stability test results and snowpack observations? Yes.
A snowpack is constantly changing and we have a variety of avalanche problems to contend with every season. Varied conditions require a varied approach to snow stability assessment. Join us to dive into this topic at a FREE event this Saturday evening. We’ll use stability tests and other familiar snow stability assessment tools as a starting point in a deeper discussion about letting conditions dictate your observation strategies.
Strategic observations can help any of us make better decisions in the mountains. It’s all about having more good days and coming home in one piece. See you Saturday evening!
MWAC Continuing Education Series, #2
Mount Washington Avalanche Center and White Mountains Avalanche Education Foundation
Saturday, February 17, 2018
5:00 PM (approximately 1 hour total)
IME- International Mountain Equipment
2733 White Mountain Hwy, North Conway, NH 03860
Free to attend!
White Heat Tracks Project seeks your input:
The aim of the White Heat Project is to generate new and usable knowledge on risk-taking behavior, and on factors behind decision errors in avalanche terrain in particular. The White Heat Tracks project is an extension to the previous “SkiTracks” project, and is a collaboration between a group of researchers at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø; Montana State University, in Bozeman, USA; and Umeå University, in Umeå, Sweden. We are asking people to complete a decision-making survey: (https://montana.qualtrics.com
More information can be found here:
And here: http://www.montana.edu/n
Huge thanks to volunteers Paul Bazanchuk, Ryan Brouder & Terran Siladi for helping us with this battery bank/inverter setup donated by the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine.