Let it Snow!

Mt. Jefferson from Lowe's Path 4.8.2013
Winter's not over yet in the White Mountains!  This Friday morning I was greeted with a light coating of snow on the road while heading up to Pinkham Notch, which means the highers summits were definitely receiving precipitation as snow overnight.  The Mt. Washington Observatory (www.mountwashington.org) forecasts more snow today and tonight for the higher summits, although there is a chance of sleet or freezing rain even at the higher elevations.  Let's do one more dance to the snow gods to see if we can get one last significant snowfall for the season! 

Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington from Mt. Adams 4.8.2013
Saturday could bring mixed precipitation showers at all elevations, but Sunday's forecast is looking good, with partly sunny skies throughout the day.  That being said, the weather changes rapidly in the Whites, so follow the weather forecast closely before you head out into the mountains, and anticipate variable weather conditions this weekend.

Trail conditions in spring are a mixed bag.  Currently, trails at elevations lower than 2,000 ft. will most likely have a wet and muddy approach.  Between 2,000 ft. and 4,000 ft. expect a firm and icy 2-4 ft. snowpack below treeline in the morning, ideal for Microspikes or any other form of light traction.  However, as the day warms up, the snowpack will begin to destabilize, and snowshoes will help to keep you afloat and to provide stability on the "monorail" of dense snow created in the center of the treadway by winter hikers. 

Mt. Adams from Mt. Jefferson 4.8.2013
Mt. Clay, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Monroe
from Mt. Jefferson 4.8.2013
Above 4,000' in the alpine zone there is less snow than below treeline, but conditions still vary from scoured rock to 4 ft. of heavy, wind-affected snow.   Rocky outcrops are prone to postholing, so watch out as you hike along ridgelines and towards rocky peaks.  Also beware of spruce traps, especially later in the day and in areas near treeline.  Crampons will be most effective in alpine terrain in the morning, but once again, snowshoes will provide added stability and flotation as the snowpack warms up throughout the day.

An ice axe and the ability to self-arrest are imperative if heading into the alpine zone, up the Lion Head Winter Route, or through any other steep terrain in the White Mountains.  The potential for long, sliding falls certainly exists, especially without proper traction. 

Randolph Path Junction with the
Castle Ravine and Cornice Trails 4.8.2013

If you're planning to ski Tuckerman Ravine this weekend, or any other steep backcountry ski destination, be prepared for increasing avalanche danger, low visibility on Saturday, and firm snow conditions.  Although it's April, corn snow has yet to really develop in any of the ravines.  Crampons and an ice axe are recommended for ascending any of the gullies you intend to ski down, which seems to come as a surprise to many visitors I speak with about skiing in Tuckerman Ravine or other destinations like the Gulf of Slides, Ammonoosuc Ravine, and Oakes Gulf.  Although many skiers and boarders create a bootpack up steep slopes, would you forgo crampons and an ice axe for steep, snow-covered terrain anywhere else?  An avalanche beacon (transceiver), a probe, a shovel, and the ability of you and everyone in your group to use these pieces of equipment are vital when heading into any avalanche terrain, in addition to closely reading the daily Avalanche Advisory posted daily by the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers for Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.  You can read the Avalanche Advisory online (www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org), at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or at Hermit Lake Shelters.  The advisory is no longer being posted at Harvard Cabin, which is now closed for season and no camping is available, so ice climbers in Huntington Ravine will want to read it at one of the other said locations. 

Sastrugi on Mt. Jefferson 4.8.2013
Interested in staying trail-side this weekend?  Please don't hesitate to give our Reservations Department a call at (603) 466-2727 Monday through Saturday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.  Joe Dodge Lodge is at the base of Mt. Washington, is the terminus of the John Sherburne and Gulf of Slides Ski Trails, and is only 2.4 miles from Hermit Lake Shelters and only 3 miles from the floor of Tuckerman Ravine.  The Highland Center in Crawford Notch is another roadside facility, family-friendly, and with great access to the Southern Presidential peaks and to the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  Our three winter huts are still open, so if you prefer to stay in the backcountry, consider spending the night at Carter Notch, Zealand Falls, or Lonesome Lake Hut.  You can get updated with the latest weather, trail, and avalanche conditions at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in person, or you can give us a call at (603) 466-8116 any day 6:30 AM - 10:00 PM, or you can send your inquiries to amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org and we'll respond promptly.

Have a fun a safe weekend!  I'll see you in the mountains,


Cormac N. Griffin
AMC Trails Information
(603) 466-8116

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