AIARE 1 Avalanche Course 3/16/13 – 3/18/13

Today wrapped up another AIARE 1 Avalanche Course with interesting snow-pack conditions and great weather, Mother Nature is really keeping the avy course season going strong this year! Our first day focused on recognizing avalanche terrain and learning about the different types of avalanches along with what to do if someone in your party is caught in an avalanche. On Day 2 while we learned about how dynamic the winter snow-pack can be we stepped outside early morning to look at some beautiful 3mm Stellar snow crystals, and talked about how they could act as a buried weak layer in some situations:

Intact Stellars
Intact Stellars

Later that day we went on a short tour along the south east side of Mt. Willard and saw some great wind effected snow, deep “whales” from earlier intense blowing snow, shooting cracks on some small slabs, and evidence of last weeks rain event.

Today we met at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, and after a trip planning session we skinned up to the snow study plot below Hermit Lake.

143 cms of snow at the stake...
143 cms of snow at the stake…

After we got our first look at the Ravine we re-fueled with some food & H20 then headed up into the floor of Tuckerman Ravine.

Skinned up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail
Skinned up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Along the way we had some interesting Hand Shear results along with positive ski cuts that produced impressive shooting cracks. We were happy that we were on low angle terrain given those results!

Once we reached the floor we soon noticed a size-able crown below The Chute. USFS Snow Ranger Jeff Lane was investigating it by conducting tests in the crown and exploring higher above it while fellow snow ranger Frank Carus spotted him from over by Right Gully.

Can you find the crown?
Can you find the crown, or Jeff?
A zoomed in shot of the crown... it's lower far edges reach almost the side of the frame...
A zoomed in shot of the crown… it’s lower far edges reach almost both sides of the frame…

Sticking to our original tour plan we started heading up a skin track to Right Gully.

Kick-turns & some exposure...
Kick-turns & some exposure…

We stopped to the right of the mouth of Right Gully for a closer look at the snow-pack.

Great position in the bowl
Great position in the bowl

Results were quite impressive, as we got repeated CTE, Q2 40-60cm down (depending on which pit), on an almost indistinguishable layer interface (wasn’t the crust from the previous weeks rain). This matched up with what USFS Snow Ranger Frank Carus had shared with us on our ascent, and was enough evidence for us that even though the bulletin only put Right Gully at “Moderate” it was above our level of risk acceptance to enter the gully proper. We decided to ski one at a time from this high point back to the floor of the ravine. 3 turns into the slope I buried a ski in the heavy snow and face planted pretty hard… first fall of the season! Given the pit results I did look up quickly to make sure my tumble didn’t tip the scale, but all was well and worth a chuckle.

Spotting the last couple people in our group from outside the runout...
Spotting the last couple people in our group from outside the run out…

After we regrouped at the floor of the ravine we made for the Little Headwall, which had a few dicey spots as last weeks rain had blown it out and there were some gaping holes that required some careful navigation. The rest of the Sherbie was pretty enjoyable, though the bottom half will be very happy with the new snow coming tonight into tomorrow!

My tour notes from the day:


Well, only 2 courses left this season. Next weekend’s course has 1 or 2 spots left in it. If you want it you can book it online here. This incoming storm is sure to produce great conditions for the next course, which can be hit or miss this late in the season!

See you all on the mountain!

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