By Tom Eastman
GORHAM — The U.S. Forest Service’s Mount Washington Avalanche Center is urging caution for anyone venturing into the upper elevations of the outdoors this winter after a human-triggered avalanche struck in Mount Washington’s Huntington Ravine last Friday.
No one was injured in the Dec. 1 incident, but officials termed it a close call.
Ryan Matz, USFS snow ranger and avalanche specialist, said Tuesday that the avalanche was set off by a climber who was descending Central Gully in Huntington Ravine on the east side of Mount Washington.
“It was triggered by the climber walking on unstable slab, about a third of the way down the gully, which is quite steep,” said Matz.
The avalanche, he said, "essentially broke at his feet, but he was not carried by the avalanche at all, so therefore he was not buried or injured by the avalanche.”
He described the avalanche as “relatively small” compared to those that can and have occurred in Huntington and Tuckerman Ravine over the years.
But he also said it was “large relative to the amount of snow available to avalanche” at this early point in the season
Matz cautioned that at this time of the year, due to the low accumulation of snowfall, an avalanche can have serious consequences for anyone caught in its path, due to the lack of open run-outs and the possibility of being swept into rocks.
“That can cause serious injury pretty easily,” Matz said.
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center has yet to start posting its daily avalanche advisories on its website but will do so once conditions warrant.
“We advise anyone traveling above treeline on Mount Washington or anywhere in the White Mountains to have an understanding of how to recognize avalanche danger," Matz said. "Safe travel requires training and experience. You can control your own risk by when and where you travel."
For more information, go to mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/advisory or call the USFS Androscoggin District in Gorham at (603) 466-2713.