Harvard Cabin Conditions Report 2-12-16

Harvard Cabin Mountaineers,

Hope life finds all of you well. Thanks to all of those who visited the Harvard Cabin Table at the 2016 Mount Washington Valley Ice Fest. Once again, the organizers have put on a world class ice climbing festival. No surprise, given the fact that this is the land where this whole crazy sport grew-up! I’m sure we all agree. Thanks to IME/IMCS, all guides, sponsors, and participants. I’m looking forward to MWV Ice Fest 2017!

Marcia and I continue to enjoy cabin life as Winter ever so slowly tightens its’ grip on the Presidential Range. We are going to be feeling that squeeze this weekend for sure. Last night, temperatures at cabin elevation dipped a few degrees below zero (-20 C) while summit temperature plunged to -27 F. Given the week that concluded the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Election, it is fair to say that a lot of hot air has left the State. It is very cold outside and could be getting colder over the course of this holiday weekend.

Snow and Ice Conditions

As a whole, there isn’t much new to report from the rock pile. The ice is as in as it has been for weeks! Climbers have been enjoying the usual go-to adventures in O’Dell, Pinnacle, Yale. There have only been a few climbers in the northern gullies this winter, given their still talus-filled approaches. For a peek into Hungtinton Ravine this week, Click Here.

A Feb 3-4th warm-weather event has left the snow pack with an almost uniform bullet-proof ice/crust. While we did receive 10+ inches of new snow this week densities didn’t allow for a great improvement in over all snow conditions. New snow that fell was what skiers and snow geeks call blower smoke! Super light snow made of perfectly formed stellar crystals. It really is millions of little tiny miracles leeching out of the sky. While we certainly welcomed the the new snow, the less the 5% water content didn’t do much for our base as much of the snow was transported out of the gullies.

This combo of hard ice layer and low-density snow resulted in “dust and crust” conditions. This has made mountain travel in steep terrain difficult with long-sliding falls being the most concerning hazard at the moment. There have been a few close calls reported this week that have proven “eye opening” for some new climbers moving around in the Alpine. There was also an evacuation of one such climber injured after experiencing a long sliding fall while approaching Central Gully. Thankfully Injuries were non-life threatening.

Of course, any snow is favorable trend. Last night (Feb 11), as wind velocities were on the increase, it was easy to see snow moving from North to South – From Nelson Crag to Lion Head and from Boot Spur into the Gulf of Slides. My view point from Conway today also showed continued snow transport across the range. Point being, natural avalanche activity was almost certain in the ravines today and hopefully that will help in bringing the Huntington Gullies and the “Fan” a step closer to their winter glory.

While the summit of Washington was in and out of the clouds all day, it was easy to see the wind battered summits below 6000 feet. It was cold, clear, and BRUTAL up there today. This will continue to be the case for the remainder of the weekend.

We’d sure enjoy your company this weekend but, we might suggest bringing a V-Thread tool and staying out of the Alpine Garden. Given wind and temps, the notches of Northern New Hampshire could prove to be less hospitable then usual, so why not come up and enjoy some quality alpine ice and show your love for the Harvard Cabin this Valentine’s Day. Retreating to a cabin warmed by the rare day-fire might not be so bad. The trail to the cabin is snow covered. Skis and Skins are suitable for those so equipped. While the John Sherburne Ski Trail is still far from ideal, it has also seen significant improvement this week. For what it’s worth, I actually had fun skiing to Pinkham today.

What ever you do this weekend. Stay safe, stay warm, and THINK SNOW! We’ll look forward to seeing you sooner then later if not this weekend.

Rich Palatino
Harvard Cabin Caretaker

NOTE – Harvard Cabin is not affiliated with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Harvard Cabin is maintained by Harvard Mountaineering Club for use by the general public. The cabin is operated under a special-use permit granted by the USDA Forest Service. Cabin space and tent-sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis between December 1st and March 31st each year. Specific instructions for staying at the cabin can be found online at http://www.HarvardMountaineering.org/cabin

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