View Full Version : Legends of the Fall -- NE & NY avalanches we have seen

02-13-2007, 10:05 AM
The impending snow dump suggests the possibility of unusual avalanche activity. If you have recollections of the locations of past slides in New England or New York, it would be helpful for your fellow travelers. Whether it's an annual event or a once-in-a-lifetime rarity, let's have your "legends of the fall" please.

Minimum size criteria for your reported slide: It was enough to possibly knock someone off his/her feet (which requires only several inches sometimes) or enough to persuade you to change course and/or avoid that spot during periods of instability.

I'll be back with mine when I can get at the maps and get some good location descriptions.

02-13-2007, 04:25 PM
it would be helpful for your fellow travelers.

umm...how about "fellow hikers" instead ;)

I've told this one here before, so I'll succinctly review. I was at Harvard Rock, safely above Tuckerman Ravine, along the Boott Spur Ridge. It was 9:00p.m. on a moonlit night. An area to the right of Hillman's Highway avalanched. That's the best description I can give of the excact location. I'll never forget it.

Happy Trails :)

Tom Rankin
02-13-2007, 05:23 PM
A hiker was injured recently on the Macomb slide. The ADKs currently have a fair amount of snow on top of a layer of ice, and then more snow below that. The hiker lost control on a butt slide, fell, and broke his leg.

This was not an avalanche, but the discussion was enlightening, to me at least.


John H Swanson
02-13-2007, 06:12 PM
Last winter we were in at Chimney pond during a snowy period. It seemed to snow day after day. We were cooped up in the bunkhouse waiting out the weather. Each day, to fight the monotony we would organize "trails to tree-line" outings As the name implied we would break the trail to the treeline when the weather did not allow us to go higher.

When we went to the Saddle trail I thought I would explain how to dig an avalance evaluation pit. Something for us to do and it seemed appropiote as the snow was accumulating. I dug the pit and prepared to load the exposed snow to see how it held up. I was ready to start wth wrist taps, then elbow taps, then shoulder taps. I tapped it once with my wrist and a 12-18" thick slab fell to the ground. :eek:

The funny thing is, though I had the course, I have very little experience doing this and I'm no authority, but it seemed like a high risk. The next morning a subsequent "trails to tree-line" outing learned that a huge, (maybe 100m x 200m high?) avalanche slide down the basin.

I guess it was accurately evaluated as a high risk.

BTW, I recommend the AMC avalance awareness course in Pinkham.

02-13-2007, 06:53 PM
Yep, Katahdin doesn't get the same attention as Mt. Washington on this point perhaps, but it has its moments. The BSP Winter Camping -- Travel and Terrain (http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/camping/wintercamping.html#avalanches) section lists several locations known to slide, including the Saddle Trail. It's worth looking at if you're headed that way.

02-13-2007, 07:48 PM
Any time you're on or under an avalanche slope with snow on it, you need to be aware. (In the big mountains, you need to be aware even in the valleys, because large avalanches can travel considerable distances over horizontal ground.)

Any open or thinly forested slope of moderate steepness (ie., shallow enough to hold snow, but steep enough for it to eventually slide off) can avalanche. Most of the slides in the Adirondacks are classic avalanche slopes. The soil fell off, after all, at some point in the past, so the snow can be expected to do the same.

The Adirondacks saw our first and only avalanche fatality in 1999, on one of the new slides on Wright Peak. Most ordinary hiking trails in the Adirondacks do not travel on slides. One that does pass through a classic location for avalanche danger is the Avalanche Pass trail. At the height of land on the way to the lake, hikers walk under a short wall that is the base of a substantial slide. NYS DEC has been quite conservative since the 1999 incident, so it wouldn't be surprising to see that trail officially closed this weekend, if we get the forecast snow.

Another classic obvious terrain trap is the Trap Dike. I would skip that this weekend.

For climbers, the Chapel Pond Slab is another popular place to get hit by an avalanche, if that's what you want. Snow avalanches are common all winter. And there are other surprises available. I was guiding a nice warm spring rock route on that about 15 years ago, and was surprised by an ice avalanche that came out of the woods at the top. Fortunately, we were in a safe spot, and we were able to watch the ice blocks fly over our heads, and the ground up ice powder accumulate around our feet. Lesson learned about spring slab trips!


02-13-2007, 10:12 PM
High up on the Cliff Slide in heavy snow conditions. The entire slide fractured directly above us, all the way across. Deep fissure, with the sound of a loud "crack". Never let go and we very gingerly stepped over the crack, holding our breath that it didn't take the 3 of us with it.
We had no where else to go. The snow was deep and heavy and it would have been a bad ride down for us.

02-14-2007, 08:37 AM
VFTT member Explorer Editor (aka Phil Brown) published an excellent article, "Avalanche! (http://www.adirondackexplorer.org/aavalanche.htm)," in Adirondack Explorer, detailing the little-known history of Adirondack avalanche accidents. It lists several places that have avalanched in the past. Another reason I like it is because it highlights for those unfamiliar with avalanches the hazard of seeking out the Northeastern slides right after a big storm. Hint, hint.