Tuckerman’s Ravine: the Notorious Bowl on Mt. Washington

Tuckerman's Ravine
Cloud cover and weather plays a huge part in any hike or ski in Tuckerman’s Ravine.
Image: Tuckermans Ravine/Facebook

The aura of the White Mountains in New Hampshire starts and stops with Mt. Washington and Tuckerman’s Ravine or “Tucks” for short.  There are many videos showing the utter force of the wind, snow and cold at the summit.  A lot of people don’t really understand the magnitude of the White Mountains.  They symbolize the East Coast in every facet; bitter, gnarly and tough to conquer.

The closest town to Tucks is North Conway, NH, a crunchy, adventurist dream base.  It serves as the hub for hiking, skiing, and other activities in the area.  While many people come to Tuckerman’s Ravine to experience the hiking, few are actually prepared for it.  As the most popular trail reaching the top of Mt. Washington, it is also the most dangerous and deadliest.  The summer months are the busiest times on the trail and for that matter the least treacherous.  It is usually not the terrain that gets people into sticky situations, it’s temperatures, even in the summer combined with the wind, it can drop to dangerous levels.

Tuckerman's Ravine
A larger look at Mt. Washington with the Tuckerman’s Ravine bowl just below the summit.
Image: Tuckermans Ravine/Facebook

Come fall, the snow starts falling and doesn’t let up.  Conditions get progressively worse, this is where we start to see more incidents.  With enough snow, there is a serious avalanche concern around the entire mountain and specifically in the ravine.  Many people will tour/hike and ski which can be a rewarding experience–if you know what to do.  There was a death in the spring which was caused by a slide and a partial avalanche, the skier was trapped.  Adding to the danger, the ravine is in a very remote area that doesn’t have patrol or ample rescue service.  If there is an emergency, it can really put the golden hour to the test.

This “Tucks dilemma” is at a strange spot because of the trade-off.  The stunning views and natural beauty of the landscape will always have people yearning to climb and spend time on the mountain, but the danger is bound to be a factor one hundred percent of the time.  Fifteen percent of the hikers and skiers who have died in the White Mountains have died in Tuckerman’s Ravine.

If you are planning a trip up or down the ravine, it is best to go in April, May or early June.  The snow is most stable during this time of the year and offers the least danger.