Another sensational day on the rock pile. Due to a later start than planned, I paid the price as the lots were full by my arrival at PNVC around eight o’clock. Route 16 became a parking lot as cars angled into spots up and down the road. While gearing up at my car, I received a few odd comments from less knowledgable and experienced skiers regarding wearing shorts and putting on my boots. “You gonna hike up in those?”. Nah, I’m gonna skin up!
Snow conditions allowed for skinning from the Sherburne/Avalanche Brook Trail connection to a quarter mile up the Gulf of Slides Trail. Then I hiked for about 20 minutes and skinned the rest of the way with two or three portages. Much better coverage on the Gulf of Slides Ski Trail than I had expected. Though I will admit on the ski down, I really pushed the definition of skiable coverage to the breaking point. Avalanche damage where the first major gully crosses the Gulf of Slides Ski Trail is stunning. During the ascent, a heel blister issue began was of concern. The uncomfortability, and later pain, would get worse throughout the day but I didn’t let it stop me.
After gearing up above the First Aid Cache, I started with the Main Gully which had seen the most traffic so I figured I would hit it first. The gully was somewhat bumpy and choppy but a really great ski. Not quite mashed potatoes but beyond perfect corn. The Intuitiv Bigs have seen very little action lately but skied wonderfully today in the gullies. These skis are sensational for this type of skiing. After climbing back up the excellent boot pack lookers’ left in the Main Gully, I had a snack above the snow pack (which is creeping down quickly) and relaxed to a great view up and down Pinkham Notch. After my break, I hiked over to the next gully skiers’ left and dropped in to more sensational turns. My heel was really giving me problems at this point and skiing was somewhat uncomfortable. But the heck with pain, I had time to be sore when I got done skiing.
After finishing up the second gully, I skied down to the Avi Debris zone on the Gulf of Slides Ski Trail and ascended the next gully. Again I found no choke points or ice bulges in the third gully. Just a fine canvass to open up some really wide nearly edge to edge turns and charge it hard. Not usually my skiing style but I was enjoying milking the big turns today. All the gullies skied sensationally well. There were about a dozen or so skiers in each of the gullies skiing or climbing at any given time with a few hanging out down below. There were probably as many people or more just sitting on lunch rocks in Tuckerman Ravine at any given time.
The ski down was adventurous. I would say I “skied” just over halfway down. Of that distance of ski trail, one third was quality skiing, one third was survival skiing, and the last third probably suggests my need of a sanity check. But I will do just about anything to keep my skis attached to my boots rather than my pack. Sanity check skiing was performed down to the location where I started skinning. From there I hiked down to where I began hiking on the ascent and skied back to the Sherburne.
With the Sherburne Trail closed at the halfway point, I probably skied more vertical feet on the Gulf of Slides Ski Trail with a very short 15 minute down hike than most people could have done on the Sherburne Ski Trail. That is almost as good as an uncrowded Gulf of Slides compared to a crowded Tuckerman. Ski trail coverage is going very quickly and I suspect even those needing a sanity check on what constitutes skiable coverage will not be skiing nearly half of what I managed within the next few days even with cooler weather coming in.