Gulf of Slides contained stellar late season snow and yielded many fine runs. Evidence of massive slides was evident crossing the run out paths on the Gulf of Slides trail en route to Main Gully. Austin and a friend were also skiing the gully and we shared some fine turns.
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 three glorious days of bright sun shine and warm temperatures ideal for corn snow, the weekend delivered a horrible blow to Mount Washington in the form of an evening freeze, overcast skies, and no softening in sight. Far from ideal conditions for the annual Inferno Race sponsored by the Friends of Tuckerman, the race would go on and so would my tour.
I arrived at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (PNVC) shortly after 7 A.M. anticipating the huge crowds the events draws. However, I obtained front row parking at the Gulf of Slides trail head with plenty of spaces remaining on both sides of the lot. I managed to escape the crowds and secure a primo parking spot by getting a slightly earlier start than normal. Starting too early might not have allowed the snow to soften up sufficiently; but alas, there would be no softening of the snow today. The weather forecast had predicted partly cloudy skies warming to the mid-forties but the mercury combined with the wind chill likely never pushed out of the thirties.
What is better than one bluebird day on Mount Washington? How about two straight bluebird days on Mount Washington?! After last Sunday’s epic day in Tuckerman Ravine, I figured my best days of the season were behind me as the snow cover began to recede. But Gulf of Slides had more than enough snow to delight under a canopy of blue. Warm temperatures and bluebird skies dominated the afternoon as we found ourselves thinking at times that it was actually too warm.
At 8 A.M., I met up with Jim and Sled at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The sky was completely bluebird with temperatures on the rise. We discussed what to leave behind based on the warm temperature and the desire to travel as light as possible. Essentially, the more we decided to leave behind the better. Almost no extra layers besides our base layers were truly needed though Sled and I donned the wind shells for the descent.