“This is going to hurt.”
Foreboding feelings of pain were strong going into this weekend. I am in the worst shape of my life. An honest self assessment suggested I could get the job done but only at the cost of several days of pain. But even in the worst shape of my life, I’m still more capable than I give myself credit for and I’ll need to remember that as I start rebuilding my body and, perhaps more importantly, the rest of my life.
Sometime during the halfway point of my third run down F.I.S. at Sugarbush yesterday, I recalled that due to the injury and other variables, Saturday was my first day of the season pumping out big bumps on a steep slope. Also at about the same time, I realized I needed to save some leg for Tuckerman Ravine the next day. But I am never one to save up potential energy for potential good skiing when I already AM experiencing good skiing. So three more F.I.S. runs later…
I got the days backwards this weekend. I figured Sunday would be warmer and the Ravine would experience less freezing over night so I thought it would be the better day for the Ravine despite tiring my legs out on Saturday at da’ Bush. Turns out it was too hot on Sunday so I should have reversed days. Not that the skiing in the Ravine was not fantastic, but hot days are not fun for lugging forty pounds of skiing equipment a few miles.
The parking lot was slammed more than the previous week’s Inferno Race, likely due to perfect weather this weekend and less than acceptable snow conditions the previous weekend. I tossed the skins in my bag based on a report indicating traction on the upper third of the TRT would have been helpful. Glad I did, as my fair weather hiking sneakers did not like hiking up the snow. I switched over to skins about 100 verts above the second bridge and only needed to take off the skis once until reaching HoJo’s, woo hoo! Better traction and less weight for around a quarter of the hike to HoJo’s is cool by me. Next weekend I would not have bothered.
Driving through Jefferson on Route 2 passing by people ascending the stairs to their houses of worship, I spotted the white caked peaks of the Northern Presidentials dead ahead. While the faithful of small town northern New England filled into their neighborhood churches, the skiing faithful of New England descended upon the Mecca of backcountry in New Hampshire.
My church is the snow covered mountains and the stairs leading up to the church are skin tracks. I worship the snow and get down on my hands and knees to pray when I am ascending the steep boot ladders. My deity of choice is the Earth which brought me here and can take me out when ever it deems I have had my time to enjoy life. At which point I will rejoin the Earth and have my ashes dumped out across the mountains I worship. Today would not be that day though.
My first day of May skiing ever brought my season total up to 34 days which is just one shy the goal made months ago. My gear must have weighed in around fifty pounds in the morning. I did not have the heart to weigh it in the morning to verify but everything weighed in at 42 pounds at the end of the day (sans 3 liters of water, lots of food, my hat, my gloves, ski pants, and a fleece). Hiked up through the long switch backs before seeing some snow around the one third mark. After the second time seeing a long stretch of snow, I got the skins out and went for it. Not a bad decision as I only had to take the skis off about a half dozen times during the ascent. There were a few areas that I barely managed to navigate that will not be passable next weekend. Always glad when I do not have to lug gear up the entire way. I figured more of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail would be bare by now so I lucked out.
While I was set on going into the bowl, various factors at HoJo’s suggested alternative plans. A misty rain and occasional sprinkle was developing with wetter weather not entirely out of the question. Ski patrol was suggesting limiting skiing to the left side of the bowl. Due to the questionable weather, I opted for Hillman’s as it allowed for the quickest descent without need of down hiking. If weather turned foul, Hillman’s allowed an easy ski onto the Shurburne without hiking.
Hillman’s was still covered with exception of a small open stream near the bottom of the gully which required some careful foot placement and a lot of luck to cross high and dry. I managed the crossing on the ascent but ended up with a submerged boot on the way down but no leaks thankfully!
The climb up Hillman’s was a lot easier for me this time around compared to my ascent the previous month. I think the combination of not having skied the day before and better steps kicked into the boot ladder both helped. When i got tired, I made the observation that I had the tendency to try to climb faster which was ironic and amusing, including the implications of creating additional fatigue. Got nearly to the top of the gully when the steps became progressively smaller. My legs were fatiguing due to the extra effort of double kicking in each step, so I bailed just shy of the top. The weather was starting to turn foul as I faced more wind and rain, so just as well.
Today was my first time up to the Ravine for skiing (not counting my ski down the Sherburne Ski Trail earlier this year). I should have bailed on Cannon the day before as my legs were shot from skiing mashed potatoes and scraped snow on Saturday. I had debated not even going to the Ravine on Sunday but I knew days like this don’t happen often enough and I would have been missing had I not gone. Additionally, it was likely my last whack at skinning without hiking as well as skiing all the way down to the Route 16 via the Sherburne (though just barely).
The skin up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail was sweet with only one or two bare spots. However, coverage is going quick in a lot of areas. Bridges were exposed fully. I suspect the trail will not be skinable top to bottom without removing skis at least once or twice by next weekend. I was really really tired by the time i reached HoJo’s and had developed painful blisters on my right arch and right hand. I made some adjustments to my equipment to better handle friction locations but the damage was done.