For the second week in a row, weather forecasts showed sensational blue bird days during the week and colder rainy weather for the weekend. Not to be skunked two weekends in a row during some of the best skiing conditions of the season, I requested Wednesday off from work and hooked up with the Sledhauler for an epic day in Tuckerman Ravine.
We got a late start arriving at Pinkham shortly before nine o’clock. Temperatures were warmer than expected which meant the long slog up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to HoJo’s would be a sweaty affair which proved to be true. Touring with new boots for the first time, Sled had some discomfort on the skin up but fought through the pain. Views upon arriving at HoJo’s were stellar with gullies (both with and without names) filled in sensationally for this late in the season. We watched on as a boarder and skier slip slided and butt slided their way down Dodge’s Drop.
After a bit to eat and some quick refreshment, we were ascending towards the Bowl on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Sled opted to hike but I decided to continue skinning as long as possible. I skinned the entire trail to the bowl and only removed my skis once for a rock crossing. Coverage was simply sensational on the trail.
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.
Awakening from a night of restless sleep at the Hiker’s Paradise in Gorham, I casually stretched out on my bed and debated when I should rise for the day of skiing. I considered a late start to be worth while as the bank sign across the street was reading sixteen degrees. Packing up my gear and gathering my clothing choices for the afternoon, I was eagerly looking forward to and imagining my first foray into the realm of backcountry skiing on my new Alpine Touring rig. After a scrumptious breakfast served downstairs, I packed up my gear and drove south into the Notch.
I arrived at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center around nine and noticed I was not alone in considering today an excellent day to earn turns. Die hards of all sliding persuasions including alpine, AT, telemark, and snowboard were all gearing up at their cars. Snow enthusiasts on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail were evenly split between hikers and snow sliders.
The John Sherburne Ski Trail was ideal for my first foray into the Back Country for many reasons. I desired natural snow and during this lean snow year, Pinkham Notch has faired surprisingly well with recent online trip reports indicating the trail had decent cover, all things considered. Additionally, I was skiing alone and desired a popular trail in which I would hardly be alone despite not having a partner. The busy Tuckerman Ravine Trail provides safety in numbers for the solo skier. Finally, with 2000 vertical feet down a classic ski trail cut by early trail blazing pioneers, I was assured of an excellent decent on a legendary trail.