Another season comes to a close with the annual suffer fest to Tuckerman Ravine. This year finds the Ravine with more snow than usual with the Sluice patch extending nearly to the ravine floor for almost two hundred vertical feet per run. Snow conditions were a sensational spring corn quality and turns were buttery compared to the usual teeth rattling glacial ice.
En route to the Ravine on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, I came within spitting distance of a large moose. While hiking up the trail, I noticed a group up ahead pull off to the side of the trail and started taking pictures where the Raymond Path splits from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. I assumed I was about to pass some tourists taking pictures of a trail sign. But as I rounded the bend, I came up short and noticed the cow was walking straight down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. I side stepped to the edge of the trail and let her pass.
Met up with Rog and his friend who were already making turns in the bowl. The usual crowd of stunned and surprised hikers gathered along the snow patch to watch us make our July turns. After taking six laps, I called it a day and called it a season.
The Author Skiing the Tuckerman Ravine Snow Patch on July 6th:
Opening weekend for the Mount Washington Auto Road is a special weekend when the East Snowfields are in play. After my first experience on the East Snowfields two years ago, I vowed to never miss an opportunity to ski the East Snowfields slacker style when the Auto Road opens.
Kingsley and I hooked up for a long planned trip to Mount Washington to lap the East Snowfields on Memorial Day Weekend. Sunday offered the best conditions with the added perk of being a TimeForTuckerman.com gathering date. I brought a cooler full of adult beverages and grilling meat though the gathering was already well stocked with both. Not many things better than lunch time burgers near the summit of New England’s highest peak on a blue bird day following four laps of the East Snowfields.
During the seven mile drive from Route 16 to the East Snowfields, Kingsley and I listened to a sensationally dramatic CD detailing the history of the Auto Road. We quickly geared up and headed over to the Snowfields where we met Austin just finishing up a climb back to the top. After some quick introductions and pleasantries, we got down to business carving huge turns down stellar baked untracked corn snow. The first run would be the best and it was very enjoyable. The snow on the snowfields was quickly cut up by over one hundred fellow slackers. The traffic combined with the high temperatures and baking snow made for mashed potato sloppy corn by the third run.
Kingsley and I ventured further afield to the southern end of the East Snowfields which offered less hammered snow and occasional untracked patches. We enjoyed turns in a barely covered rock garden before climbing back up to the gathering and grilling some meat. After beer and burgers, we took two more runs for a total of six laps and called it a day. Another sensational blue bird day on Mount Washington which marks the beginning of the end for the season.
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.
What a productive day I was having at work! Really busy week and I finally felt like I was making some head way and clearing off my to do list. The original plan was to leave around three o’clock and head up to Cannon for some turns. Though I was honestly thinking about working right through my normal departure time. And then I stepped outside for a moment and knew my day behind the desk was officially over.
Due to dilly dallying at work, I got a later start than expected. I also neglected to pack up the car in the morning so needed to do the seven minute door to door commute home to pick up my gear and grab a snack. Within a few moments, I was back on the road heading up to Cannon forty minutes door to outdoor. Life doesn’t suck.
Due to the late start, I hesitated as I pulled into the Peabody lot. The time was five o’clock and I said I would be home by seven. Unsure if I could pull off two thousand verts of skinning in about an hour, I decided to head Tramside and lap Avalanche a few times. I booted up Avalanche which was covered wall to wall and stumbled upon more wall to wall coverage on Extension. Well, sure glad I brought my skins just in case! In short time, I was at the top of Extension and “oh yell, why not” I was skinning up Middle Cannon to the unload station of the Peabody Quad. And then “jeez, the summit is right there…. oh hell, why not!”
I made good time but was definitely going to be running a little late. Oops. The air was electrifyingly perfect with a very slight breeze near the summit blowing cool over the snow. I was heating up something fierce and the temperature and wind were perfect despite my short sleeve. I soon had the summit all to myself. Had I stuck around, I would have witnessed a stunningly sensational sunset. But alas, a lot of snow was already in the shade and I was already delayed by fifteen minutes thanks to making good time on the skin up.