I finally got to go out skiing with Andy and Alex again. Snow on Thursday as well as a little here and there on Friday has finally started to fill in the Bowl and Sherburne pretty well.
We passed 3 different AIARE courses on the way up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and a few different solo and small groups. I expected a busy day up in the ravine but I think the considerable avalanche risk rating kept a lot of people away, as it should have.
We managed to keep the skis on all the way up the TRT from Hermit Lake, a feat I wasn’t sure was going to happen. Few enough people had skinned up, or skied down, that the trail wasn’t entirely ice. Hooray for not hiking!
Center Headwall and Lip were still looking pretty icy and the crown lines from past avalanches were still visible. The right and left sides of the ravine looked pretty full but with evidence of strong wind loading. The upper parts of just about every gully had a shiny crust poking through in many places.
We elected to skin/boot up right gully. We were hoping to boot all the way to the summit and ski the snowfields but the ice crust kept us a little lower in the gully. We popped our skis on and skied to far skier’s right before another short boot up to just below the ice walls next to Sluice. Small pockets of slab were popping loose from the ice crust below but nothing was propagating to make a big slide. It was a variable snow conditions day for sure. Everything from finger hard wind slab, to waist deep powder, to ice crust.
We made a hard traverse across the bowl towards left gully and got to see someone skiing down. We heard very little from her turns and figured the snow must be soft. Weeeeeeee! We started booting up left with Alex taking the lead again since he’s the strongest of the three of us. With a lot of careful poking and prodding along with some pit digging we decided that we were alright skiing down the gully. There was once again a lot of variability from wall to wall in Left Gully. Hard stuff on one side, soft wind slab on the other. The descent was enjoyable but I forgot how steep Left Gully is. There was a little pucker factor there for me.
When the crew got the bottom of Left, another skier had just descended Chute. He had clearly booted up from the other side of the ravine, maybe even up Lions Head; there were no tracks leading to the top of the Ravine anywhere else. Alex shouted to the skier to ask how Chute was skiing. The guy said “Terrible” and then immediately skied away. Turns out he was full of shit and just a jerk.
To satisfy Andy and Alex’s need for the steeps we booted up Chute. I set the skin track at first and then Alex took over booting duties. Once we got into the choke near the middle of the run Alex started wallowing through deep snow. I wish I had my phone handy to get a little video of him struggling through the steep, 45+ degree snow. It looked rough. I was glad he was breaking trail.
A little ways above the choke I elected to transition rather than continue up into the really steep stuff. I wasn’t feeling confident on the poppy slab and I’m completely incapable of skiing with any kind of grace or precision in terrain with consequence. I dug myself a nice little bench and sat down to enjoy the view. There was such little wind that I was able to see and hear hikers on the Lions Head trail on the summit cone as well as Marc Chauvin’s avalanche course at the bottom of the bowl. It was one of those unreal warm and windless days on Mount Washington. You don’t get many of those.
After taking a relaxing break I skied down Chute. It didn’t feel terrifyingly steep this far down and the snow was soft. In fact, lower down, the snow was so soft I sunk in up to my waist in places. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
I found a nice spot at the bottom of the bowl to watch Alex and Andy ski. Andy went first and for the first time ever he was skiing slowly and cautiously with measured jump turns. On one of his last jump turns he knocked loose a sizable chunk of slab that funneled right down the run. I think Andy got a little lucky with that one and he knew it. A short while later Alex came down and they both styled it through the choke. Every time I start to think I’m a decent skier I’ll watch one of these guys ski something and I’m reminded that I suck.
From here we elected to shwack our way down little headwall rather than kill a hiker on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. After a brutal shrub hugging fest around the little headwall I decided that it would have been better to kill a couple hikers on the TRT than to go through that again. But we didn’t have to remove our skis the whole way down so we were winning in that respect.
Sherburne Ski Trail
The Sherburne was delightful. It was in great shape in spite of or possibly because of all the traffic it had received. It skied like a groomed run and I was able to concentrate on just enjoying the ride and making nice turns.
Overall, it was a solid day of skiing with good people. It felt really good to be able to get into avalanche terrain and make smart decisions that led to great skiing.