Monroe Brook and Oakes Gulf

I haven’t been able to get out skiing much lately. Between work and constantly being sick my time has gotten sucked up. I missed going up to the Sunday River Skimo Race this past weekend because I just wasn’t feeling up to it. But luckily, by Sunday, I was feeling much better and was able to get into some new terrain on Mount Washington: Monroe Brook and Oakes Gulf.

Skiing Monroe Brook.JPG

The mountain had just gotten a huge dump of snow, possibly the biggest storm of the season: 18+ inches recorded at the summit. The avalanche danger on Friday and Saturday was out of control. The MWAC actually had a red blinking map to warn people to stay away from avalanche terrain. I’ve never seen them do that before. By Sunday morning just about the entire headwall of Tuckerman Ravine had slid.

Consequently, we decided to test our luck on the west side of the mountain. Andy and I met Cheyenne near the cog and parked at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail lot and headed in. Luckily, there was plenty of traffic ahead of us to pack in the trail. A little ways before we hit Gem Pool and the steep section of the Ammo Cheyenne noted that we were actually ascending Monroe Brook. There were no tracks going up the Ammo proper. We decided to just stick with the broken trail. I pretended like I noticed our mistake earlier and was just cool with it.

When we popped out at the base of Monroe Brook there was a large group of hikers that had realized their mistake and were turning around. We could see several more hikers making their way up the slide. They must have just kept following the tracks ahead of them and assumed they were on the Ammo trail. We kept making our way up, fighting our way through krummholz and trees since the boot pack didn’t stay in the open area of the brook that you’d want to ski.

At tree line we caught up with the hikers and they were clearly clueless about where they were. Several of them were wearing ski helmets. When we started to move up towards the saddle between Mt Monroe and Little Monroe they even started following us for a while. So bizarre. This is how people get lost.

The wind on the ridge was brutal but we transitioned and were able to traverse into Oakes Gulf after making a few steep turns on the flank of Monroe. The turns in Oakes were amazing. The wind had abated and the snow was firm enough to put some power into our turns.

After reaching the bottom we traversed south and skied Double Barrel. The top of the run was scoured ice crust. Even getting over to it was tricky. I ended up putting on my skis while sitting on a rock, careful not to let them plunge down the ice. Cheyenne decided to back off of Double Barrel and instead skied another lap of what we did before.

The snow in Double Barrel quickly softened up and I was able to make some nice turns. The snow in the choke was especially deep and while it made jump turns more arduous I wasn’t at all worried about sliding down the slope if I biffed it. Andy came down after me and of course he made it look easy. It felt great to ski something steep and narrow in good style.

We met back up with Cheyenne after his run and trekked out of Oakes to meet the wind again. Shortly after making the ridge we were able to rip skins and slide on firm snow and ice over to the start of Monroe Brook.

Per usual for the day, the start of Monroe Brook was icy firm but it quickly softened up. By the middle choke it was full blown pow and I was able to sit back on my skis all the way down.

Even the long ski out on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail was fun and we were able to make it all the way back to the lot by skiing on the side of the road. While people were getting skunked in Tuckerman Ravine we found what were probably some of the best turns on the mountain. A stellar day all around.