Skiing Raymond's Cataract

There is so much snow on Mount Washington. Raymonds Cataract is filled top to bottom. It’s even possible to thread together a full ski from Lion’s Head rock.

John starting to cut over from Lion’s Head Winter Trail. Normally there’s a forest here.

John starting to cut over from Lion’s Head Winter Trail. Normally there’s a forest here.

I’ve tried to get out skiing with John for a while. It seemed our schedules never quite meshed up. But this past Wednesday we made it happen. John set a new standard for ski partners. What he lacked in speed on the ascent and transitions he made up for with in other ways. He picked me up at my house; I didn’t have to drive at all. Then he stopped by my house a couple days later with a selection of fine beers to sample. Pretty exceptional. 5 stars.

My plan for the day was to boot up Hillman’s Highway and drop into Oakes Gulf again. But after eying up Raymond’s Cataract from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail we decided to ski it first and figure out the rest of the day from there.

Typically getting into Raymond’s Cataract is a bit of a slog. You need to enter from high up above tree line and work your way through some rocks and alpine scrub before you can start sliding on snow. But, with the amount of snow that’s in there now, you can start skiing from the Lion’s Head Winter Trail well before you hit the typical tree line. All of the small trees that would normally block your progress are completely filled in.

After exiting the Lion’s Head Winter Trail we were able to skin up to about 4800 feet. The snow was super firm with some sheets of crust poking through in places. We started out skiing very hard sastrugi before it evened out into firm windslab. John took a little fall in the sastrugi because he forgot to tighten up his boots but he quickly got into a groove doing telemark jumps turns through the steeper sections.

After a long section of moderate open bowl skiing the Cataract chokes down and you get to what is normally a frozen waterfall. In most years you’d need to skirt around to the side through shrubs. But on this day it was just a steep pitch of snow that was super fun. The cataract keeps choking down and then you get to the bottom of the drainage. Here we had to make our way to tight trees and deeper snow. Nothing too terrible but it wasn’t great. Luckily, it ended pretty quickly and we popped right back out onto the Huntington fire road.

It was great to make some fun turns in new terrain that was in spectacular condition. We filled up the rest of the day with a great run down Hillman’s Highway and the lower snowfields to the Sherburne trail.