Our game plan, once again, was heading to Mt. Washington. Winter tricked us again this week, and left NE without much significant snowfall.
We’re quickly becoming regulars at Rob’s ski club where he, Sweeney, and I crashed Friday night. We got an early start Saturday for the usual skin up to Hermit lake. Avalanche risk was on the low-end of moderate, and after getting some details from one of the forecasters, we went to go scope out the bowl.
Even in the bowl it was a balmy 20 degrees, with little wind, and some serious fog with light snow. We hiked up past the lunch rocks and headed for the Sluice, with Sweeney in the lead for the first run. Sweeney quickly found an isolated pocket of thin cover that broke through to water runoff below, but we were able to safely skirt it. Cresting the top of Sluice the cover thinned and left us in low brush. It was time for me to do a test run of my new (used) Garmont AT boots. After a slow transition, we descended through the fog. The snowpack was firm and a bit chattery on the steeps, but overall pretty decent.
Sweeney’s camera is to thank for the shots, and he kindly played the main photographer role. The fog made for very low lighting.
By the time we were down to the base of the bowl we were already considering what to hit next. The visibility was coming and going, but the Chute looked good. It held firm, heavy snow all the way up, that made us feel more comfortable with the stability.
Our descent was pretty socked in. At one point I thought I saw Rob not far ahead of me, and called out, not realizing I was trying to talk to a rock less than 20 yards away. When we reconvened, Rob remarked he thought the pitch was steeper than usual. I found it difficult to gauge in the pea soup fog, but it had felt steep.
The snow was good, and it was early, so we headed back up the Chute for a third run, a record number for me in the bowl. At this point the snow had switched to medium dendrite flakes, and was definitely collecting on the slope. The wind joined in by buffeting us as we crested the lip of the bowl. By our third lap I was finally getting used to my ski boots, and was able to play around a bit more towards the bottom.
Back in the bowl, we decided to call it a day, partially given the increasing weather, though we had time for another go. Back in Pinkham we were informed that the Chute had been measured as Steep as 62-65 degrees in spots, in other words, pretty friggin steep, and hands down the steepest I’ve ever skied.
Gulf Of Slides
Sunday was a different story. The forecast called for -15 degree temps on the summit with 65 mph winds, and the actual weather was even more severe. Given this, Rob and Sweeney were still considering heading into Huntington Ravine to check it out, with a friend of Robs. But they had Hotronics, while I have a history of frostbite, so I made other plans.
My main goal for the day was to stay warm and below treeline, so I skinned by myself up the Gulf of Slides ski trail.
The skinning was tricky even though cover was decent, because of icy slopes on steeper sections. At the entrance to the Gulf I scoped around what I presumed was the old slide path that tore through a swath of mature trees. I quickly decided it was bitter cold and blustery, and headed down.
Disappointed with the skiing, I packed up and took advantage of a half day ticket at Wildcat while I waited for my friends to return. It turns out they encountered similar conditions and turned around at the base of Huntington, which was completely whited-out.
Its been fun up on Mt. Washington recently, but I really hope a POW day is in store for us soon. I sure could use some more tree skiing.