Thoroughly fed up with the lackluster in-bounds skiing thus far, and more interested in shredding gnar (there was no real pow, but there was plenty of gnar) than partying our guts out, Rob, Ziehl and I set our sights on a New Years Day 2012 Tucks Expedition. We rolled out of bed around 7:30, and some how managed to squander a solid two hours of precious daylight before hitting the trail just after 9:30.
The Tuckerman Ravine Trail was about 50% water ice mandating some sort of traction. Rob and I strapped crampons onto our AT boots; while Ziehl, with the winning combo, raced ahead with trail runners and Micro-Spikes. No part of the trail was skinnable.
On the way up we encountered the Hermit Lake caretakers who confirmed that there may indeed be some half decent skiing to be done in the bowl. They also assured us that the Avy Fx was essentially unchanged over the last 12 hours and generally favorable. With so few potential slide paths even in existence with this unseasonably thin snow pack, only isolated and small instabilities could be expected. We decided to head into the bowl for a closer look at our prospective lines.
The bowl, looking pretty gnarly…
Left Gully in the center.
Gotta have evidence that it was actually us…
Once into the Left Gully, we spaced out and started to be more actively observant of the snowpack. After having to literally ‘put my back into it’ to cause a small slab to fail in a shear test, and finding almost no slabs in excess of an inch or so, we deemed the situation reasonably safe. Regardless, we spaced out and kept our beacons transmitting. Rob took the lead, with Ziehl in the middle, while I brought up the rear.
The climb was smooth going: the snow was dense from the slow trickle of wind-loading seen in the bowls over the previous few days and was firm enough to hike in but easy to kick into and edge on.
The Sun struggles to peak over the Boot Spur in the early winter sky.
Rob and Ziehl on the ascent up Left Gully.
At about 4500′ looking back toward NH 16 and Wildcat, from Left Gully.
Ziehl, on the climb.
Rob, breaking trail.
About 80% of the way up, Rob informs us that the top of the Gully is pretty bullet-proof: climbable but probably not worth it. Ziehl quickly catches up to Rob while I follow from a safe 200 yards downhill. When I arrive, they’ve already got a bench set up where we can get into our skis. I end up with the (slightly dubious) honor of first tracks this run, jump into my new Dynafits and begin to pick my way down. Check out some gratuitous POV action below:
The snow was cold and fast, and the line was narrow and hairy. With a conspicuous lack of elegance, but with an eye toward ‘skiing deliberately’ I picked my way down LG. Having completed my run without incident, I resumed camera duty…
The Headwall looking thoroughly un-skiable. Note the ice climbers heading
for The Sluice in the shady lower right region.
Ziehl picks his way down LG.
Eyeing the finish…
Rob charges out of LG.
Zoomed out for scale…
As soon as we finished up in the Gully we traversed back toward the bowl to scope out conditions in The Chute. We were only able to get maybe a third of the way up it before we were stopped by exposed rock. This time Ziehl took first tracks, followed by me and finally Rob. The Chute turned out to be the best skiing of the day, featuring softer and seemingly stable snow. Check it out:
Rob coming out of The Chute.
Straightened out for the choke point.
Rob rockets out of the choke…
One last turn, for good measure.
Mission Accomplished! Leaving the bowl…
There wasn’t really any pow to be slain, but there was plenty of gnar which was sufficient to quench our back-country thirst for at least a few more days. The Sherburne was kind of a shambles, with a good dose of mud, grass and stumps, but it was skiable nearly to the parking lot at Pinkham Notch. Rob and I hacked our way down the Sherbie while Ziehl shot down the Tucks Trail with his Spikes and trail runners.
Long story short: season’s off to a decent start, now lets see if we can keep things moving in this direction for a few months!