…Such was our demeanor when we lumbered into Cafe Noche in Conway Village and hastily ordered all of the food and drink appropriate to the circumstances. We had just skulked down from a day of superlative skiing in Tuckerman Ravine and were on the ride home this past Sunday . Let’s rewind back to last Friday night for a full trip report…
Over the course of last week, Mount Washington somehow managed to pick up enough snow to fill in most of the lines in Tucks to a reasonable state. Most of it was due not to actual heavy snowfall but to wind loading. Our hope was that during the course of the week things would sinter enough that much of it would be skiable for the weekend. We rallied in North Conway and prayed for a favorable weekend update and avy forecast.
As we got closer to the Notch, we were dismayed to see that snow was falling a good deal more heavily than had been forecast – great for the Wildcat crowd, not so great for us. Between new snow and windloading we could be in for some sketchy conditions. We arrived at Pinkham to find a fairly startling mix of Moderate and Considerable ratings.
We decided we’d skin up the Tucks Trail, change into crampons at the Lion’s Head Winter Route, climb to the ridge, and have a look at the east snow fields from which point we could easily summit and lap the East Snow Fields. With so little protection from the wind and such mellow terrain, they should be pretty scoured and free from touchy slabs.
We arrived at the Winter Route to find a log jam of climbers messing around with their gear. We were promptly advised by one of them, that shortly down the trail we would encounter an hour long wait while dozens of novice climbers were coached up and over the steeps. None of us relished the idea of standing around in the wind in sub-zero temperatures, and we were forced to abandon Plan A.
We quickly settled upon a contingency plan: we’d try our hand in The Lobster Claw, with the thought that it might be just filled in enough to be skiable, but still small enough to preclude the presence of any truly large slabs. We continued to HoJo’s, de-skinned, got dressed for the cold, and prepared for some boot-packing.
Once we got into the bowl, it became totally socked in and gusty. We started toward the snow fields under The Lobster Claw, bushwhacking through the un-buried shrubs and into ever deeper drifts. Eventually, we realized that we needed to seriously consider the safety of the situation. We started digging some snowpits and discovered small chunks of slab breaking off before we’d even finished digging out columns. Kinda shady… The poor visibility and double-digit sub-zero temperature didn’t help much. We decided to go no higher than the snow fields at the bottom of the Lobster Claw and stay out of the slide paths. We’d get a few good turns in, and then pick our way to the Cutler River for maybe a few more untracked turns before the Sherbie. In short: skunked.
We tried to make the best of it…
Well we tried to make the best of it anyway. It was better than not skiing… After picking our way through all the shrubs and junk in the floor of the ravine we began searching for the Cutler River in what was probably slowest wilderness travel I’ve ever participated in in my life: a knee to thigh deep wallow through frozen bushes and back and forth across the only partially frozen Cutler…
Well that was a debacle. We called it quits for the day, planned out some rest and refueling, and contemplated our next move. After some thought, we decided we’d get an early, start head up to HoJo’s and see what the report called for. We were none too enthused about the inbound skiing story in New England, and thought a bad day in Tucks would probably be better than the same day in the resort. We were pleasantly surprised, to say the least. We arrived at HoJo’s to find that Left Gully and Lobster Claw were both de-escalated to a rating of Low. Our path was laid clear before us: we quickly agreed to ski The LG and then make our way across the bowl to The Lobster Claw. The LG if nothing else would be long, steep, and fast. The Lobster Claw, we knew from the previous day, would have a decent amount of snow at least toward the bottom. It was a good 20 degrees warmer, less windy and visibility was great – in hindsight I could have used my black lenses. We eagerly went after The LG.
After warming on Left Gully, we decided to traverse across the floor of the ravine to scope the conditions on the south facing aspects. In the clear skies, we could see that the coverage in Lobster Claw was a lot worse than we’d expected. We decided to poke around under Right Gully to see how the conditions would be. A number of people had already hiked all over lower portions of the south facing aspects. The snow felt a good deal more stable than it had the previous day, and the southern aspects had been in the sun for a while by the time we got there, but we were still concerned about the pillowy convexities toward the top or the Sluice and Right Gully, so we stuck to the low angle bottom parts. This was easily the best skiing of the weekend. Ziehl took a turn behind the camera for a few runs.
After a short dry spell of epic skiing, we finally hit some good luck and scored some high quality turns. It seemed like we might finally be through the worst part of the winter (the part with no good skiing) and with lifted spirits we headed back down into The Valley in search of sustenance.Gear List (click links for more product info):