Recently, as I go about my daily routine, I’ve been hearing all sorts of hushed utterances from passersby, people around the office, news anchors and others regarding spring, snow melt, warmth and other such unsavory notions. To anyone guilty of such blasphemy, this post is for you. I present Exhibit A:
Winter Endures! Undeterred by the recent rainstorms (or, for that matter, the rain that we woke to yesterday morning) we ventured back into Franconia Notch in search of steep, exciting lines.
A few weeks back
, we set out to the same area with the aim of skiing Lincoln’s Throat, one of the slides running down from Franconia Ridge. Upon getting there we realized that the unnamed line to looker’s left of it might actually be more fun: it was a powder day and we just wanted to make huge fast turns. This time around, we decided get back to the original plan and see what it was all about. We loaded the car, picked up some breakfast, talked to some sales clerks about how they “don’t know about the skiing because of the warmth and the rain” and headed up into the notch, where the rain promptly turned over to snow.
The skin in was relatively easy going, as per the last time around. We made sure not to go a mile out of the way time, and quickly found the stream bed which leads up to the slides. We found the stream to be completely opened up in many places and had some difficulty crossing. We resorted to tossing skis across a shallow section and quickly running over a few exposed rocks. AT sole blocks and trekking poles for the win. We eventually found that the stream was intact at higher elevations and were able to come out of the woods and head for the slides.
|Cliffed out: the ice bulge at the top of the skiable part of the slide.
Photo Credit: Rob
In classic Franconia Notch style, the weather became progressively worse as we approached the summit. The wind picked up, the clouds sunk in around us and the snow continued to fall. All florid prose aside, the conditions turned out to be close to perfect. It was a touch on the warm side toward the bottom, but once we got to decent elevations it dipped below freezing – much more comfortable for a long climb. The recent rains and warmth had created a thick rain crust layer, and solidified the snow pack to the point of negating any avalanche concern. Anticipating these conditions, we took crampons and ice axes along. For most of the ascent, trekking poles and some carefully places steps were sufficient protection. Close to the top, I starting to get nervous and pulled out my mountaineering ax. Rob used a whippet self arrest pole to fill that role. Despite these few difficulties, the travel uphill was actually considerably easier than the last time, conspicuously lacking any wallows through thigh deep snow and deeper drifts. However, the snowfall was steadily coating over the firm rain surface. The crust was providing just enough support for relatively easy climbing and the new powder (2-6 inches) was looking to be just enough for some soft turns.
|Our staging area. It was pretty steep.
And we couldn’t really see.
Photo Credit: Rob
We arrived at the top of the chute and were struck by how cool this place really was. We were surrounded nearly on 3 sides by steep, icy rock. The top of the chute was steep enough that we had to kick into the slope and build ourselves little platforms to work from. It was probably close to 40 degrees at the very top. The fog was now full blown pea-soup. Rob snagged a few pictures, we finished messing around with our gear, clicked in and got ready for the skiing.
|Ready to shred. Photo Credit: Rob
Concerned about scraping away too much of the new snow surface and ruining Rob’s run, I do a quick jump turn, and take off straight down the fall line. It turns out that the snow was pretty fast that day. Between the low visibility and tight line, it felt like things were coming at me pretty fast – this was some exciting skiing! Eventually, I figure it’s time to speed check and pull over.
|As Haigh would say, ‘Point ’em and pray!’
As I come to a stop I notice a big swath of slough pouring past me. By now, I’m really starting to worry that I’ve ruined Rob’s line by taking all the snow down with me. A few seconds later, Rob tears past me, laying down some fast, hard turns. Apparently there was plenty of snow for the two of us, despite the large volume of slough. We leap-frog our way down, alternating who takes first tracks.
|Emerging from the fog. Photo Credit: Rob
The pow wasn’t quite so epic, but the line was just a little bit steeper and the snow, just a little bit faster. Bottom line: great run. By this time we’d each worked up a serious thirst, so we cracked open a couple cans of stout, quenched ourselves, and started to find our way back to the Old Bridle Path and eventually the parking area.
Gear List (click links for more product info):