Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in eastern US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
Mon Apr 17, 2000 11:40 am
<!-NOTE: Message edited by 'admin'-!><I>(Note from the Administrator: This report was originally posted on 5/5/99. Due to our move to new servers, the date and time attributed to this post is incorrect.)</I> <BR> <BR>Part 2: Practice pays off in the Right Gully <BR> <BR>We last left our tale as J and E headed east on Rt. 302 towards North Conway and the Mt. Washington Valley. The light was fading, but we were still able to catch glimpses of snow on Mt. Moosilauke before things became too dim. As we passed under the shadow of Mt. Washington, there just was just too little light to get a feeling for how much snow was up there, but we knew from previous reports that there was plenty of cover. Passing through Crawford Notch, the full moon began to rise over the mountains to the south and east and you can imagine how awesome that was. We arrived at our motel (rates are quite cheap this time of year; easy to get a room for $35) and crashed out in preparation for an early start. <BR>I'm used to getting a large contingent going in the morning for the hike up into the Ravine, but with just two people, we were able to get a great spot right in the Pinkham Notch parking lot (although it was filling up fast). We were hiking by around 7:00, my personal best start and although temps were cool in the shadows of the parking lot, shorts alone were enough. My pack weighed in at around 32 lb. (the pack scale has been fixed by the way so that it now starts at zero and presumably gives a more accurate reading). E's pack was surprisingly heavy for what she expected, around 31 lb., so we swapped a couple pounds of food my way and started up the trail. The beginning of the trail was dry, but patchy snow started at around 2500'. At around 2600', the trail started to get consistently covered, and soon it was all snow. The surrounding woods are loaded with snow, it looked like 2-3 feet as we approached Hojo's. Some small crampons would probably be nice on the boots in places where the trail is more ice than snow, and we noticed one guy that was really doing well with them, no slippage at all. We stopped in at Hojo's, but hung around just long enough to hit the sunscreen, eat a bit of food, and check the trail report board. We hiked the next stretch to Tuckerman Ravine and found about 2 dozen people there, with only one person hiking up; it felt good to be there early before the crowds for a change. It was really getting warm, but we decided to switch to ski boots and ski pants for the hike up right gully. We kept our skis on our packs, and were joined by three other skiers as we hiked up. We were actually able to hike to the right (as you look up) of the main gully since there was enough snow to cover much of the vegetation. This hike seemed a bit easier than the main gully itself due to a slightly lesser pitch. We crested the top of the gully, and headed across the Alpine Garden towards the East Snowfield. The Alpine Garden is still skiable, but it is an obstacle course of small shrubs that need to be avoided. At the far side of the Garden, we stopped for some more food and scoped out the East Snowfields for a route to the summit. We saw a few telemark skiers cutting switchbacks to the summit, as well a group of alpiners, but in general it was an unpopulated scene. The larger groups of rocks are sticking out of the snow, but there are plenty of skiable lines up to a certain elevation. E stopped hiking at an elevation of 5850', above which she could see that the skiing was tight in the rocks. I continued on for a few more minutes to an elevation of 6030' before I finally strapped on the skis. You could even go higher if you found the correct path, and it looked like there were some skiable lines if you wanted to push it. I skied down to where E had stopped, and we hung out for a bit before heading down. There was a breeze of about 10 mph, just enough to keep you cool, but not enough that a windbreaker was really necessary. Descending the East Snowfield, we found fairly thick snow; giving yourself a little air helped to get up and out of it. E worked on steep terrain turning in preparation for Right Gully. The skiing was fun though, and if you turned a certain way, it generated little snowballs (or sometimes larger ones) that rolled down the slope. In general though, they did not get bigger as they rolled, and eventually just stopped. We directed ourselves toward the right gully by following the route that we had hiked through the Alpine Garden, and eventually found ourselves at the top of the ravine in the correct position to descent the Right Gully. I was a little worried about E's first time in the gully (first time on a 40 degree slope), but the practice from yesterday, and warm-up on the East Snowfield had really paid off (either that, or she performed under pressure ;). Whatever happened, some of her best turns were made in the Right Gully and the run went smoothly. We had an excellent view of the action in the bowl, and the crowd had grown to around 200-300? people. We descended to the skier's left of the lunch rocks, and out to the bottom of the bowl where we were faced with the next challenge, the Little Headwall. The Little Headwall was open, but there was a section of about 50 yards or so that was an running brook. The question was, do we head to the left side, or the right side to get around without getting stuck? A few people were attempting the right side, and although they continued on down, their advice was pop back on the hiking trail for a minute or two, then reconnect. We followed this advice, and walked or <BR>a couple of minutes past the main first aid shack on the Ravine trail, then put on our skis to finish off the little headwall. There were some other areas of open water, but it was still possible to ski over to the Lower Snowfield and connect to the bottom of Hillman's. Some people took their skis off in sections, but if you enjoy dodging brush and funky terrain, the trip from the Little Headwall to Hillman's is a lot of fun. Connecting onto Hillman's Highway, we followed the very bottom and continued onto the Sherburne Ski Trail. The Sherburne is bumped up, and coverage was good for about the first third, at which time signs indicated that it was closed below that point, and ushered you over to the Tuckerman Ravine trail for the hike down. I also found out that is was possible to do the next third of the trail as well, without encountering too much grass and mud if one was so inclined. Total downward vertical as judged by the Vertech was 3200', about 1000' short of the total possible trip. The plan is to return this weekend for another excursion with friends, it will be interesting to see what has changed after the warm weather.