Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuckerman Ravine and the Sherburne Ski Trail 1/22/14

Working title: Earn your turns!

Trails: Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Sherburne Ski Trail

Mileage/gain: ~4.5 miles, 1879' of gain

The lung debacle of yesterday, gave way to a plan, and some generally less strenuous physical activities. Originally, we'd planned to hit Adams and Jefferson, but the bitter cold, and the winds forecast for the day, kept us lower and more protected. Some backcountry skiing was called for. I slept well last night, and was refreshed and ready to go. I met up with Mike at his place, and we soon headed up to Pinkham, to meet up with his friend John, who we were originally supposed to hike with.

Blue skies were showing, the winds were fresh, and the mercury hung in the single digits below zero. Good thing we'd be working up a sweat! Skinning is, by far, my preferred mode of winter uphill travel. It's not effortless by any means, but it's easier than snowshoeing (at least I think so). Ice already forming on my beard, we signed in, and set off up the trail. Mike took a moment to warm up to the whole skinning thing, but after a fashion, he really enjoyed himself! John kept up well, and probably would have beaten us to the base of the ravine, if we hadn't been holding him back.

We soon had views up to the mountain, clad in purest white. The scene reminded me of my first ascent of Mt. Washington, almost three years ago, except the temperatures were about 40 degrees warmer. Today was definitely NOT a summit day.

Hoar frost

View into Ravine of Raymond Cataract
The grade on the upper part of Tuckerman Ravine Trail, is significantly less steep than the lower, and our pace quickened. We chatted with one hiker, who passed us on the way up and back from the bowl, and saw two rangers descending on snowmobiles. Soon, we reached the shelters at Hermit Lake. Mike and I took off our skis and skins, while John readied himself for a climb of Left Gully. Spindrift could be seen at the top of the ravine walls, and while it was warm (ish) in the sun, the warmth I felt, belied the below zero temperatures. The scene surrounding us was more than worth the skin up.

South Gullies on Boott Spur

Tuckerman Ravine headwall

Lion Head
After a short break, we were ready. We wished John luck in his climb, and set off for the start of the Sherburne. The John Sherburne Ski Trail (affectionately called the Sherbie) snakes down to Pinkham roughly parallel to Tuckerman Ravine Trail. It was cut in 1934, as a direct ski route from the bowl to Pinkham (skiing down Tuckerman Ravine Trail is strictly verboten), and hasn't changed much since then. The trail has many steep, swooping turns, and gets progressively steeper as you descend. 

Initially, we both had some trouble. My left ski boot wouldn't lock into ski mode, and one of Mike's bindings wasn't locked in place. Troubles fixed, we made our way down, with many stops in between, to admire the scenery around us, and to give our legs a break. There was some nice powder on the sides, and some obstacles poking out of the snow, least of which were some errant rocks. The waterbars were particularly interesting, as on my last trip, they were filled in. Needless to say, I enjoyed every, single, turn. 

Far too quickly, as with any good thing, the run was over. If it weren't for the sub-zero temperatures, we would have gone for another lap. Instead, we ended up heading back into Conway for lunch. Afterward, I headed to the viewpoint on Rt. 302/16, where the Presidentials were bathed in late afternoon light, under bluebird skies.

Thanks again to Mike and John for a great few hours in the cold!

1 comment:

  1. Terrific post, Bill. I saw some of your photos before this entry and definitely felt like you were a pro photographer on a hike, but after reading this post I'm not sure what medium you are better at, writing or photography. I'm glad I rolled out of bed for this one, keep that lens pointed towards "achieving a vision beyond your sight" -Randy Pierce et al.

    ~The cold is a blade worth sharpening.