Friday, April 18, 2014

A triumphal return to the GOS 4/18/14

Working title: Spicy in, spicy out

Peak: None

Trails: Sherburne Ski Trail, Gulf of Slides Ski Trail, gullies, snowfields

Elevation/outing duration: ~4400' vertical (gain and loss), time of 6:58

Last week, I finally got the opportunity to ski in Tuckerman Ravine. The first of many. At least I got it in before the rain came, and made good things worse.

I'm sorry, this is totally off topic...
Jake and I schemed for a whole four days (see: forecast-watching), and with the reports coming out of Tucks (and the fact that GOS was on his hit-list), decided to go elsewhere. The original plan called for a GOS ascent, up and over the ridge into Oakes Gulf, then back over for a GOS run. As is often the case, things didn't work that way.

Super early to rise, and a 5am meet time. No wonder my neighbor thinks I'm crazy. Stopped for a proper breakfast at Priscilla's in Conway, then got a look at the mighty Agiocochook. What a difference a week makes! Bare spots showed all around, but the GOS looked good from afar. 

Pinkham was only half-full around 7:15, and after snagging a spot right next to the Sherburne entrance, we started up under sunny skies and fairly warm temps. Surfaces were firm, and both crossings of the New River were open but manageable. As we climbed, so did the temperature, at least it felt that way to us. In stark contrast to two weeks ago, the trail came complete with bare spots, ice, rocks, and brush. The potential was strong, for a sporty descent.

One could make a legitimate claim, that timing was everything today. As we arrived in the ravine, the three others that passed us on the way up, were about ready to start up the gully. It looked good, especially under bluebird skies.

The snow was still pretty firm, so we donned crampons, strapped skis to our packs, and started to climb. This is where I found the Achilles heel of my camera bag. When skis are strapped to my pack, it makes it nearly impossible to get the camera out... therefore, not so many ascent pictures. Mercifully, the climb ended, not without many stops (mostly by me). The forecast high clouds could be seen off to the west, the entire length of the Sandwich Range, laid out before them.

These clouds wouldn't stop the sun from doing work. It was strange to see bare ground here, 5000 feet up, while lower elevations were still cloaked. We decided against going over the top to check out Oakes, and we later found out that it's not in good shape. After a food break, run number one was on us.

We dropped into the top of Main Gully, and found the snow to be still fairly firm, but edgeable, yielding good turns. Pockets of new snow were downright manky, and really grabbed at my skis. A really decent first run overall, Jake rated it a 6 or a 6.5. Stopping short of the base, we regrouped and decided to boot up lookers left, and head for the south snowfields, where a friend of Jake's (who we saw during our break) was headed.

Slowly, we climbed, and soon crested the minor ridge, over to the other side of the ravine. I also finally retrieved my camera from it's prison. The snowfields were impressive, and there were but two sets of tracks. 

We booted to near the top, and put the skis back on, to traverse the top of the slope and drop in. The high clouds had veiled the sun, but it continued to work in our favor. Snow softened, and we savored the turns. Not easy skiing by any stretch of the imagination, but wicked enjoyable, and well worth the effort. Jake rated it an 8.

We transitioned again, and started to climb out, deciding to make up our minds as to what to do, when we got to the top. Once there, I approached Jake and said, "no more climbing". For my crime, we had to climb up and around scrub, to get to the top of Main Gully. Another quick transition, and we were off for our third and final run. Conditions on this side had improved considerably, and the skiing was fantastic. Jake rated it a 9.

Legs feeling it, we set off on our potentially spicy exit. While it wasn't the best skiing ever, it was a lot of fun, piecing together a way through the obstacles. The warmer temperatures down low had softened most of the remaining snow, so good, if somewhat mushy, turns were had. With the exception of the two river crossings, we were able to ski all the way back to the car.

Also, I'm pretty sure the group we passed going down, was some upper management from work playing hooky. Figures. The parking lot was full to overflowing, including the overflow lot, and cars were also parked along Rt. 16. They weren't in Gulf of Slides. Probably close to 20 people in the ravine today, Tucks must have been a zoo.

Retiring to the Moat, we celebrated with beers and a late lunch, and managed to get back in good time. Now to nurse the color I got today. Thanks Jake, for another great tour, and here's to three lap days!


  1. Nice writeup and pics Bill. I looked up 'Live large and love life', it said 'see also Bill Robichaud'

  2. I agree with Jim. Looks like yet another fantastic excursion. Impressive!

    1. It was a great day. That being said, I am looking forward to snow-free trails. Perhaps our schedules will align to the point that you'll be able to join me one of these days.