Saturday, April 26, 2014

Washington with a side of Tucks 4/25/14

Working title: Who ever said spring wasn't a season of harvest?

Peak: Mt. Washington

Trails: Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Right Gully, bushwhack, Lion Head Trail, snowfields, The Chute, Sherburne Ski Trail

Elevation/outing duration: ~4500' gain/loss, time of 8:03

Hot on the heels of last week, and after much forecast waffling, Friday appeared to be THE day to hit something. Ideas got tossed around, and they all fell somewhere on Washington. After never enough sleep, I met up with Jake and headed north. On getting a glimpse of the mountain, our plan changed, as it would a couple times throughout the day. Pinkham was starting to fill up, but the early birds like us profit. We were delighted to find that the Tuckerman Ravine Trail was still doable on skis... now doable is a relative term. Rocks and melted out areas were very prevalent in the lower mile, and conditions deteriorated further in the afternoon.

The sweaty climb commenced, and we made great time, getting up to Hojo's in a bit over an hour and a half. Just as we arrived, the snow rangers updated the avalanche board, with most terrain having low danger, and the rest moderate. We ran into a guy that I'll refer to as The Amazing Jonathan, because of his crazy ravine ski tours around Mt. Washington. Several inches of snow had fallen in the prior 24 hours, and contrasted with the older surfaces. We skinned up as far as we could, then threw the skis on our packs for a while. It was going to be a gorgeous day!

Hillmans area

Left Gully

Fresh on the headwall
The Amazing Jonathan was already halfway up Right Gully by the time we pulled into the bowl, and it looked like it would be a decent route out of the ravine. Crampons on, we started up. The new snow was pretty soft, and we were concerned that it would become manky as the day progressed. After a short, but dicey bushwhack at the top of the gully, and we came out into the open, a short distance from the junction of Lion Head Trail and Alpine Garden Trail.

Discussion ensued, and (after seeing the Amazing Jonathan again, on his way down from the summit) we opted to summit, hit the East Snowfields, and traverse across to ski down The Chute. Skis back on, we skinned up the snowfields as far as we could, before transitioning again. A day full of transitions. The new snow was much more grippy, and we slipped a bit on the old surfaces. Sadly, the skinning didn't last nearly as long as we'd hoped for. Rock hopping became the tedious, tedious, game all the way to the summit.

Great rime formations greeted us above ~6000', and we soon saw towers poking above the talus, taunting. We had been hearing heavy equipment on our way up, and upon reaching the Auto Road, there was a Cog train and an excavator, pounding away at the frozen surfaces. It's so peaceful up here. The reality was, that the light winds, and powerful April sunshine, made it feel a lot warmer than the 23 degrees the OBS recorded during our stay. Needless to say, we stuck around long enough to take some pictures, then retreated down the road a bit to access the snowfields.

Lunch was had atop the snowfields, at 6000', basking in the sun. What a way to spend the afternoon, and we had yet to even turn our skis in anger. Transitioning, we ripped down a good section of the snowfield. The new snow was buttery, and great to turn in, as was the now softened older surfaces. This received a Jake rating of 8. With a couple of hundred vertical to go, we had to cut right through some rock bands to start our traverse over to the ravine.

There were a few others heading toward the top of the headwall, as we made our way across. I think they got a bit freaked out when they hit the steepest portion of the traverse, because a couple of them stopped, and while Jake got around them, they started moving as soon as he did. The traverse above the center of the headwall was most airy, as you look almost straight down into the bottom of the bowl, people looking like ants below.

The Chute was exactly that, narrow, and steep! The snow was good though, great corn on the left and in the middle, not so much to the right. The left and middle received a Jake rating of 9, with the right scoring a 6. A couple of stops, and some good turns later, we were back in the bottom of the bowl, searching for a couple friends of Jake's. We did find them, and climbed up to the rock they had staked out, hanging out for a little while, before deciding to head down. Hiking back to Hojo's, and getting in some quality boot skiing on the way, we transitioned again for the Sherburne run.

The top sections were in pretty good shape, with large soft bumps. We had one last encounter with the Amazing Jonathan near the top, probably as he cut over to GOS. The guy is an animal. Things then got fairly sporty with bare patches and rocks. I bailed when the grass skiing became too much, and cut over to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, about 2/3 of the way down. Jake on the other hand, went all the way to the parking lot, no matter the rock, the grass, or the meager amount of snow on the ground. 20 minutes later, I came down.

After the ride back, Jake and his girlfriend Pauline invited me in for burgers, dogs, and beer. How could I say no?! Thanks guys, for your hospitality, and thanks Jake for another great tour.


  1. I really enjoy reading your posts. You provide just the right amount of detail; drawing the reader in while maintaining a quick pace. Great stuff!

  2. Bill, another great tour, we couldn't have picked a better day or route! Until next time..
    -jake L.