Trails: Gulf of Slides Ski Trail
Mileage/gain: ~5 miles, ~1900' of gain, time of ~3 hours
Mere hours before the vernal equinox ushered in the spring season, I got out for a tour on Mt. Washington. Feeling somewhat accomplished by getting my new apartment in some semblance of order on Thursday (after moving the heavy stuff Wednesday), I figured I deserved it. Up and breakfasted early, I signed in to the log at Pinkham around 7:30, and after walking back to my car, I clicked in and got to heating up. A couple headed up just ahead of me, though I never did see them, and their car was gone when I got back.
The sun was shining, and for the time being the sky ahead was blue, so I cruised along, skins squeaking, generating my usual massive amount of heat. Before long, I turned onto what I refer to as the "secret skintrack", though it obviously sees a lot of use. It cuts off a little distance, and avoids a tricky steeper section of the trail proper, reconnecting a bit higher up. Much like my initial journey into the GOS, I was solo, it was cold, and I wouldn't be venturing higher than the base of the main gully. I realized early on that this one was just going to be for the workout, and certainly not for quality turns. Conditions were universally solid, with only a bit of softness on the sides. This is all a part of learning to love the up as much as the down.
It really was a gorgeous morning, though clouds started building in from the south and west, but blue skies ruled up ahead. Along the middle and upper section of the trail, whenever I stopped, I would hear a light tapping in the woods around me. A downy woodpecker flitting about the trunk of a birch tree, probing with its beak, was the source of this soft sound. Not the typical, rapid fire succession of drumming that I've come to expect from woodpeckers, especially the larger varieties. I don't know if it was the same bird, but every time I stopped from there on out, if there was a birch nearby, there was a downy woodpecker on the hunt. Maybe the surest sign of spring I've seen yet.
|Rolling in over Kearsarge North|
|Gulf of Slides sentinel|
Sadly, once I reached the base of the main gully, the clouds had overtaken the sky, except to the north where blue still prevailed. Even though the avalanche danger for Tuckerman Ravine was moderate, I erred on the side of caution, and didn't boot up the gully to have a run at it. Transitioning and clicking in, I turned down and made my run. It was another case of not my best skiing, but I can't really blame the skis for that. Skiing the firm (hard snow) is always a challenge, but especially so on narrow backcountry trails. I had a few good turns, and even got a little softness on the sides, but overall it was ugly. Back down at Pinkham, I packed it in, and decided against doing anything else for the day... even though it was only 10:30.
|Crossing the avalanche runout|
|The flanks of Boott Spur|
|Snowfields on the Slide Peak ridgeline|
I could get used to the whole short drives for a short tour/hike thing, though I'm not afraid of the long drives. Must. Not. Become. Complacent!