A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Tuckerman Ravine

March 23, 2010
Emilie Phillips

Well, I finally skied Tuckermans. The reasons why I had never skied it were that either the snow conditions were no good — ice, avalanche danger, etc — or conditions were decent and it was way too crowded. That and CMU spring carnival falls on top of the NH AMC’s traditional Tuckermans trip.

This time the conditions were good, so there was a crowd. Not as bad as some times I have seen, but we still didn’t get a spot in the parking lot. The trail up was full of people. We kept having to move over to let people pass or thread our way around other groups. After the Hermit Lake shelter, which is as far as I had gone before, the trail narrowed down into a line. It did move a good deal faster than a line at the airport, but it definitely was not a solitary wilderness experience. You could see other lines of people working their way up side gullies.

When we got to the bowl, there was a snowboarder resting unconcernedly in the middle of the slope. Above and a little to the side of him, some huge ice chunks broke off and bounded down. The entire peanut gallery at Lunch Rocks yelled «ice!» so the boarder skiddadled. It was a good reminder that even on a nice day, you still need to keep an eye out.

The next thing we saw was a paraplegic ski down on one of the special sit on top rigs. That was heartily cheared by the peanut gallery. Apparently 20 of his friends took a day and a half to haul him up there for one run. Talk about dedication.

Then it was time for us to ski. I wanted to start with something easier for a warm up, so I started half way up the bowl. In retrospect, I should have started farther down because even there the slope was enough to give me a little bit of the willies. I didn’t really get any good telemark turns in.

Tyson had opted for a little steeper first run. He had headed towards Right Gully. I caught up with him in time to get photos of his first run down. Then we both headed back up. About where Tyson had started, I stopped to consider going down. Down looked really steep. I debated traversing back over to the bowl despite having hiked over to the gully. In the end, I decided that maybe going up looked a little bit less steep, so I could start there and get my gumption up.

Well, it wasn’t any less steep. At least not until I climbed all the way to the top of the gully onto the snowfields on top of Mt Washington. Once again, there was a line for the climb up. Not that I would have gone much faster on my own, mind you. It was steep. And to make it even more interesting, the wind was blowing hard enough to off balance me at times.

At the top, we ran into most of the rest of our group, but they went straight down. We went up a lttle farther to do another practice run in the snowfields. The combination of the thick mushy snow, fatigue from the climb up, and anticipation of the ski down, all contributed to me still not skiing well. I just wasn’t getting weight onto my back foot, wasn’t transitioning edges well. In fact Tyson said I looked like I did a year ago.

Well, I figured more practice runs would only tire me out more, so I might as well try to ski back down. The sight of the gully was enough for the little ape brain in the back of my head to become convinced I was going to die. I sent Tyson down first with the hope that would help. It didn’t. So I traversed and kick turned. Eventually Tyson convinced me to side slip a bit. I kept trying to do turns, but I just could not commit to pointing my skis down the hill.

Eventually what happened is a snowboarder took a fall above me. He flipped at least 360 and slid a bit, but he did stop himself, get back up, and ski off. From that I managed to convince my ape brain that even if I did fall, I wasn’t dead. And then I managed to do a turn. It wasn’t a fancy turn, just a stepped wedge turn. But that made the next turn easier, and the next one easier yet. In short oder, I passed Tyson and had fun skiing down the steepest, narrowest section. For your reference, right gully’s steepest pitch is 45 degrees and average pitch is 35.

Next I went and did the bowl again, although from higher up. And then I decided I was tired enough for the day, so I retired to Lunch Rocks and joined the peanut gallery.

Lunch Rocks has a great view of the Lip. There appeared to be two types of people skiing the Lip — those who could ski it, and those who couldn’t. The latter provided for great amusement. They would come tumbling and sliding down the hill. Skis, poles, mittens, and goggles flying off. The peanut gallery said «ooh» for all the falls. Then silence until the unfortunate gymnast stood up in apparent good health, whereupon the peanut gallery cheered. There was one group of snowboarders, who must have sat at the top pondering their fate for 20 minutes before each of them in turn tumbled down.

Once we all reassembled, we skied out. The ski out is not nearly as steep. but it is tree lined, and in places had gaping holes down to running water. I got in some nice turns, but mostly I was just tired, not leg burn like I usually get, but whole body exhausted.

Photos will be posted eventually.