A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac


February 12, 2012
Emilie Phillips

Today was a cold day on Mt Washington.

The original plan had been to do an AMC trip to another location, but too many people canceled and the other location had no snow. So it ended up being Tyson and I and a friend whom we know through the AMC. We switched the location to the Sherburne. It is a popular trail to the point where it can be unpleasant on a fair weather day. Otherwise it is a nice trail and had the best outlook for snow and weather.

On the drive up we saw 1F in the car thermometer. The summit was forecast to be well colder than that, and even at the base the forcast called for 40 mph winds. That might have thinned the crowd out a bit. The ski up was uneventful. I know most of the twists and turns in the trail by now. We set a faster pace than normal since it was just the three of us. Because of our fast pace, I was keeping warm with just a shell jacked on, but the bits of my face that stuck out around the balaklava and sun glasses kept threatening to get an ice cream headach from the wind. For the first part of the climb it was blue bird skies and not too windy. The views were beautiful as always. Up higher, we got into the cloud of snow blowing off the top of the mountain into the ravines. I think that is about the end of when I took photos.

We stopped for a snack and rest at the shelters and imediately bundled up. Eating was hard because every time I took my hand out of my mittens, even with my liner gloves on, it froze. At the end, trying to put everything back into my pack and gear up for the downhill, they just got too cold. I had to get Tyson to help. The other friend was doing a little better than me, but was also having issues with cold hands. At this stage, my top priority was not freezing to death. Second priority not loosing any fingers or toes to frost bite. Having fun might have been somewhere around fifth.

We skinned up the last little bit to the unprotected top of our trail. There was an avalanche class there preparing to head up farther into Tuckerman's ravine. They were all bundled up in their down jackets looking like arctic explorers. I took a quick look at the view, pulled off my skins, helped Tyson put his away, and as quickly had numb fingers from the wind. I was not going to stay out in that wind any longer, so I went ahead and dropped into the trees. It turned out the third person had to take off his gloves to deal with his skins and got his hands way too cold. I did an extra lap trying to stay warm.

We discovered on the way down that the snow was a mix of scraped off ice and wind packed snow. To make it worse, for some reason the snow cat had driven on the trail leaving great ruts. It was never clear when the ruts were solid and when they were skiable. In the narrower parts of the trail, the cat tracks covered over half the trail.

I eventually warmed up, about coincidentally with decending back into the sunshine. My skiing was better than last trip on the trail. I managed to use some of my new turning technique. As I got more tired towards the bottom, I stopped being confident enough to move my weight over my skis and reverted to my old technique. And in some places I ended up in a full tilt, straight down the hill run until I could find a flat spot to regain control.

All in all we were back down by 12:30 and happily defrosting in the car.