For the second day of our mini ski vacation, we joined the NH AMC Thunderbolt trip. Tyson was the co-leader and Ted the leader. Our experience this time was quite different from the first time we skied the Thunderbolt. Then it was mid week, fresh powder dump, no base and almost no other people. This time was the weekend before the race, tons of people, half of them bare booting it up the trail, and the snow on the trail packed solid.
We started from the Thiel Rd trailhead like last time. Both Tyson and Ted had printed maps, but they didn’t agree with each other or with the trail signs we found, so we mostly just followed the traffic. We encountered green flagging that we guessed indicated an up route and red flags for the down route. We tried following the up route for a bit, but it wandered through trees whose branches tangled up the one guy who was carrying his skis on his pack. So we resumed climbing on the main trail where everyone else was anyways. We had intended to follow the Bellows Pipe hiking trail the whole way up, but we did not spot it until it crossed the Thunderbolt half way up.
Once on the Bellows Pipe trail, it felt like much more of a back country trip. Single track, no crowds, powder on each pole plant. We stopped at the shelter for a snack. Someone at some point in the past had the brilliant idea to put the fire ring inside the shelter and burnt out half the floor. The wind picked up while we were there. From that point, the trail zigzaged steeply up, then joined the AT and traversed to the summit proper. I was surprised at how tired my legs were from climbing Cardigan the previous day.
At the top we crammed into the old stone shelter with a mob of other skiers for lunch. The shelter is quite an impressive building. It has a four sided fire box, big wood beams, and large old fashioned windows made up of lots of tiny panes. Despite everyone in the shelter, and a little bit of fire burning, it was chilly. I could see everyone’s breath and steam rising off of people.
Back outside, the weather was decidedly wintery; the wind was even stronger, it had started snowing, and the temperature hadn’t budged one bit. The ski trip down was fun. For about the first half, I was able to improve my technique over yesterday — more angulation and pressure on my right ski. Then I tired and regressed to left foot dominant skiing. Tyson and Ted found some nice powder and glades off the side of the trail.
Down towards the bottom of the trail, the red flagging split off from the route we had climbed up. It seemed like a better option and we thought it went back to the same trailhead. It took us across a gentle flat which was hard for the one guy on alpine gear. Then down through an abandoned ski area. The trail wasn’t nearly so packed out, so we all found some nice powder turns. Unfortunately we also found a trail sign indicating that we were headed toward the Gould Rd trailhead. To get back to Thiel Rd, we needed to turn left onto the Roost Trail. We tried following the Roost Trail with our skis in downhill mode, but it headed up hill. So half the group skinned up, the other half resorted to carrying their skis. The green flagged route merged in from the right, guaranteeing that we could find the Thunderbolt if we continued up the Roost Trail.
After some climbing, my Dad found some side tracks heading across and down in the direction of our trailhead. We took them rather than continue climbing back up the hill. Luckily they led us straight back.
For the future, Tyson and I really need to come back with touring skis and a GPS to map out the web of trails at the bottom. Also, I found a map plotting the red and green routes.