The AMC ski committee end of year party was at Tuckerman’s Ravine. We wanted to bring Isaac along, but how could we get him up Mt Washington?
Tyson suggested we tow Isaac up on his downhill skis like this Vermont family. 1,900′ of vertical is a long distance to tow both for the tow-er and the tow-ee. I suggested a different plan. The Tuckerman ravine trail is packed out, so we had more options than on other trails. “Isaac, do you want to hike up a mountain this weekend?” I asked. “Yeah!” he replied enthusiastically. He has been asking to go hiking and kayaking for a month now. Tyson and I would skin up carrying Isaac’s down hill skis and boots in our pack. I found it ironic that despite his parents being hard core backcountry skiers, Isaac was going to ski Mt Washington as a front country skier — hiking up with skis and boots in a pack.
We knew we needed to start hiking early. I tried to reserve a room at Joe Dodge lodge at the trailhead, but it was booked. The closest room I could find was in Gorham. Isaac was too excited and bouncy that night to sleep. I was afraid he had doomed the trip before it started. We arrived at the Pinkham parking at 8AM, just in time for the last four parking spots the main lot. We waved hi to Paul, another ski leader who arrived early. Then we set out. The rest of the ski leaders hadn’t arrived yet.
The bottom three switchbacks had melted out in places, so even Tyson and I carried our skis on our packs. What a relief to put them on our feet once the snow was reliable. Isaac marched along with his snow boots and little Microspikes. His goal was to spot people wearing short sleeves. Mom and Dad had told him about people skiing in short sleeves, but it sounded outlandish.
I found it interesting watching the horde of people pass rather than being in it. When you hike up at an adult pace, it seems like the entire mountain is stuffed with people. From bottom to top, you are in a crowd. Hiking at four year old speed, we got to watch the distribution of people pass us by. Initially, we were never out of sight of people, but there was space to stop and put skins on, space to walk two abreast. About an hour into our hike, above the switchbacks, the horde arrived. We were now rocks in a stream of people. They swirled around us, some striding true up the trail, others getting caught and stopping in an eddy off the side to rest. For an hour, they streamed by us, including our fellow ski leaders. Then, there were just as many people but they weren’t going as fast. Plodding along, we could catch up to them as they rested. This phase was maybe another half hour. As we crossed the bridge over the Cutler river, the dregs started passing us. They were huffing and puffing and red. It was late for climbing to the ravine, 11:30 and they weren’t to Hermit Lake yet. Mixed with these dour scarlet skiers were tourists; hikers without a care or a pack, brandishing a camera and giddy to watch the carnival of skiers plummet down the headwall. Still surrounded by that last group of people, we arrived at the Hermit Lake Ranger station, just before noon.
Isaac had climbed a long way for a little kid, 1,900′ of elevation and 2.4 miles. Isaac was sure he had hiked 100 miles. We didn’t want to ruin his first down mountain trip by making it too hard, so Hermit Lake was as far as we planned to go. We arrived just before noon. There was plenty of time to rest and eat lunch. Isaac emptied the lunch bag. There should have been 2 clementines per person, but he could only find 5. “Oh well, lets just split them” I sighed. No point letting a missing clementine upset the day. After lunch, we watched the ant line of people crawl up the Chute. Some of the little specs skied down the Chute or the Headwall, others tumbled all the way down the Headwall.
Well rested, we skied down the John Sherburne ski trail. The trail starts out with a shallow slope. Then it throws in a few small drops here and there. The drops become steeper, more frequent, and longer by the bottom. This was just the gradual introduction Isaac needed to keep his confidence up. On the second drop, Isaac fell. He got up and dusted himself off and then with a shocked look on his face hollered back up the trail “There’s an orange where I fell!” The missing clementine must have stowed away in his unused hat. After that, Isaac skied ahead, rarely letting us pass for photos. “I’m going to tell all my friends at school that I skied Mt Washington” he told us.
The moguls were bigger than a week before. The largest were almost as tall as Isaac. He zoomed along the luge run between them. His little skis nimbly following every turn. Us adults had to work harder with our longer skis.
The only downside to spring skiing, is the bottom of the Sherburne melts out. The open mud and the rope closing off the last half mile of trail almost ruined Isaac’s day. We had to switch over to the Tuckerman Ravine trail and hike the rest of the way down. Luckily Isaac discovered he could slide on the snow with his hiking boots and pretend he was skiing. We arrived back at the parking lot mid afternoon with a happy Isaac whose only request was that we ski Mt Washington again next year with more snow.
The rest of the ski leaders finally quit skiing the bowl late afternoon and joined us for the end of year tailgate party.