A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Avalanche Brook

February 24, 2019
Emilie Phillips

On Sunday, the last day of our vacation in the Whites, the weather was elevation dependent. We didn’t want to ski in the rain, so we went up to Pinkham Notch. With two cars, we could set up the shuttle for Avalanche Brook.

Last time I skied it, I was with a crew that insisted on skins and wider skis, but I thought we could do it with cross country skis and a few herringbones. It turned out I didn’t remember the trail that well.

Isaac brought his track skis. I brought my waxable classic skis. Tyson tried his new crossover scaled tele skis and lightweight plastic boots. And my parents brought their backcountry scaled skis.

I remembered the trail going gradually up and then gradually back down. What we found, was the trail went gradually up, then down and up and down and up, a few across’es, and then a final long down. My Dad insisted the last down was steep, not gradual.

The bigger problem was the snow pouring down on us. It wasn’t quite rain, but it melted at the least excuse. My gloves and mittens were wet by lunch. When I leaned over to open my pack, snow from my hood slid down my neck. And while I was dealing with that, snowflakes started turning the jackets in my pack white. We decided to eat lunch inside our shelter so we wouldn’t get even wetter.

Lunch in the shelter

Back when Isaac was one year old, we had a six person that easily accommodated four adults and one baby. We have since downsized to a much lighter four person shelter. On our first attempt to get everyone inside, there were feet squishing feet and knees poking chins. We gave up and started over. Here’s what worked.

I found a flat, unblemished section of snow. With my skis off, I stomped out a knee deep trench for our feet. Then I laid three skis upside down on the top of the snow to either side. The skis reinforced the edges of the snow benches so they wouldn’t collapse when we sat down. I put our insulating foam pads on top of the skis. Then we all shuffled into the trench, two on one side, three on the other. We alternated feet in the trench. We put the shelter over our heads and then all sat down at the count of three.

It worked. We made it steamy inside, but we stayed drier than we would have outside. The only problem was we couldn’t access our packs and my Mom hadn’t donned enough jackets for the stop. We fed her most of the hot chocolate.

After lunch, I swapped into dry mittens. That was my last pair of dry liner gloves. My hands had been getting wet when I took pictures, so I stopped.

Skiing down the hill, the falling snow made it hard to see. Tyson, who had no glasses or goggles, had to squint to keep the snow out of his eyes. My Dad had sport glasses, but they crusted over with snow. He had to ski some of the dips by braille. All but Tyson face planted several times. The snow was so sticky it adhered to my face in an icy white mask.

We arrived at the lower car before anyone got too wet, but we were all glad to be inside.

Photos from the day

GPS Track