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Westside 2017

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  • #46
    Oakes Gulf & Monroe Brook - 3/17/2017
    On St. Patricks Day, Friday, March 17, my lips were blue, but my jacket & pants were green! Overnight, the skies had cleared and West winds had visibly scoured the Westside. All that snow from Tuesday's Nor'Easter, that had blanketed Ammonoosuc Ravine and Burt Ravine, was gone - blown over into the Great Gulf, Huntington, Tucks, Gulf of Slides, and - we hoped - Oakes Gulf.

    Frostbite danger and high winds above treeline, in spite of partly to mostly sunny skies, and the desire to ski avalanche terrain, led to the decision that travel as a group of four would be safer than solo, or just one partner. I had great company: Gary "Way2Ski", Andy "JAS71", and "Logger" Ben.

    Every one was equipped with beacon-shovel-probe-helmet, 12-point boot crampons, and a couple brought ice axes - our choice of terrain required carrying this equipment. Andy led a group beacon check at the ART trailhead kiosk, as we headed up to Lakes of the Clouds.

    By Saturday afternoon, I predict the 1.5 miles of the ART from trailhead to the Gem Pool will be badly post-holed by hikers. Last week's icy minefield of frozen craters is covered by 18" of soft snow. Walking in the ski tracks will not support anyone's weight, without snowshoes. It may become challenging to ski out, but at least it's covered with snow, which is more than I could say last week. Friday, it was still fun to ski up or down. Even the two split-boarders we met from East Burke, Ben F & friend, post-holed on the way out, where they had to take one boot out of their bindings to skate along the flats and short uphills.

    Looking forward to Monroe Brook, in the distance, on our way up the ART.

    The deep new snow on the ART above Gem Pool facilitated skinning the entire distance Lakes hut. The final approach to the hut was scoured to a very icy surface. It was challenging for those without ski crampons. Hikers will need micro-spikes or 12-points above treeline, since it is all mixed rock and ice. Face masks, googles, and hand-warmers were indispensable above treeline, due to frostbite danger. Single digit temperatures and high winds above treeline made it hard to focus on photography.

    Looking across Ammonoosuc Ravine at Jacobs Ladder, above.

    Oakes Gulf near Lakes, including the East slope of Monroe and Double Barrel, was mostly scoured to old icy bed surfaces. New sastrugi and hard wind slabs in the lee of some features were hard to make a dent in. The photo below shows the bluff where Double Barrel starts on the left, and the East slope of Mount Monroe in upper right.

    The Dry River Trail gully was an exception. It had scoured at the very top, but below that, a very large and deep hard slab had formed. Under the surface was a very dense, very thick steel slab. However, the top 1"-3" surface was shearing off in some places as we skied down, and even showed red-flag shooting cracks, as we skinned back up it. Skinning back up it was not without difficulty, but a brief attempt to boot-pack resulted in too much penetration. It was a low-to moderate risk ski route - but I can't say no risk.

    Gary skinning up the hard, dense slab in Oakes Gulf; everything above him and to the right was scoured down icy old surfaces, even in that krumholtz. Above him and to the right is the run-out below Double Barrel.

    After Way2Ski and I made one short run, I dug a snow pit in a hard drift, in the lee of a rock, at the top of Oakes - not to check stability of the slab - just to stay a few degrees warmer, while JAS71 and Logger Ben checked-out below-treeline snow conditions in Oakes. That proved to be where the West winds had deposited all the missing above-treeline snow. We waited almost an hour, before we had to ditch our 2 partners in Oakes, and get below treeline before frostbite or hypothermia set in. Exiting Oakes and crossing the col towards lakes of the Clouds, we had to hike into the 45 MPH West wind, which made it difficult to stay upright on the mixed rocks & ice, and the sub-zero windchill frost-nipped my nose through my face-mask. In the lee of the Lake hut, we briefly felt warmer, out of the direct wind, but in single digit temperatures, we could not wait more than a few minutes.

    Oakes Gulf

    As a former rescue volunteer, I felt very guilty about splitting up the group, and then leaving our two partners, but we had to get below treeline. I have VHF walkie-talkies in the car, meant for just such an occasion; had we brought them, Andy & Ben would have been able to communicate with us, but we were out of cell-phone range. Later, below treeline, Gary and I received several text messages that Ben & Andy had sent an hour earlier. Low in Oakes Gulf, they had a signal from tower to the South, maybe the tower at Attitash, which we had direct line-of-sight to. Cell towers use a vertical mask to reject signals that are too high above - like an airplane - or too far below. Have you ever dropped a call while driving right under a tower? I have. You may have 4 or 5 bars, and not be able to get a call to go through, if above their vertical range.

    Anyway, while we were freezing our butts off waiting in a snow shelter at the top of Oakes, they had messaged "Don't wait, we found some great snow, doing another lap", "Are you still waiting? We are thinking of doing another run, epic pow here."

    The connection from Lakes, across the Westside of Mount Monroe, to Monroe Brook, lost a lot of snow during the extended thaw. It is scoured to that old, icy surface, and the remaining "snowfields" are not well connected. It is a difficult traverse, route-finding is complicated by more exposed rock and krumholtz than most skiers & riders are probably accustomed to. There were some thin patches of new snow clinging to the krumholtz that provided limited relief from the torture of skis chattering across rough icy surfaces. It is not "girlfriend-proof" (or "boy-friend" proof, if you "ski like a girl", and you're like some of the women backcountry skiers I know). Your significant-other may not speak to you for awhile after this entree from Lakes, even if Monroe Brook holds good snow for dessert.

    Monroe Brook

    Yesterday's avalanche concerns in upper Monroe Brook blew away overnight on westerly winds, but the winds didn't completely scour it to old surface. This made the upper start zones not only safe, but fun to ski; and the lower two-thirds were still 12"-24" of the same loose, dry snow that we found Thursday. It skied great Friday, top to bottom. Where we had tracked it up Thursday was still untouched by wind. It's ready, and safe, for the weekenders, barring unforeseen changes overnight.
    Last edited by Lftgly; 03-18-2017, 11:15 PM.
    "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


    • #47
      Awesome ski tour today, skinned up the Cog to Clay Col, inspected Airplane (bulletproof), looked around the Great Gulf & Northern Peaks, then hiked the Westside Trail in crampons to Ammonoosuc Ravine, transitioned back to skis and linked nice smooth turns on hard-slab snowfields, down into South Ammonoosuc Ravine, and skied out the AR Trail. Weather and snow conditions exceeded all my expectations. Many photos & video clips to follow.
      "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


      • #48
        sweet, it was a really nice day up there today.

        Took a tour up to tucks and was thinking your aspect your aspect was the place to be.


        • #49
          South Ammonoosuc Ravine - 3/19/2017
          Sunday, I skied 3000 vertical feet on the Westside of Mount Washington, enjoying both weather and snow conditions that exceeded all my expectations

          The Waumbek Tank

          Mt. Monroe, Monroe Brook

          MWObs COG4500 Weather Station at the Halfway House

          Money Rock

          Cog Railway engineers believe it's good luck to toss a coin on this landmark - I emptied my pocket of all loose change!

          Profile Rock

          Jacobs Ladder

          Gary's Rock

          Frog Rock

          At the top of Airplane; MWObs snowcat is climbing the Auto Road on the horizon (hello, Pete!); Mother-In-Law doesn't look skiable from top

          Northern Peaks: (L-R) Mts. Clay, Jefferson

          Airplane; bulletproof old surface, with skim coat of fresh snow

          Northern peaks (L-R), Mts. Clay, Jefferson, Adams

          Airplane; note the glide crack, remaining from the extended thaw, in the old surface; that is not a crown line.

          Pipeline is down that drainage, out of sight in the foreground; to the right, the entrance to Haul Way looks good from a distance, but it is scoured to old icy surface at the roll-over; Activator does not look skiable off the summit of Mt Clay, but lower half looks great.

          The best views of the Southern Presidentials are at your feet, while hiking South on the Westside Trail.

          I dropped onto the snowfields of Ammonoosuc Ravine right here, at 5600 feet elevation; only carried the skies once, down across rocks for twenty feet, all the way to the lower lot at 2640'; I'm gonna round that off, and call it 3000 vertical feet.

          On the right are my tracks coming out of South Ammonoosuc Ravine. A young woman who skied Central Ammonoosuc, "the one with all the waterfalls?", said it was not so good, very icy most of the way, then four feet of cement, where it softened up, and "I ended up on the wrong side of the river twice".

          Tucker Gettel and 3 friends are in these shots, though pixellated beyond recognition, following me down South Ammonoosuc Ravine, on the right.

          Skinning up the ridge above Jacobs Ladder, we literally walk in the footsteps of giants. After building the Crawford Path with his father, Ethan Allen Crawford built his own bridal path from Fabyans up Mount Washington. This route was later followed by Sylvester Marsh, when he built the Cog Railway, as far as Jacobs Ladder, where the tracks veer North. The original treadway of Ethan Allen Crawford's bridal path can still be seen by a discerning eye above Jacobs Ladder. In honor of a great day on the Westside, I stopped to pay my respects to the man whom I followed this afternoon.

          "He built here the first Hotel at the White Mountains, of which he was for many years the owner and Landlord. He was of great native talent & sagacity, of noble, kind, and benevolent disposition, a beloved husband and father, and an honest & good man."
          Last edited by Lftgly; 03-20-2017, 10:06 AM.
          "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


          • #50
            Still looks pretty good after a couple of rainouts
            Go for adventure, take pix, but make certain to bring'em back alive!


            • #51
              Love your reports that seamlessly incorporate lessons in history, avy awareness and other good travel practices!!! And the pictures, of course... You are an example of a local who is ready to share your knowledge without oversharing!
              THANK YOU!


              • #52
                Thanks for the tour!
                "Information is not knowledge
                Knowledge is not wisdom
                Wisdom is not truth
                Truth is not beauty
                Beauty is not love
                Love is not music
                Music is THE BEST."


                • #53
                  Originally posted by concordia2 View Post
                  Love your reports that seamlessly incorporate lessons in history, avy awareness and other good travel practices!!! And the pictures, of course... You are an example of a local who is ready to share your knowledge without oversharing!
                  THANK YOU!
                  Plus 1!

                  "Make every line you own...." Thanks, Jake


                  • #54
                    You are very welcome, Concordia2, Seeker, and 56fish!

                    South Ammonoosuc Ravine - 3/20/2017
                    On Monday, March 20, I repeated Sunday’s tour from the Westside Trail down South Ammonoosuc Ravine, because the nearly continuous descent from 5600 to 2640 feet was remarkably good, smooth snow for skiing, and its unlikely to remain much longer. I did not stop to take more than a few photos, first at Money Rock, where the snow had melted enough since Sunday to "show me the money", and again, where i transitioned from boot crampons to skis at 5600 feet. The later photos are embedded in the first minute of the following POV video:

                    "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


                    • #55
                      South Ammonoosuc Ravine - 3/25/2017
                      ​Saturday, March 25, JumpTurn and I left the trailhead on the Westside under cloudy skies. We climbed up through the fog, and once above treeline, found ourselves looking down on an undercast. Distant mountain peaks looked like islands, rising above a sea of clouds.

                      From Jacobs Ladder, looking at North Twin; with Liberty, Lincoln, and Lafayette in the distance

                      The Northern Peaks; Jeffersons Knee, Mts. Adams & Madison (L-R)

                      JumpTurn looking North towards Mts Clay, Jefferson, Adams

                      We looked into the Great Gulf to assess the stability, but Airplane was clearly No-Go. There was a small cornice at the top, it was scoured down to the icy old surface on skiers-right, and wind-loaded on skiers-left with new soft and hard slab. That would be great skiing, if the cornice and windslab were stable, but I knew the bed surface under that new snow was the same icy old surface that I had seen on Sunday (see the 3/19 photos in this thread).

                      Mt Washington summit beyond the Cornice at Airplane

                      Airplane - the dark patches on skiers-right are the icy old surface

                      Visibility began deteriorating mid-afternoon. From the Gulfside Trail junction, we followed the Westside Trail south, towards Lakes of the Clouds, across the summit cone, above Ammonoosuc Ravine. We found the stonework along the Westside Trail held enough new snow to ski carefully, where I had hiked with boot crampons on mixed rock & ice only 5 days earlier.

                      At the point where we planned to descend from the Westside Trail, we were joined by two friends, Cory & Justin. We navigated down the summit cone through fog in hundred-foot visibility, linking snowfields with thin cover between the rocks, until we reached treeline. There, in South Ammonoosuc Ravine, the new snow was deep enough to link dozens of turns, down to the river in the floor of the ravine.

                      Once on the hiking trail, the snow conditions were good skiing, all the way down the ART. As we tailgated apres skiing, the fog lifted, revealing the summit, and our tracks were visible faintly in the distance, on the slopes of Ammonoosuc Ravine. It was a beautiful end to another day on the Westside.

                      Last edited by Lftgly; 03-27-2017, 09:29 PM.
                      "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


                      • #56
                        Central Ammonoosuc Ravine - 3/26/2017
                        Sunday, March 26, at 1:45PM, I skied 3000 vertical feet down the Westside of Mount Washington, New Hampshire.

                        The Mount Washington Observatory reported that the wind was blowing from the West at 18 MPH, with an air temperature of 25°F, under sunny skies with visibility of 110 miles. The Mount Washington Avalanche Center forecast Low to Moderate avalanche danger in Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.

                        I started skiing from a point at 5700 feet elevation, near the Westside Trail junction with the Gulfside Trail. I skied South along the Westside Trail for about four-tenths of a mile (0.4 mi). At 5600 feet, I left the hiking trail, and skied down snowfields on the rocky summit cone, above the headwall of Ammonoosuc Ravine. I then skied down Ammonoosuc Ravine’s Central Gully without mishap, where the avalanche danger at the time, in my assessment, was Low to Moderate. I followed the Ammonoosuc River out of the ravine floor, then skied the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail for the last one-and-a-half miles (1.5 mi), to the lower hikers’ parking lot at Marshfield Station, an elevation of 2640 feet.

                        My dog, Rocket, had waited for me at the trailhead on many colder days in February and March, while I skied. Monday was perfect weather to reward Rocket with a walk on the Westside. He is quite familiar with the terrain, and the snow was just right for my four-legged companion – not too soft, and not too firm. Hiking and skiing with a dog in steep terrain, or anywhere in the White Mountain National Forest, raises many other considerations that I won’t go into here. I will say that I don’t take that decision lightly. My dog’s safety comes first, which requires conservative decision-making on my part, and maintaining a slower pace than most of my ski tours.

                        One of the Snow Rangers at the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, Jeff Lane, on March 30, 2013, wrote a wonderful article on this subject, titled “Dogs in Tuckerman – From Our Perspective”, that I encourage you to read.
                        Last edited by Lftgly; 03-28-2017, 09:21 AM.
                        "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


                        • #57
                          Nice Jon! Glad to know you were out enjoying the perfect day👍


                          • #58
                            Rocket looks happy!! Conditions look better than last Monday when we met in South Ammonoosic
                            "It's not an adventure without some waist deep post holing"-Boog


                            • #59
                              Central Ammonoosuc Ravine - 3/26/2017
                              I think I've fixed the broken YouTube links... too much time enslaved by microsoft and google, but the video archive is finally in the vault.

                              Central was on the high-end of LOW, and trending toward MODERATE as it heated up in sun. LOOSE, DRY avalanche problem: I kicked off several small R1 sluffs, one harmlessly ran into me, another flushed out a choke point ahead of me, which freaked the dog out, but he was able to run down the short section of icy old surface okay, after he had looked twice at the other options.

                              I outlined the 5 ice bulges & 5 start zones in the video. I should have explicitly labeled the #6 waterfall. It's not much of an avalanche hazard, but it's a water hazard that melts out before the snow above, and it has blocked my descent of the final pitch in the past. It's good that no one skied it later that afternoon, as WET LOOSE avalanche problems were becoming more likely, and possibly WET SLAB avalanche problems, if enough melt-water percolated under the snowpack.

                              The short version of the video:

                              The long version of the video includes 5 more minutes of footage, from the approach on the Westside Trail, and the run-out in the floor of the ravine:
                              "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready." - Henry David Thoreau


                              • #60
                                Looks like an awesome day, and Rocket seems like a great partner. Always appreciate the LFTGLY westside reports.