Ski the East
It was the first time I had come back east with nothing to do (e.g., a wedding…) since moving to Colorado eight years ago. My last ski season before heading west, we had planned to ski Tuckerman’s Ravine (“Tuck’s”), a glacial cirque located on the east side of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast (6,288 ft) and home to some of the worst weather in the world. Nine years ago we backed away from that plan due to 48″ of new snow and significantly dangerous avalanche conditions. So this year, when I had some buddies ask me if I wanted to do it this spring when I was back, I jumped at the chance and dragged all my gear across the country. (A real illogical move when I know I’m leaving Boston to head to the tropics in early May.)
But keeping up the sweet winter weather New England had seen this winter, the Friday avalanche report looked grim. Then all hopped up on Dunks and heading north the next day, the report kind of took a turn for the worst:
“Talk about full on winter! It’s really hard to believe it’s almost May with the full on conditions today. No visibility, temperatures in the teens, and 8.3” of snow in the past 48hours as made for more like a February afternoon than a typical spring day. We are most concerned about the increasing avalanche danger that has developed over the past 24 hours with some areas currently bumping the upper end of the Considerable rating… Avalanche experience, skills, equipment and a history of good conservative decision making will be important. If you have these skills and abilities several other issues and challenges would run through my mind. 1. With potential low visibility, and being a Saturday in April, I would have a fair amount of angst for triggers above me that I can’t see. Expect some users coming in from multiple locations like hyenas converging on desired prey 2. Will someone adjacent to you, seemingly far away, trigger an avalanche that will propagate to your location. Or 3. To ski something safely will ‘ski cutting’ a slope to clear it send snow down onto others below. Frankly, slab instability and lots of people just don’t mix in the confines of an alpine cirque with avalanche paths that converge in multiple locations… And although it’s not lining up as the cover shot of the “Worst Case Scenario” books it might be found on page 5 or 6.” (Mount Washington Avalanche Center, 4.25.15)
Once again, we decided to back down and play it safe; Tuck’s eluded me once again.
‘Plan B’ was to simply head to nearby Cannon Mountain, which had closed down a week prior, and skin up to hopefully get some decent turns coming down. It seems weird to say coming from Colorado, but it was some of the best snow I had skied since February…