Saturday, April 1, 2006

Tuckerman's Ravine

    Early in the week I had heard that it was going to be nearly 75 degrees and sunny in Saratoga on friday.  I began to think what I should do in that weather then glanced up at my Tuckerman's Ravine poster on my wall... bingo... but who do I take.  After some thought I called up my boys Logan Jones and Jonny Hughes.  Unfortunately Logan had a busy day at work so couldn't go but Jonny was all fired up for it.  We took off Thursday night around 6pm and headed towards North Conway where I had booked a Comfort Inn hotel room for us for the night. 

    While driving through Rutland, Vt, we saw a state cop in front of us stop his car in the left Tuckermans_33106_001
lane, put his lights on, walk around his car... and proceed to beat the living hell out of whatever was in his back seat.  Jon and I had no clue what the hell had happened and neither did the line of about 10 cars now stuck behind the the thoroughly enraged officer... So, Jon and I did what anybody would do in a case of police brutality... we took a picture.. hahaha.
    The hotel we stayed in was very nice and Jon and I watched some sick mountain biking videos I had stored on my ipod over the tv in the room.  We had picked up 6 pack of guiness for the night before we got to the hotel room around 10pm and decide to just relax for the night instead of trying to go downtown to scout out local bars.
     We woke up early at about 7:30 and ate the free breakfast the hotel provided for us.  Jonny had a hole in his paper cup which he allowed to drip milk out all over the table for twenty minutes before cleaning it up.. bunch of slobs we are.  We got to Mt. Washington at about 9:15 in the morning and after gearing up and strapping our skis to our bags we hit theTuckermans_33106_003
trail around 9:30 in the morning.  Almost immediately we hit snow on the trail which made me smile because it meant the Sherburne ski trial would be mostly open all the way to the parking lot for our trip down.  We took our time going up and met many nice people headed to the bowl for the afternoon of sun and 65 degree weather.  One guy passed us skinning up the mountain (when someone attaches "skins" to the bottom of their skis that prevent the ski from sliding backwards so they can ski up the mountain with free heels).  He had a large St. Bernard with him that was carrying two six packs of beer on either side of it's back in a dog pack.  Awesome! 
    We made it to the Hermit Lake Shelter around 11am and had a 20 minute rest there for some food and pictures of the Bowl and Huntington Ravine to the left.  Jon was blown away.  Tuckermans_33106_007
He had never been out west before and had never been in a truly big mountain environment like this.  He was tired but I could see him actually gaining energy when he looked at the views around him from that point up.  I'm so glad that he was able to experience that with me.  I told him before we left that it wasn't just another ordinary ski trip.  Climbing Mt. Washington and skiing Tuckerman's Ravine with it's 70+ degree slopes and steep ascent is an epic journey and will leave you a different skier after completing it.  You will never look at a ski resort or chair lift the same after skiing Tux.  It is a "right of passage" for all hard core Northeast skiers and snowboarders because only the well prepared and experienced are able to do it without injury.  Every couple years people die in the ravine.  It is a serious alpine environment with frequent avalanches, crevasses and dangerous ice falls that come down at you in clumps the size of small cars.  Like I said... Jonny was blown away.
    We made it to the famous "lunch rocks" by noon and rested for a little bit.  The lunch rocks are where people hike up to in order to watch the young kids like us ski the ravine.  It's also a great place to lay out in the sun or toss around a ball or frisbee.  I've done tux 4 times now and once there was a guy with a saxaphone up there playin' tunes for everyone.  It's the partyTuckermans_33106_009
place of tux and it provides a 270 unobstructed view of the bowl for everyone to watch and cheer on the skiers heading down.  No more than 10 minutes after arriving at the rocks we saw a snowboarder and a skier eat it... complete yard sales the entire way down the face... their bodies cartwheeling down the slushy steeps slopes... goggles, skis, hats, gloves, poles - flying everywhere all followed by anguished groans by the nearly 50 people hangin' at the rocks.  The skier that fell tried a line through the central rocks of the headwall that took him off a 10-12 foot drop at the end over an ice fall.  When he landed he pitched forward and tumbled about 300 feet down the ravine to the base.. having to climb all the way back up to grab his ski - poor guy.
    I told Jonny to take a rest and I headed up the face of the ravine, eyeing the spot where the kid had took a digger off the ledge.  I made good time and got to the top of the ridge in about 20 minutes.  Before heading out on thursday Chris Pitts from Elevate Cycles below my apartment hooked me up with his helmet cam which I taped to the side of my 70's gold trimmed aviator glasses... that combined with the flowered hawaiian shirt I put on at the lunch rocks made for a funny site on the last day of March at 5500 feet in a bowl of snow.  I turned on some hard rock and headed over to the entrance to the rock and ice cliffs where the kid had bailed.  It was pretty intense.  The slope was incredibly steep and led straight down of a good 20+ foot ice fall... any fall would leave me careening out of control over that ledge to certain pain.  I took about 3 big hop turns (everytime I hopped I traveled about 6feet down the slope.  I was picking up speed even while jump turning, found my 12 foot ledge and hucked off it, hip checking into the slope on landing so that my skis would stay on and to absorb the impact.  In the helmet cam video you can see the shadow of my body coming off the lip of ice cliff.  After a few quick turns I was back down to the lunch rocks and Jonny who was fired up watchin' me.  He said everyone was cheering but I couldn't hear a damn thing cause I was straight rockin' it out with my ipod the whole way down (I'd never have the balls to do that with no health insurance like I did without music pumpin' in my ears). 
    Jonny geared up and we headed up the slope.  I told him to use the bindings on his skis to slam into the slope for grip heading up the steep wall.  It was about a quarter of the way up Tuckermans_33106_017
when Jonny suddenly though it would be a good time to tell me he has a problem with heights..... I may have reconsidered taking him if I had known this because climbing the headwall on Tux is like putting a later up against a 3 story building and climbing up that... but instead of a 3 story buidling picture a 50 story building.... yeah.. friggin steep.. so steep you can put your elbow out in front of you and touch the slope.  So... I told Jonny not to look down at all and to count to 20 steps before stopping each time, and to seriously slam his skis into the slope for secure grip.  If someone falls climbing up the slope they will take out everyone below them and probably slam into the lunch rocks at about 30mph... not good.  Jonny took his time and made it up with ease... although he chose not to look down into the 15' deep crevasse (in pic) weTuckermans_33106_020
had to climb around at one point.  At the top we put on our skis, turned on the helmet cam and headed down the main headwall.  The skiing lasted about 5 minutes but as Jonny can attest to... it's the sickest 5 minutes of skiing on the East Coast.  When you watch your sluff (the snow you kick up while skiing) rocket past you on a very steep slope it's really amazing.. you get the feeling of falling with the slope, not just skiing down it.  Jonny was amazed.  I'm so happy he enjoyed it.
    We got back to the lunch rocks picked up our gear and headed down the bowl as the shadows started to engulf everything (no fun skiing in shadows so everyone usually leaves by then).  On the way down to the entrance to the frozen river leading back to Hermit Lodge I took a stupid ass digger and fell on my face at about 5mph... hahaha.. cutting up my arms andTuckermans_33106_025
fingers (yup, I was dumb enough to pack my gloves away).   We struggled down the semi-frozen river to the Hermit Lake Shelter where the trail opened up nicely and we easily cruised down the moutain.  We finally reached a point where there was just too much grass to continue but we were only a 10 minute walk down the trail to the parking lot so it was ok.  We bought some stickers to put on our skis and headed out towards the Kangamangus Highway for some views on the way to The Common Man restaurant in Lincoln, NH for some dinner.
    Jonny and I had some great eats in the very ski town environment of the Common Man and headed out on 112 across NH towards home.  We saw deer and hit a frost heave on the road so hard it through the truck about a foot in the air!  In Vermont we almost hit a possum as well on the way home.  We got home around 10:30 and Jonny came down to Saratoga to go out with Mike and I for the night downtown which was a great time.  We mixed up Amp, Mt. Dew MDX and vodka to stay up for the night.  It worked and I was wired till about 3am despite the long hike, long drive and long day.  I woke up today to find a kayak paddle on the front porch... I have no clue where it came from!  Awesome!


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