In the beginning, it was Saturday, and we skied Sunday River in increasingly spring-like conditions. With the whole New England Telemark crew in effect, it was apparently impossible for T4Ters to meet up. Despite all odds, we did get Barker's first chair.
No Rainman, but I did meet a few ttipsters whom I previously "knew".
Saturday night brought us to Barnes Field, and we rested, secure against the freezing rain and snow in our tent.
On the second day, we awoke to a whitened field, broke camp, and headed for Pinkham Notch.
Signing "in" (logically, I'd prefer signing out, then in at the end of the day), we saw RR had indeed been to the Ravine the day before.
Like us, RR doesn't know his own license plate number. But RR, a true soloist, put "none" for emergency contacts rather than just leaving it blank. Hope you had a good trip -- TR to follow?
We headed up the TR Trail. There was snow from the beginning, but only skiable if you had your worst enemy's rock skis.
The snow level increased with elevation. Unfortunately, so did the r&%n. (Read between the lines -- "wintry mix".)
By the time we got within a mile of Hermit Lake, the snow was generally deep enough for your own rock skis. You would take serious core and edge shots on the numerous rock ledges, but hey -- it's November.
Higher up, the rain stopped, only to be replaced with another classic New England condition: freezing fog.
Arriving at the Hermit Lake compound, ULLR was decent enough to lift the clouds so we could see the object of our pilgrimage.
Hillman's was looking rather bony, as were Dodge's and the numbered Boott Spur gullies. As we were seeking snow, we chose to press on up the Little Headwall toward the ravine proper.
Let's just say we found it!
The snow was 2-3 feet deep on the ravine floor (more in drifts). On the headwall itself, there was still a lot of rock showing, but seemingly less than the pics from Chauvin last week. I picked a route that included minimal water ice -- primarily snow and rock. In places, axe placements were bomber; in others, the axe would either penetrate 6" to rock or sink into bottomless sugar.
We had originally considered climbing Left Gully and then descending Boott Spur, but our "subalpine" start left too little daylight. I am fortunate enough to travel with my Mrs, but she had a slight cold and didn't feel as comfortable moving quickly on the high-angle snow. Reason #4484 she's cool: "Why don't you just go on and complete the route -- we're not roped, and you'll never make it if I come with you. You're effectively solo for this part anyway; what could I do to help? Besides, I don't want to go any farther. I'll sit back and film you." She had a point. Mindful of the strategic gambits implicated by such an offer, I helped her stomp out a platform and took off leftward and upward.
Two rock ribs to the left of our platform, I thought I'd find either Left Gully or the Chute Variation. Traversing across the ribs was easy, but it was the chutes themselves that were trickier. The low point of each chute was icy, and there were increasing numbers of pinwheels and minor natural sluffs that I didn't like too much. I made a few axe cuts and test jumps, triggering minor sluffs (top 6", up to 5' wide), and proceeded with caution.
This pinnacle separated two chutes -- a larger one on the left and a narrower one on the right.
This is the chute on the left.
This is the chute on the right. Those tracks are from natural minor rollers -- a few inches in size as opposed to the 10" ones I triggered below my feet.
When I see something like that, I can't help but go up it. I'd told the Mrs I'd be 20 minutes, but I knew she understood that we were within acceptable parameters and I could complete the climb.
The climb went very well. Mostly solid axe placements, and as the high rock walls closed in from time to time, I was able to use them for support in places. (I did dislodge a little rotten rock -- a good reminder to be cautious.) Soon, the terrain began to slope less, the walls subsided, and I spotted little bits of krumholtz. I had topped out of the gully. Of course, this is where the camera batteries (I always carry a spare) -- which had been fitful since HoJos -- died altogether. I put the camera under my polypro shirt, but it was not to come back to life that day.
Having completed my objective, but running out of time, I had to get back to the Mrs and help her off the headwall. Under the "always climb what you descend" rule, I decided to downclimb rather than cross above the ravine and descend on the trail. This went slowly, as the terrain was steep enough that I had to face the slope most of the time and make a 3-point descent (rather than merely walking with axe in self-arrest position as I would do lower). One time, the value of a solid axe placement became clear, as what seemed like a good foot placement slid out from underneath me. Score one more point for a good axe leash.
Ultimately, I made it back to the Mrs and the platform. She was concerned about daylight, but glad I had had a good climb. We retreated from the Ravine, making as much speed as possible. Lots of boot glissades got us low fairly quick. I made a few side forays onto the Sherburne Trail to scout coverage, using the camcorder's picture mode:
Sherburne was snowier than the TR Trail (partly due to no foot traffic and the nature of the trailbed), but still needs more snow to warrant a rockski descent. As we descended to Pinkham, the valley was undercast, and Wildcat's partially snowed-in trails stood high on the opposite wall.
We arrived at Pinkham just as the last natural light faded. For once, we finished an excursion without headlamps. It had been a great climb. Thoughts of the IME basement faded -- it was time for pizza and home.