Saturday, March 24, 2007 started out with blue skies and temps hovering just below freezing in the valleys, with a forecast of clouds moving in sometime afternoon.
We headed for Oakes Gulf, hoping that southern exposures would get enough morning sun to soften up by mid day, before the clouds moved in. There was a foot of snow on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail between Marshfield Station and the Gem Pool.
We skied part way up Monroe Brook. The brook had good snow coverage and only a few open water holes. But by 10AM, nothing had softened up on the northwest side of the mountain. The snow was hard frozen granular, not quite bullet-proof, but not easy to skin up. There were 2 descending skier tracks frozen in the snow from a recent warm day, probably earlier in the week.
Where we reached a viewpoint looking up at the main gully, it was glistening in the morning sun. We came prepared with crampons to climb steep snow, but this morning, ascending Monroe Brook looked more like a technical ice climb. So we went back down to Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, and skied almost all the way to the Gem Pool, then hiked to Lakes from there.
When we arrived at the col, we found little or no snow between Lakes and Monroe Brook.
It would require a long hike across fragile alpine terrain to locate the top of the gullies.
After a lunch break at Lakes, we hiked across the col on Crawford Path toward Oakes Gulf. The snowfield on the eastern slope of Monroe is shrinking fast.
After a long, steep hike carrying skis up Ammonoosuc Ravine, Dee took a long look across Oakes Gulf towards Boote Spur and started laughing hysterically. "There's no snow!", she said.
There is certainly a lot less snow than this time last year (see last year's pictures from March 30, 2006 for comparison: LAST YEAR Oakes Gulf - March 30, 2006
), but there's still a week or two of good skiing left in Oakes. We hiked carefully around Mr. Robinson's neighborhood to the headwall, dropped our packs and put on our skis at the top of the snowfield.
Ahh, but there was snow, and it had softened up quite nicely!
Our first run was about 450' vertical feet, threading through a few trees to link a few patches of snow together.
Then we skinned back up the headwall most of the way, and boot packed to the top.
Our second run was down the steeper gully that runs down along the Dry River Trail.
From what we could see, it looked like both Double Barrel and the central ('airplane'?) gully were quite skiable.
The clouds moved in as predicted, and the snow started to set up quickly. We skinned back to Crawford Path, hiked back to Lakes and down the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. We put on our skis below the Gem Pool, and were able to ski the rest of the way to the Cog.
My apologies for cross-posting, but these forums are somewhat incestuous anyway. OBS reports the Rockpile received only 0.3" of rain Monday 3/26, so I don't think Monroe Brook would have washed out. May still be a week or two of opportunity there for the hardcore!