Posts Tagged ‘backcountry’
With today being the only weather window in a upcoming forecast, I decided it was finally time to check out Mt Washington. I hooked up with Dalton, and after a last minute call based on the weather, we headed to the wild west side.
When I arrived in the parking lot at 9, it was 33° and drizzling, with some really low hanging clouds. Not exactly inspiring conditions, to say the least. By the time Dalton had showed up, the drizzle had stopped and it had gotten a bit warmer, however, the clouds were still holding steady. With the forecast called for clearing skies in the later morning and not wanting to ski steep, bullet-proof ravines, we decided to wait out the weather, hoping the clouds would clear soon.
After about 3 hours and some interesting adventures involving jumper cables, Dalton had the great idea of checking out the Mt Washington Observatory’s summit cams. What we saw astounded us – it was completely blue on the summit, with clouds just lingering on the west side. With that news, we geared up and headed up, on the assumption that it was now only a matter of time until the clouds would clear.
The clouds were in and out as we started on our way up. You can almost see the upper parts of the mountain just trying to peek through the clouds.
We even got a little bit of sunshine at the beginning of the climb!
Unfortunately, that only seemed to be temporary. We continued upward and soon enough, we were reaching the ominous cloud layer.
And heading up into it.
By the time we made it to Jacob’s Ladder, we were in the thick of it, and the clouds showed no signs of clearing. None at all.
So we decided to take a break. Dalton checked out the weather situation on top of the mountain, and like we suspected, it wasn’t looking good – the west side was completely socked in, even up to the summit.
Looking into the Ammo.
And up Jacob’s Ladder. The fog was thick.
At this point, we decided the best call was to simply head back downhill from here.
Bo was super stoked to get skiing!
He can be a mellow too… Although not for any longer than 4 seconds.
Dalton beginning the descent into the grey-room, with Bo in hot pursuit.
Yup, kind of like skiing in pea soup.
Although this isn’t what I had expected out of my first trip to Mt Washington, it was still an enjoyable ski down the ~2500ft that we’d earned.
I guess you can’t always hit it right, but given how many times this year we’ve managed to hit it right, I’m not complaining. Today was still a great outing, and now I really can’t wait to get back up to Mt Washington. Hopefully the weather cooperates sometime soon, although I have a feeling that the snow will be hanging around a while this year.
Even after the crazy warm spell that we’ve had recently in the NE, there’s still some snow left in them thar mountains if you go searching far and high enough. So I went a searchin’, and I liked what I found.
Unfortunately all my potential partners for today bailed on me (for good reasons though, so I can’t blame them), and so I was left to go at this alone. By no means the smartest decision to head out there on my own, but I felt alright with the good weather giving me a much greater than normal margin of error should shit really hit the fan. Also having my SPOT GPS satellite messenger along with me added another layer of safety (my parents long ago realized just how crazy I was, and as such got me this before I went on a cross country road trip this past summer).
I had planned on a super early start, but when I woke up around 5AM I felt awful, so I decided to sleep in a bit longer. Well, a bit accidentally turned to a lot. After all was said and done, I finally arrived at the parking at at the crack of noon to find that it was 74° and bluebird… Not exactly what one would hope for on a ski day, but you’ve got to take them as they come.
I had a lot of gear to bring. It was absurdly heavy. To give you some idea of what was in there, I had my skis, boots, skins, 3L of water, camera, a few extra layers, two wraps for eating, sunscreen, gloves, ice axe, shovel, etc, etc. There was a lot.
Starting on the trail up. Is there really snow up there?
Passing by a rushing stream. I bet the water’s really cold from the run-off.
Making my way along. The pack is stupid heavy with all my gear.
A little bit higher up I found some actual snow starting to show up.
And then all of a sudden, my objective came into view. Ooh yes.
Nearing the last push towards the summit.
And before I knew it, I was on the summit!
Oddly, it was nearly devoid of snow on the summit. I guess it all got blown/melted off.
I’ll bet that mountain back there is just one big ol’ pile of rocks.
Scoping out my line from the top. I like the rollover. (Yes, it’s really steep).
And from the side of the line, giving a bit of a better perspective on the how steep the couloir was. The one I chose to ski was the highest line coming out of the main snow field on the right. It the line that goes straight down the mountain. If you’re still confused, check this out.
Almost ready to ski.
And dropping… Here are my tracks coming off the top section. It was quite steep (some estimates via Google Earth give me around 44°), and the snow was nice and soft.
And what I have to look forward too (don’t mind the cracks on the sides).
As I was coming down, I had to be weary of ice bulges, amongst other hazards (see the cracks in the above shot).
I just skied that! Hell yea, so stoked!
Uh-oh. Continuing downward, I realized that this might be turning bad quickly.
And it did turn bad all too quickly. In the above photo there are at least a few places where there were big holes down to the water underneath. I kept skiing a bit and was then forced into the tight pine forrest due to there not being enough snow on top of the water anymore. I managed to ski through that a ways until it was too thick to even try to keep skiing. So I was forced to cross the river.
Crossing this river was a daunting task in my ski boots, as at this point I was still trying to stay dry. Once I threw my skis over to the other bank (the one this picture was taken from), I was committed to making the crossing. But I managed it just fine.
Unfortunately, things only got worse from there as I was making my way out of there. I was able to ski a bit more on some of the dirtiest snow I’ve ever seen (littered with pine needles, small and large branches, and just generally all sorts of greenery) until the snow effectively ran out (12-18 inches is not enough to ski through woods like these). So I switched out to my hiking boots, woefully put the skis and boots back on my pack, and my pack on my back, and was on my way down through the wicked dense pine forrest. If you’ve never bushwhacked thought an eastern pine forrest, I recommend you never get the chance. It’s shear misery. The trees are very tight. There’s lots of them. Progress is slow at best. And worst of all: your skis or boots (or anything hanging off your pack, for that matter) keep catching and catching and catching on ever single possible branch within a two foot radius of your body. This further complicates the moving fast issue.
Since I had gotten a late start, I was in somewhat of a rush to get down while it was still light out. And I really wanted to get out of there while it was still light outside. So I continued down in my hiking boots, post-holing my way through around one foot of snow in the tight trees until all of a sudden I found myself in a spot seemingly closed in by very steep and absurdly thick descents in the general direction I was heading. This was one of the more flustering moments of the trip, as I searched around for a few different ways down, none of which held any promise. Consulting my map, I figured I had to back track a bit and I could find an easier slope to descend. Of course the only slope I was able to find was still plenty steep (trust me when I say that you wouldn’t want to walk up it).
I got down alright and was then confronted with yet another issue. Man getting out of the backcountry can be a serious pain! I found that I landed myself right next to the raging river of run-off and there really wasn’t too much dry land on my side of the river, especially downstream of my location (ie: where I wanted to be going). All of the accessible and walkable land was on the other side of the river. Awesome. So I spent some time looking for a good crossing spot where I could keep myself dry. Quickly realizing that there was no such thing (and even if there was, with the flow of the river down there any crossings of this sort would have been ludicrous), I got ready to take a dip. Even just finding a good spot to cross with my boots on proved difficult, but after a few minutes I found a nice and wide spot in the river. Now that my feet were wet, I knew I was on somewhat of a timer to get out of those woods…
On the other hand, my feet being wet also afforded me many new options heading down as I could veer slightly into the river if it looked to be much easier than an alternative route around. Having dealt with most of the issues, I soon found myself in an area with easy access back to the trail, so my situation was markedly improved.
(Also, you’ll note the lack of photos from this section of bushwhacking. Well, it was awful, I was in a bad mood and I couldn’t be bothered to take pics. Trust me when I say it wasn’t fun though.)
Still, post-holing my way along this wasn’t the greatest thing ever, although I was able to move relatively quickly. On the other hand, my skis and boots weren’t constantly getting caught on trees, so I was surprisingly alright with my situation at that point.
After that stretch ended there was one final bit of short bushwhacking. However, this was bushwhacking through saplings, which are very bendy, as opposed to pine branches, which are decidedly not bendy. So that was much easier to work through.
Within a few minutes, I found myself back on the trail and along that same stream pictured near the top of the TR.
And finally I made it back to the car, 7.5 hours later, probably 8 miles or so, and with around 3k+ gained. Nothing spectacular by any means, but a good day for me. However, I’m still trying to take this journey all in, even as I write this up a few days after the fact. After all was said and done, it ended up ok, but there was some serious potential for disaster while I was out there. I probably should not have gone out solo into an area that I’m not very familiar with, nor should I started my day at noon. On the other hand, the weather gave me a very wide margin of error. Not that this margin of error makes up for the other issues, but it certainly helps. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I do know that I probably won’t be heading back to this area on any solo missions until I have a much better understanding of the terrain around there. Bushwhacking through those tight pine forests, ended up on top of a sort of precipice with no clear way day, having to walk through a very fast and cold river, post-holing down a trail in the woods, skiing over snow when you hear the water just rushing underneath you, it all wears you down, and it wears you down a lot more than you might expect. I guess the end point here is to always always always remember to respect the mountains.
Now if only I had had an IPA waiting for me at the car…
My father came up this weekend to visit my brother and myself and to ski some in the great north east, so I went to go ski with him over the weekend. On saturday morning, we woke up to find some really nasty winds all over the place. Not wanting to deal with the certainly huge crowds at Stowe (with a multitude of lifts being on wind/mechanical hold) and not wanting to deal with the crowds at MRG, we decided to go spend the day doing some mellow touring out in the woods.
My father skinning up. Gotta give props to a dude in his 50′s who’s still out and getting after it.
After you go up, you come back down.
The snow was great. Although there wasn’t a tremendous amount of new snow, the snow that was there was very light and fluffy.
Going back in for seconds.
It can get thick in the eastern BC.
It’s even prettier in the forest when it’s snowing.
I like to rip through the woods.
And jump off stuff.
My father coming back down through the woods.
Gearing up for the last lap.
All set to go back down.
Some cool looking sastrugi.
Skiing off into the sunset is always a good way to end the day.
This was a great day and we managed to avoid all the crowds. The snow was superb too. All in all, no complaints!
One of my top reasons for being out in the woods and away from everything else is that it’s finally quiet. It’s just so nice to be able to get away from the rush of everyday life and escape into the woods, if only for a few hours at a time.
Being the weekend of the Winter Carnival here at Dartmouth, we were granted friday off from school (at the expense of having class on tuesday to make up for the loss of friday). I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to go further explore some VT backcountry with my brother that we’d poked around in about a month ago.
We had a necessarily slow start as someone had classes in the morning, but what was forecast to be a somewhat cloudy day turned out to be a stunning bluebird day with barely a cloud in the sky. We had a blast out there and found some really cool stuff in the woods. Here are a few shots from the day.
Marc skinning up.
Getting ready for our first descent of the day.
Skiing down sweet lines.
Some spots are tight with trees, others are just less tight…
Even pro’s still nom on snow.
After a brief bootpack in an effort to check out a promising face, we decided to stop moving upwards and ski back down… through this. And it included some really funky snow – in some spots it was windpacked, others had a decent crust on top of some very sugary snow. Weird.
Marc dropping some small rocks.
Marc nearing the top of another short bootpack.
And coming down a well defined sick line.
We soon thereafter moved back to the sunny side of things to begin our descent back to the car. As the sun was getting low to the horizon, the light was really pretty, although my photo editing leaves much to be desired. We also found some really neat lines on our last run. I’ll definitely be coming back to these sometime in the (hopefully) near future. Here’s a few of myself near the top.
Marc coming down through the trees.
It’s beautiful in these woods.
Myself coming down a small stream bed.
There was a little bit of fresh snow out there.
And one of me hucking off a log or something. Still need to work on my form…
Marc coming down through the beautiful end of day light.
And finally skiing into the shadows on our way back down to the car.
What an awesome day – we really couldn’t have asked for much more.
Itching to do some backcountry this weekend before the bad weather set in, I hooked up with my new buddy Zach in an effort to ski a really cool looking slide in the White Mountains.
The plan was to snowshoe along the trail for a little bit, then bushwhack our way to the base of the slide, make it up the slide and ski our way down. Maybe do a few laps, or even check out some other slides in the area.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned…
All geared up and ready to roll (minus snowshoes and poles).
Zach beginning up the trail. What a beautiful day.
And so the bushwhack begins. We had to move through a good amount of terrain looking like this, and a lot more that was a whole lot thicker. It’s the north east back country at its best!
But my oh my was it beautiful. Also, if you pay some more attention along the sides, that’s more of what we were bushwhacking through…
Zach moving up along the stream.
And crossing the stream.
Look at those pillows! So beautiful.
We finally made our way onto some old logging road, making the going a whole lot easier (at least for a little bit).
And then Zach fell into the river. Since I suppose this needs more explanation, we were moving along when we all of a sudden lost the faint tracks that we had been following. We kept going, and all of a sudden ended up alongside the river. Zach went first, and as he was walking along, all of a sudden the snow broke beneath him and he was partially in the river. This is a much harder situation to get out of than one would think, especially due to the fact that all that snow that collapsed into the hole with you is now saturated with water, making it extremely heavy. It’s literally adding a good 15+ lbs of weight to your foot – pulling that up is not easy.
Anyways, Zach got out of there and was surprisingly alright (although I suspect that a lot of that has to do with the fact that he wasn’t hiking in his ski boots). We kept moving up along this picturesque creek.
After Zach had fallen in, I knew I had to be especially careful. With some circulation problems, my feet tend to get cold quicker than most, and I knew that if I took a swim in the river, that would almost certainly be game over. Well, lo and behold, the hole that I fell into. I was meandering my way along, trying to stay on the better side of the river (with respect to potentially falling in), and at one point I had to cross over. Well, in that crossing over, the snow below me broke and before I knew it my foot was being flooded with cold water. Fuck. I managed to get out of there with the help of Zach (and yes, it was quite difficult, as I previously mentioned), and immediately took my boot off. I wrung out my sock and my boot liner (seeing water flow out of my boot liner was a disturbing sight), but given the mild temps of the day decided to keep on going, at least while I felt comfortable with the situation.
Some cool ice we saw during the day.
Zach moving forward, looking up at our new goal (the slide path on the left side above the river). I say new because at some point we changed our plan. Based on the maps that we had (probably should have gotten a USGS 7 minute topo, or something), we had deduced that we had passed the slide that we had originally wanted to ski. This was partially because we were under the impression that the bottom was choked in by trees for 100-200 ft before it opened up. Not wanting to risk a bushwhack up the steep hill for nothing, we decided to just change our plans to something concrete that we could see – the slightly further but steeper slide.
Well, we hiked for a while longer, but… in short, we didn’t get far enough. The day was starting to wane, and we were both exhausted from breaking trail up the river in the deep snow (not the mention the absurd bushwhacking that we had done), so we unfortunately decided to bail and simply ski back down along the river. An unfortunate decision, but a good one given that when we got back to the car it was getting rather dark. We were also able to reorient ourselves at our turn around point, and realized that we were totally wrong about the location of the first slide that we had wanted to ski. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20.
My stuff getting ready for the way down.
Tired, no, exhausted, and ready to start the trip back to the car.
This is what we had to look forward to in terms of skiing. From our turn around point, the first few hundred feet of skiing was the embodiment of survival skiing – it was nasty wind packed snow. Not a very pleasant ride. After that, everything was really nice and soft from being in the sun all day long. My only real complaint was having to be worried about breaking through the crust and falling into the river (again).
Starting out after the survival skiing section.
Zach coming down. Above, you can see the slide path that had become our secondary goal. Even if we had made it to the base, I’m not sure how far up it we could have gone given how tired we were.
Myself showing exceedingly poor form jumping off a small rock. What you don’t know is that maybe 10 feet from me is a huge hole that opened up down to the river after Zach had gone and jumped off this small rock. It was quite a surprise coming off the rock to see a huge hole waiting to swallow me up.
Some more mellow turns.
And Zach fell into the river, again. I think this was his third time of the day. Remember, when skiing over rivers, keep your speed up on the flats. Otherwise, you’ll slow to a stop and fall into the river.
Beautiful late afternoon light.
Coming down along the old logging road.
And all’s well that ends well, right? Well, even though we didn’t make it to our slide, we finished out the day with some Tuckerman’s Pale Ale. And it was good. I also finally at my tuna wrap, and my it was delicious!
I’ve played a lot in the mountains over my (few) years, both in the summer and in the winter. Yeah, you always go in with some sort of set plan and a goal in mind, but sometimes the mountains just don’t cooperate. The mountains have their own agenda, and they’ll play you as they wish. Yea, sometimes you spend hours bushwhacking probably less than 2 miles, fall into a river, and never really get to your objective, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Anyways, I had a blast.
When you play in the mountains, you’ve gotta have respect for the mountains. It’s as simple as that.
Being a standard thursday, I went out skiing to Stowe. In line with the rest of the season so far, it was a gloomy day… until I got up to the top of the hill. Maybe 200′ before the top, the lift broke out of the clouds to reveal an incredibly beautiful bluebird day! Unfortunately this was only in the higher elevations, but even so, it was really nice to see some sunlight after many a grey ski day.
I took a few runs before getting a call from my friend Josh (aka BushwhackerInPA), at which point I met up with him. We skied a tree line off the gondola, and then decided to go off the backside of Spruce to check out some woods that he’d heard of. The snow wasn’t especially great – it was somewhat crusty – but it was neat to explore this place that I’d never been in. As the snow wasn’t great, there really aren’t any skiing photos, but here’s a few from the day. (I might get a few more from Josh in the next few days, but we’ll see.)
A sick line we saw that drops right into Smuggler’s Notch (the road).
Josh hiking back up to the top of the notch.
There was some sort of army training or something like that going on up there.
If you look closely, you can see at least one person rappelling down off those cliffs. I’m pretty sure that was part of the army training up there.
Hey, I’ve seen this rock before… Even climbed it. Compare,
…and contrast (from May ’07):
Josh is happy to be going down again!
Tucking to go fast through the flats.
Back on Mt. Mansfield, here’s a cool view of the notch all lit up nicely.
Check out that sundog!
And one with the real (DSLR) camera. The jury’s still out on which one came out better. I do know now though that I need to clean my lens.
The snow conditions weren’t by any means great, but I had a great day. Not a huge amount of skiing, but I had a blast checking out the BC off Spruce peak.
MLK weekend generally tending to be one of the busier weekends of the winter, I had decided to go touring at least one day of the weekend a few weeks back. I dragged my brother (Marc) into it, and off we went to the VT backcountry – the Green Mts!
Anyways, we skinned up from the west, skied down the other side, skinned back up, had some lunch, skied partway down the west side, skinned back up, and then skied through the woods on the final way down.
Marc skinning up from the eastern side after our first run down.
Enjoying lunch time.
We even found a few places to ski in the woods. Marc laying down the lines.
My line was a bit tighter…
Proof that this really is the VT backcountry.
I found another cool little line.
A fleeting image through the woods.
Photog almost had the shot. Maybe .2sec too early. Still neat.
Again, some of the stuff we had to thwack through.
All in all, it was a great day. Really warm out, and super mellow. Now I just can’t wait to get back to explore more of the cool stuff that’s just waiting to be found out there.
I was up at Stowe today skiing with my new friend Rob (aka Arewolf). Explored some new places that I had never been in – there’s some really cool stuff out there!
Anyways, here’s a few pics from the day. The lighting was terrible, and not much new snow, but there’s still a pic or two.
Rob dropping. My first time trying to stitch photos together, and I think it worked out ok. Wish I had the last frame though!
And a few scenics of Smuggler’s Notch:
All in all, a great day of hard charging skiing (and I’m now up to 22 days on the season!).