Posts Tagged ‘fn’
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…
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.