Sometimes the temperature is below zero, the wind is howling, the skin track is icy, and the forecast is grim. Nonetheless if there is one thing in this world which I know to be true, it’s that you will never find good skiing in bed. Sometimes you just need to wake up and expect the worst, but hope that you get blessed with one of those “sleeper days.” On Saturday we headed out for “The Rockpile” (AKA Mount Washington, NH) despite temperatures in the lower tens, and stiff winds out of the north west. We got an alpine start at the crack of 11 AM. Above timber line the snow was covered in a beautiful veneer of water ice just firm enough to support your weight and prevent your skins from being able to grip. It was delightful. After a 2 hour “all-arms” ascent, we hunkered down at the summit behind equipment coated in ice. “Please let the other side of this hill be in a little better shape,” I muttered pretending to be enjoying myself.
Fearing the worst KC got her gap ready to go.
We crested the east side, and a visual inspection of the snow quality was inconclusive. We would have to do a manual inspection to ascertain whether the slope was horrible ice, or soft snow. Christian went first….
We continued our descent/traverse, and went hunting for places where the sun and the wind were doing some magic. I had a spot on my GPS that I thought would be good in these conditions so we headed for that one. We arrived, and ice went right up to the lip of the slope. In a moment of depression we were about to turn back and scratch our way to the car when I thought I saw some fresh snow at the very edge of the slope. I crept out and took a look. Fresh snow!! But was it stable enough to be skied? I agreed to do the preliminary analysis and ski cut. As I crept out I shouted back to my comrades what I saw: “Looks like a few inches of soft slab. Looks manageable. No terrain traps. It looks good.”
“LOOK A BALD EAGLE!*”
*In real life we were much more careful than this approaching the slope. Always approach every slope with caution until you have evaluated the hazard of avalanche, and understand and accept the risks inherent with the slope.
Read about the author: Greg