I’ve always wanted the opportunity to ski Tuckermans Ravine on Mount Washington and this past Monday I got my chance.
I first heard about Tuckermans in Julian May’s science-fiction book “Intervention” – Mount Washington, the Mount Washington Hotel and other New Hampshire areas (Berlin and Dartmouth College) feature in the book too.
Now living in New England I’ve been able to visit the area my self.
”Ravine” is perhaps a misnomer for the actual area ski area. Which as the picture shows is really a large glacial bowl, the narrower ravine is formed by the run-off waters from all this snow.
The prime area the “Headwall” is about 800 feet high and has an average slope angle of about 55 degrees, with some parts being closer to perhaps 60 or 65 degrees. By comparison Black Diamond slopes at most resorts are around 20 degrees to 35 degrees on some of the steepest ‘Double Black Diamond’ slopes.
Of course – you have to get there first, and that means a hike of around 1.5 miles starting at the Pinkham Notch visitor center at 2000ft to the base of the bowl at around 4600ft. In fact the hike wasn’t too strenuous, and wasn’t as arduous as I or some of the others in the group expected. Mt Washington is also notorious for its terrible and rapidly changing weather, as you can see in the pictures and video Monday was a great day – we couldn’t have had better conditions !
Climbing out of the bowl to begin to ski is another story ! The ascent up is about 800 feet of very steep snow covered slope whilst carrying skis and wearing ski boots. I didn’t have crampons, and although they weren’t ‘required’ I do think they would add to a sense of security. I was quite conscious during my climb that others were above me and a steep long slope with rocks was above me. I saw a couple of people slip and slide whilst climbing the headwall directly (we took a slightly different route up the right gully) and though apparently uninjured it wasn’t something I would look forward too !
Of course having reached the top your legs are like jelly and now you need to ski down ! The snow was ‘difficult’ a mixture of thin crust and soft snow with quite a lot of bumps left behind from Saturdays Inferno Race. Although the snow seemed better in right gully I elected to ski part of the headwall and then the slope to skiers left – I felt the extra width would be helpful. In hindsight I think I should have sacrificed the space for the better snow in the gully. Next time !
Many people manage at least a couple of runs – for us we were ‘tuckered’ out after the first climb and run, and thankful to be safe that we were happy enough to leave it at one and come back another year. Besides we still had the Shelburne ski trail to ski home, rather than hike down. The trail is about a mile or so and in good snow conditions actually runs down to the parking lot at Pinkham Notch, this weekend however the snow ran out about 3/4 mile from the end so there was still a short hike home.
It was a great trip – and I’ve learnt some useful tips for next time: A little more leg strength training for the ascent, take a short run down the bowl first to get your ‘ski legs’ and a feel for the snow.
I’ll be back – and hopefully with the same excellent weather we had this year !
Posted under Personal
This post was written by awk on April 22, 2009