Skiing Tuckermans Ravine

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 !

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This post was written by awk on April 22, 2009

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This years first big snow

Although we had a small (an inch or so) amount of snow in the middle of last week, Friday through Sunday was this years first really big snowfall (a year and a week after last years !). The video is from Saturday afternoon (during the storm) and Monday morning (when it was all done).

I think all told we got around 20-22 inches of snow between Friday lunchtime and later Sunday night.

This post has some video of what the street looks like in the summer time !

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This post was written by awk on December 22, 2008

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Creative Commons at the Berkman Center

Michele and I went to a panel session on the sixth anniversary of the founding of Creative Commons last Friday. The video of the panel is now available online.

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It was a good discussion – with some great funny moments about the early history of Creative Commons. There was a nice ‘shout out’ to Michele’s old boss at the Internet Archive Brewster Kahle too.

Also unlike Joi Ito (one of the panelists) I did get to talk to Tim Berners-Lee for a short while, however Joi left just before Michele and I had a chance to say hi to him ! Oh well….

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This post was written by awk on December 18, 2008

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The creator of some of my favourite shows as a child dies.

Oliver Postgate has died (the BBC has a nice article and some video here).

Postgate and his partner Peter FIrmin had some of the best childrens shows on British television. I was a big fan of Ivor The Engine, The Clangers and Bagpuss. Ivor The Engine was perhaps for many children their first experience of Welsh inflected English and Welsh idioms and slang in English.

Well worth watching the short BBC video – amazing just how low tech the productions were even by 1970s standards !

Take a read too of the interview with Emily Firmin (Peter’s daughter).

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This post was written by awk on December 9, 2008

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Why does Andrew have a caterpillar on his top lip ?

In many countries around the world November has been relabeled Movember – a Mustache growing event – to raise awareness about Mens health issues (in many countries this specifically means prostrate cancer).

So I’m taking part and encourage everyone to think about their health or the health of the men in their lives. Donate if you can – grow a mo’ if you can.

I’ll try and keep my mospace page updated through the month and perhaps post a few self portraits here or there as time progresses. A month isn’t long – but I’m confident I’ll not look too straggly !

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This post was written by awk on November 1, 2008

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Sylvie’s New Bicycle

Sylvie used some money from family (and some parental contributions) to upgrade her wheels :

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This post was written by awk on September 9, 2008

Dith Pran – Killing Fields Survivor

Dith Pran a survivor of the terrible Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia died today of cancer.

Roland Joffe’ 1984 movie The Killing Fields tells the story of Dith Pran and an american journalist who tries to help him. It’s one of my all time ‘favourites’. Though I use that word with caution because it’s such a moving movie of a terrible episode in humanities history. The movie, and it’s particularly haunting soundtrack by Mike Oldfield has always stuck with me.

Sadly Haing S Ngor the actor who portrayed Dith Pran died in 1996 apparently the result of a homicide.

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This post was written by awk on March 30, 2008

OLPC Mesh Networking

A story doing the rounds of Slashdot, OSNews et al today is this one from ComputerWorld Australia. James Cameron (no not that one) is testing the OLPC mesh networking in the Australian Outback where he lives.

In one of those small world moments – James is a former colleague of mine from Digital Australia. Though at the time we were working together he was living considerably closer to Sydney.

The mesh networking in OLPC XO is one of the features that I think sets it apart from some of the other ‘cheap’ notebooks that have become common recently. We bought an OLPC XO for Sylvie at Christmas in part because we felt it as a good donation to a worthy cause and also so she could have a computer of her own to interact with. The Mesh networking is not something we’ve tried since I don’t have a second machine or any of the other requisite hardware (and we have pretty ubiquitous WIFI at home too).

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This post was written by awk on March 4, 2008

Blast from the Past

I’m in Silicon Valley this week getting acquainted with the rest of my team at the VMware offices in Palo Alto.I went out for dinner tonight with two old friends from Mountain View and ran into Dave Johnson – a former colleague from Be ! Dave and I were evangelists together 10 years ago at Be. Dave gave up the tech lifestyle a few years ago and is now involved in various pieces of political activism at the Commonweal Institute,  mostly working on campaigns and the like, most recently for Bill Richardson’s presidential bid. Dave also has his own blog Seeing The Forest.

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This post was written by awk on January 31, 2008

Learning to Ski Again

The family has been taking a ski vacation up at Smugglers Notch Vermont this week. The kids have been in ski school pretty much the entire week (a day off one day for a ‘break’) and have improved immensely !

I decided though that it wasn’t fair that the children were the only ones enjoying something so new and fun (and painful, and cold 8-) so I took a telemark lesson this afternoon.

Telemark uses a ski that’s generally very similar to a regular Alpine/Downhill ski, where it’s different however is that the binding is more like a cross country ski in that the heel is not fixed down but free to lift off the ski (sometimes Telemark is also called Free Heel Skiing).

I was a little apprehensive, I’ve not had a lesson for about 20 years (I’ve been alpine skiing for about 27 years). I wasn’t really that excited about lots of faceplants into cold snow. But it was a small investment (with a discount badge I have here at Smuggs it was 20 dollars for the lesson and 20 dollars for the rental skis and boots).

However I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. It’s certainly not the same as Alpine downhill skiing, but almost all of the skills I’ve acquired over the years in balancing and understanding (feeling) where my weight is on the ski paid off. I took a few tumbles (3 or 4 I think), but only one decent faceplant. I’m also not too sore – if you’ve ever watched someone telemark skiing it’s an amazingly fluid but surprisingly active motion of rising and lowering and bending your knees as you turn. If they’re good it’s quite beautiful – I’m pleased with my progress but I think it’ll be some time before I’m that good ! I’m a little stiff, but my knees are actually fine, most of the soreness (and it’s mild) is in my quads, nothing worse than a very strenuous day of skiing with a lot of holding a tuck position.

Tomorrow I’ll telemark again (so as to try and capitalize on my lesson), and also so that I’m skiing with the children about as well as they ski !

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This post was written by awk on January 24, 2008