Monroe Brook – 2/25/2017

Saturday morning on Mount Washington started out much like Thursday, with the summits in the clouds, 37F to 39F degrees, and a 40 to 50 mph SW wind.

However, further up the Base Station Road, a break in the clouds revealed a very different picture of Burt and Ammonoosuc Ravines than Thursday morning. The snowpack in the ravines has shrunk dramatically, leaving little or no base for any new snow that does fall.

While we debated ascending the Cog or ART, I greeted the first hiker headed our way, surprised that he was starting out in hiking boots, and with snowshoes on his pack.  No, he said, I left the snowshoes in the truck; I was up here last week, and thought I’d try it.  Oh, no, I said, you won’t make it very far before you will wish you had them; there hasn’t been a hard freeze here since you left last weekend.  As he turned to go back, he postholed up to his knee.

Not a hundred yards up the ART, we came upon postholes from snowshoes!

Even hikers with snowshoes, 18″ long, had postholed numerous times along the first mile of the ART. Our new friend caught back up to us quickly – obviously glad he had retrieved the snowshoes from his truck – and passed us while I took these pictures. The Ammonosuc River was raging.  I had skied down the riverbed here on the 20th and 21st, but the rising water has washed away all the snowbridges.

I began wondering what has happened to Monroe Brook since the 23rd. We were relieved to find that some open water hazards had appeared only very low on Monroe Brook, and could be avoided.

We encountered some undermined snow above (halfway up the picture below), but this section should survive, if it refreezes tonight .

It was not a Kodachrome day, so I didn’t take any pictures of the ice-covered ledges, but there had been no new ice fall, and little evidence remained of Thursday’s pinwheels and rollerballs.  Above the lower little headwall, Ben was happy to see enough room between the trees to make a tele turn, or two.

Not much remained of the 200 pound pinwheel I had stomped on Thursday.

At the upper little headwall, and above, the fog just made any photo look out-of-focus.

We skinned up climbers-left, and headed towards Lakes. Like ships in the night, we came upon two T4T skiers leaving Lakes, headed for MB. We found conditions no better than they had, when we arrived at the hut. The SW wind was coming straight up Oakes Gulf and blasting the front door of the AMC hut, and visibility was about a hundred feet.  We hung out on the west side of the hut for awhile, hoping for a break in the clouds, but it was a crappy place to wait around. So we turned around, and headed back to MB. The slope connecting Lakes to MB still had snowcover, but it was breaking up fast in the krumholtz, and collapsed under our weight a couple times. It’s days would be numbered, without the impending refreeze tonight, and a refresher coating of snow. Looks like the first week of April, not the last week of February, up there.

Skiing from near the top was a mix of nice, soft turns, and scratchy frozen corn. Not a bad day, skiing Monroe Brook, but not as nice as Thursday. We skied down to the lower little headwall and found the cloud ceiling had lifted since this morning. That’s Mt Starr King, and Mt Waumbek, a 4005 footer, on the horizon, across Jefferson Notch. I stalled here for ten minutes, hoping that sun would hit the slope below us for our last dozen turns, but I snapped out of that dream, and we skied out with much better visibility, if not sunshine.

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