Walk on the Westside, December 6, 2016

Tuesday afternoon, I took my dog, Rocket, for a walk on the Westside in some interesting weather conditions. I can’t call it an afternoon of skiing, though I wore ski boots, and had skis on more than half the hike.

Although the base station parking lot looked promising, thin cover was not enough (2″-3″ snow, ice, and water) to skin up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (ART). I turned around, three-tenths of a mile up, at the junction with the ART Extension. I expected thin cover would require hiking back down, but didn’t expect to hike both ways to MB.

Unsatisfied with the short hike, Rocket and I started climbing again, up the open slopes of Cold Spring Hill. A couple friends, who arrived while I was hiking up & down ART, had established a skin track up, in 3″-4″ of snow.  A snowboarder had hiked up earlier in the day, leaving a thousand vertical feet of tracks scraped down to rocks, dirt, and cinders almost the whole way… Seeing that track on the way up, I had no illusions about “skiing” down this slope; but it was good exercise skinning up, even if I’d have to walk back down with the dog.

The Westside, with an overcast sky, from Base Station Road, 12:30 PM;
Looking up the slope, overcast at 3000′ elevation, sunlight on Clay Col and the upper slopes of Burt Ravine at 5000′;  3:15 PM;
Looking up the slope.
Looking down the slope.
Looking up the slope, at 3100′ elevation.
Looking down the slope, at 3100′ elevation.

I met Ben and his dog Abby at my turn-around point, the Waumbek Tank, on their way “skiing” back down from Jacobs Ladder, just before sunset. I wasn’t able to capture the awesome scene unfolding in the Western sky, as the sun set behind an approaching snowstorm in the West, because my phone battery died at about 3100 feet elevation, while still ascending. The best 2 photos were taken by Logger Ben, from Jacobs Ladder at about 4PM:
Undercast below Jacobs Ladder, setting sun behind clouds in the West; Mts. Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, l-r; photo  credit: Ben Hall;
Descending from Jacobs Ladder; Mts. Lincoln & Lafayette on horizon; photo  credit: Ben Hall;
Although I linked a half-dozen turns a few times, most of the thousand+ foot descent was kick-turn-and-traverse, kick-turn-and-traverse, kick-turn-and-traverse…  The better snow was at higher elevations, below treeline, where Ben had gone.

The sun set fast behind clouds approaching from the West, and the twilight quickly faded as we approached the base. Ben switched on his headlamp for the last couple hundred yards of descent. Venus and the first-quarter Moon were not providing much light…  We watched another friend descend by headlamp, until Brandon made it safely down to the base.

Tuesday was my first backcountry adventure on the Westside this season – and it’s already better last year!!! Maybe we’ll be able to call it “skiing” in another week or two.

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