South Ammonoosuc Ravine – 3/25/2017

Saturday, March 25, JumpTurn and I left the trailhead on the Westside under cloudy skies. We climbed up through the fog, and once above treeline, found ourselves looking down on an undercast. Distant mountain peaks looked like islands, rising above a sea of clouds.

From Jacobs Ladder, looking at North Twin; with Liberty, Lincoln, and Lafayette in the distance
The Northern Peaks; Jeffersons Knee, Mts. Adams & Madison (L-R)
JumpTurn looking North towards Mts Clay, Jefferson, Adams

We looked into the Great Gulf to assess the stability, but Airplane was clearly No-Go. There was a small cornice at the top, it was scoured down to the icy old surface on skiers-right, and wind-loaded on skiers-left with new soft and hard slab. That would be great skiing, if the cornice and windslab were stable, but I knew the bed surface under that new snow was the same icy old surface that I had seen on Sunday (see the 3/19 photos in this thread).

Mt Washington summit beyond the Cornice at Airplane
Airplane – the dark patches on skiers-right are the icy old surface

Visibility began deteriorating mid-afternoon.  From the Gulfside Trail junction, we followed the Westside Trail south, towards Lakes of the Clouds, across the summit cone, above Ammonoosuc Ravine. We found the stonework along the Westside Trail held enough new snow to ski carefully, where I had hiked with boot crampons on mixed rock & ice only 5 days earlier.

At the point where we planned to descend from the Westside Trail, we were joined by two friends, Cory & Justin. We navigated down the summit cone through fog in hundred-foot visibility, linking snowfields with thin cover between the rocks, until we reached treeline. There, in South Ammonoosuc Ravine, the new snow was deep enough to link dozens of turns, down to the river in the floor of the ravine.

Once on the hiking trail, the snow conditions were good skiing, all the way down the ART. As we tailgated apres skiing, the fog lifted, revealing the summit, and our tracks were visible faintly in the distance, on the slopes of Ammonoosuc Ravine. It was a beautiful end to another day on the Westside.

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