Monday, April 3, dawned bright and sunny, in sharp contrast to the previous two days of limited visibility on Mount Washington. I had burned up many calories skiing the previous two days, and had to recharge before heading out for a third day in a row. The morning was a distant memory, when I arrived at the trailhead, and began skiing uphill with my dog, Rocket, just before 1PM.
It was sunscreen & t-shirt weather, almost 40F degrees. Rocket was slow heading up the mountain, at first; usually he leads. I quickly realized he was too hot, wearing his usual winter skiing coat. Once he stripped-down, he was his usual self again, running ahead up the slope.
I caught up to a friend and his partner, Brendan and Brian, who started late because they had skied hard the day before at Mt Hale. At Jacobs Ladder, we discussed five options. We ruled out Great Gulf due to the late hour. We passed on Burt Ravine (been there, done that yesterday). The weather outlook, towards Vermont, indicated we still had hours of strong sunlight before any clouds arrived, so there was no hurry to drop into Ammonoosuc Ravine, plenty of time to reach the Westside Trail, and ski one of two routes down from “high George”.
Once we reached the Westside Trail, the snow was remarkably good, for April. A mix of graupel and pulverized rime, it provided a silky, dry, smooth skiing surface over the rough, icy old base layer. We skied South along the Westside Trail, from 5700 feet elevation, enjoying the views towards Lakes of the Clouds. About 5600 feet, we dropped down off thetrail, and skied the snowfields on the summit cone, above Ammonoosuc Ravine. Reaching the half-pipe above Central Ammonoosuc Ravine, we admired several ski tracks from good skiers, who were fortunate to have started earlier than us. We did a formal beacon check here, on the approach to the high-angle terrain.
Plenty of blank white canvas remained in the half-pipe, spread out like cream cheese, nice and soft in the afternoon sun. Below the half-pipe, the next five ice bulges and zones were progressively softer, and our turns sluffed increasingly larger roller-balls and pinwheels, to the point of raising concerns, but just shy of alarming red-flags.
Open water on the sixth waterfall was avoidable, but raises a big question mark for near-future descents. The amount of free water undermining the snowpack is increasing, and any rain in the near future could cause wet slab problems, open up the waterfall, and transform the final Ammonoosuc River exit into a terrain-trap water park.
Think snow, hope for warm days and cold nights… Maple sugaring weather!
On the way home, I stopped at the Sugar Hill Maple Farm. What do Cannon Mountain snow-makers do after snow-making season ends? Richard Hunt makes maple syrup, with his brother Jim and sister Alicia. Rich was boiling sap, tending the evaporator, checking the sugar content with a hydrometer, before siphoning-off the sweet golden liquid. His sister filled half-gallon jugs, while his brother collected sap, trucked it back to the sugarhouse, and filled the holding tank.
And the dog I was worried about on the ascent, early this afternoon? No more worries. He ran down the summit cone and half-pipe after me, tail wagging. Then I told him he could go first, and he ran down the central gully, two or three waterfalls ahead of us the whole way. It had only been 8 days since his last Ammonoosuc Ravine descent, and he wasted no time taking his favorite line, all the way down to the river, and down the hiking trail. He arrived at the parking lot ahead of us, and was already training new friends to throw snowballs for him to catch. He’s sleeping soundly now, dreaming of his favorite hikes on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.