April 14th, 2013. Closing day for most major resorts in the East. I decided to spend my Sunday at the great Mount Sunapee. My school schedule for the week was looking a bit funky, no class Monday for Marathon day, no class Tuesday (because I never have class Tuesday), no class Thursday for reading day, and a final on Friday. I have a pretty tight schedule most of the time, so I don't like to waste time doing nothing. I decided to spend my Monday in the majestic King Ravine, situated on the north side of Mount Adams, NH. I had been up there once before for a hike during Hurricane Lee in 2011, and fell in love. School and weather kept me from hitting it last spring, so I couldn't blow off and opportunity to get up there again.
* I'd just like to add that it has been five years since I started ski racing, and as much as I love it, it has been five years since I have actually got in some skiing. With a tight schedule for racing in training, and having people down your throat about doing stupid stuff that could result in a season ending injury, it is IMPOSSIBLE to sneak off to the backcountry/side country to get in some play time. Yea, I do love racing, but being able to just go out and enjoy the day and not have to worry about results whatsoever would be nice. This trip would end the five year gap.*
I started up the Airline trail at roughly 8am, and about 90 minutes and several fights with tree branches, I reached the King Ravine split. There was one set of tracks going in to the ravine floor, and those disappeared at the Great Gully/Chemins Des Dames junction. Gauging by the complete lack of tracks and how completely even the snow was going into the trail, I think it would be safe to say that I was first in here for the season.
The fact that there were no tracks going into the ravine was quite terrifying, but with the the ravine so close and a guarantee of fresh tracks, I had to continue on.
After trucking through the snow, I found myself at the at the bottom of the Great Gully and "The Seven". I trekked up the Great Gully, staying in the bush as much as I could. The snow was very granular, corn like in quality. Stepping into it was like quick sand, perfect avalanche snow. After about 40 minutes of carefully working my way up, I felt a light movement under my feet. I slowly moved my way over to a small bush that was poking out of the ground. After securing myself on the bush, I took my skis off my pack with my boots already clicked into the bindings. Boots already in the skis, can't be too hard to get in, right? WRONG. Lace up liners! Complete pain in the ass to get into, even moreso with the shells already clicked in. I struggled a good 10 or so minutes until I finally got them on. Game time. With my line already planned out in the event of an avalanche, I took off. And with me came more than a foot of snow down the gully. I could hear it coming down behind me, and I took the escape route on the skier's left of the gully. I took a slight tumble while turning off into the escape route zone, and ended up taking a 100ft slide into the bush. Normally wouldn't be an issue, but being in a t-shirt, it was a little painful. I guess I'd have some cool injuries to show off to my friends back down at school.
The rush was quite unreal, and the result was more than two feet of snow now sitting at the bottom of the gully. Would make for some great skiing later on in the day. The "Seven" gully was in the same shape, so I decided to give that a go as well. Basically the same result, and I decided to throw on a sweatshirt and gloves as a precaution.
I decided it was time for lunchbreak at my "lunch rock". I sat there for a good half an hour or so, soaking in the sun for a goggle tan and looking up at this.
12:30 hit, and I decided to take a couple of runs in the runoff. I don't have a go-pro, so I had to make due with putting my phone between my stomach and waist band on my bag. I didn't want to risk losing my phone earlier on in the day, so I didn't bother recording the first two runs. With the danger of an avalanche gone, I decided to give it a go. That is what phone insurance is for anyway, right? First up was the Great Gully. I only went up about half/third of the way, as there wasn't much deep snow left up top.
Great stuff. Now time to give "The Seven" the same treatment. Sadly my phone gave the "battery too low" message. Whatever.
I decided to head down as it was now 3pm. Didn't want to risk getting stuck around in the dark. I skied down to the ice caves and took my skis off for the next quarter or so of a mile. Had to turn around one more time to look back at what I had just skied.
Now time to turn my 90 minute ascent into a less than 30 minute descent. I threw on my skis again, and started to gun it down the 5 foot wide trail, skiing off into the trees every 80 or 90 feet to slow myself down. It started to open up a little bit and get flatter. Once it got flat enough (about a 3/4 of a mile past the caves), I started to gun it down. 35 minutes later and several annoying river crossings later, I was at my car, my sweatshirt and snowpants SATURATED in sweat. I struggled my ski boots off immediately, and dropped to the ground in exhaustion. I plugged my now dead phone into my car, only to get the horrible news about the marathon. 4 friends were in the race, all of them with a ~12pm start. After some phonecalls and texts later, I took a sigh of relief. Everyone that I knew was ok, but the next (and final week of school) are most definitely going to be hard, both getting onto campus and having to see those directly impacted.
Once I got my stuff together, and my legs stretched out to a degree, I decided I had to get one last picture from the road of the King.
I must say, it was nice to get out for the day and it was a great first for me (going to King Ravine). I'll most definitely be up there again atleast one more time this season, should be good for another month or so. Most importantly it was nice to be able to ski for the first time in a long time, and it was nice to be able to re-connect to the sport that I had simultaneously engulfed and distanced myself from over the past five years.
To Tuckerman this Thursday, and Huntington and Castle next week. Maybe Jefferson Ravine if time allows this season.