By Jon Miller
After a long, cold and mostly awesome winter, spring is advancing in full force across New England. Approaches are starting to melt out, sunscreen is appearing in my pack, and I even spotted golf clubs in the corner of the gear room the other day.
This means the time has come for the annual pilgrimage to the Presidential Range as the calendar turns to April.
Three days of exploring, climbing and sliding through the Washington weather show – and mother nature did not disappoint, dealing out an entire season’s worth of conditions in just 72 hours.If you like your weather consistent and calm, definitely don’t go here. But if you’re not quite ready to let winter go, head up to the base of Tuckerman Ravine on a day like we had on day one, and you’ll feel small (and cold) as I did here.
Day one saw moderate danger ratings and an intimidating forecast of hurricane-force+ winds, serious wind loading and wind chills around -30.
The one upside was the sun was out all day without a cloud to be seen, and spirits were high at Pinkham Notch.
First view of Tuckerman rounding the corner into Hermit Lake.
Each time I visit in the winter it’s amazing how this mountain range could double for so many others around the world if you simply zoom in far enough.
For context, same spot in the summer. Looks like a completely different mountain.
This was not a day to ski in Tuckerman. Instead we hunkered down for a few minutes and marveled at the show.
After leaving our front row seats to the power of the winds on Mt. Washington, an enjoyable run back to the parking lot via the Little Headwall and the Sherbie.
Day two dawned overcast and variable, with 100+ mph winds forecast to blow in for the afternoon. We got an earlier start heading out for the Gulf of Slides in an attempt to beat the weather that was coming in.
Several hours later at the base of the central gully the winds were calm and a quick assessment with the shovel and saw found the snow pack to be really stable. In other words: green light time.
At the top of the ridge the views were first-rate and the wind was nowhere to been felt – we felt as if we were getting away with something. No time to waste, let’s drop in on this bad boy.
The sun even came out and in a matter of minutes transformed the wind-blown crust to something resembling powder that was soft and awesome and completely shredable. And shred we did.
The final turns of the trip were slushy and warm with wonderful views. Three days, three completely different sets of conditions, and a hell of a lot of fun.