Awesome trip to the ravine this weekend. Left the parking lot at Pinkham @ 10:15 and got to HoJo's at 11:15.
The trail was a mixed-bad of ice and slush, and it made for slow-ish going, especially with my heavy pack (50lbs on the scale at Pinkham). Dropped our stuff in Shelter #5 (first one off the trail = nice) and I geared up on the deck and headed up towards Hillmans.
^ one of the most repeated pics in TRs.
The snow ranger (named sean, nice older guy) told me I had a couple hours of sunshine left, and I decided to hike up to Lower Snowfields and take those down. Nothing of that sort was gonna happen. I made quick time up the trail, kicking steps in the extremely icy snow. Below the curve, where HH turns straight towards HoJo's, the trail was covered in a pattern of little snow numbs, 2" tall. Not cool. I got to about 30 feet below the cutoff to LS and made the decision that there was no way I was gonna get down this safely on skis. So I started down-climbing. All the freaking way down. I passed two skiers on their way up and fended off a couple nags about my 'blades. Totally friendly though, I was surprised at how open they were and how easy we got a conversation started. Definitely much more friendly than I would have expected in a normal situation. They told me that they were gonna ski the snowfields too, but I wished them luck and kept going down. At one point, I did put the skis on, but I just could not hold an edge on the horribly crappy ice-snow. One guy climbing down with 'pons and an axe lent me his axe for the downclimb, with made things a lot easier. Never going up there again to ski w/out an axe. Hit the deck at Hojos and talked to my dad, who had climbed into the bowl. Apparently a line of people were hiking up the lip, and about three per hour were coming down. Very, very icy. Tons of :yardsale:s and one massive cliff huck on lookers right icefall. After some time recovering on the deck, I skied down the Sherbie to the first crossover. It was a lot farther down that I thought it would be. I ended up hiking up the TUX trail for about an hour in ski boots. Ouch. Massive blister on my foot now.
Two french guys from Quebec had moved into the shelter while we were gone. We ate dinner and got into the sleeping bags @ 6:15. The French guys (2 from our shelter and 6 or so others from another shelter) were up talking and laughing and drinking until about 9. It was really neat to listen to their conversation and realize that we must sound at least that foreign to them. About 10:00 a ranger came around asking for help in a rescue. Turns out, a climber had been descending the headwall from the summit at night, tripped, fell down the entire 'wall, and had some sort of a leg injury. We did not have any where near the gear to help out, and would only have caused more of a problem. 1st rule of First Aid, after all. Turns out, he had broken his leg, and a team of 20 people carried him down to hojos and then a snowmobile took him down at about 11:30. Kinda sucked to sit there helpless, but it was better than causing more of a problem.
Sunday Morning, I hiked my skis up into the Ravine proper and beat the snow rangers up, thus missing their spiel on the daily dangers.
Skied one run from about 1/2 Lunch Rocks to get a feel for the snow. perfectly soft, mushy snow.
^thats me in the center of the image, leaning way back.
The sun was blasting the whole right side of the ravine, no conditions problems at all. Left side was still icy, however. Watching more and more people coming down Sluice and RG, i decided to try my hand at it. The hiking was scary. That's the only word for it.
I kicked my way in boots quite a way up the Sluice, and then got scared out of my mind. I was starting to slip down a little bit with each step, and had no way to self-arrest if I had slipped. I was gonna fall all the way to Lunch Rocks. However, the snow was slippery enough that I couldn't immediately sit down and put the skis on. I booted across the sluice to right below one of the ice-falls and sat on the edge of a crevasse.
Extremely stupid, I know, but I didn't feel at all safe continuing to a better spot and from what I could tell up there, this was the only way to do it. I tried to minimize my time in the fall zone, but it was still risky. The whole time I was sitting there I was thinking "Oh crap, I'm gonna be the next person they carry out of here. I'm gonna get hit with a chunk of ice. I'm gonna slip. Holy Sh!t" Eventually I got my skis on and had an awesome ski down to the bottom of the bowl, where I promptly collapsed.
After assuring the ranger I was ok, I hiked back up to my perch on lunch rocks and drained a Nalgene., while watching the show in the bowl. Some truly excellent icefall runs, some truly excellent :yardsale:s. One 'boarded did a complete front flip about five feet off the ground and then landed on his face. Another skier started carwheeling and speared his ski into the snow. it came off and stood there, completely vertical, quivering, while he tumbled all the way down with one ski. Another skier lost a ski and finished his run on one ski, completely in control. Great day to just sit and watch.
Skied again off the top of lunch rocks and down to the bowl. Last run in the bowl. My dad hiked down and we headed to Hojos. I met surf88 on the way down (first T4Ter i've seen in a "natural environment", good to meet you). Despite the fact that Little Headwall was closed, a group of stupid people was still skiing down it.
Got to the deck, grabbed the rest of my gear from the shelter, skied the Sherbie out (see other threads for Sherbie beta), which was a really good ski, despite the cover.
I only had to wait about 20 mins for my father at the bottom. Ate at Margaritas in Bartlett (excellent Mexican) and got home at 9:30. Despite the icy conditions first day, It was by far my best trip to Tuckerman Ravine. Next year, i'll have an axe and maybe 'pons, so i'm thinking about lip, chute, etc. Can't wait.
Sorry to double post, for all the T4Ters here.