Sun, Nov 17, 2019
by Bill Newman
Hike Length: 6.5
Trails: Tuckerman's Ravine trail
Date: April 30, 2005
After several weeks of hearing about everyone else having fun at Tuckerman’s, we decided that we had to get there just so we could use our winter gear one last time. We are planning on heading out west this summer, so some additional snow climbing and self-arrest would be good practice too.
We hit the Pinkham Notch parking lot about 8:30 AM after leaving Boston in the rain. I think the forecast had scared a lot of people away as we were easily able to find a space near the lodge. We knew that the rain was heading south to north, so our hike out would probably be wet. The day started out great, a little bit of sun, plenty of people, and an easy trail. We started out with short sleeve shirts and sunglasses and ended up in full rain gear on the trip back….as expected. Even though it was a little overcast, the views along the trail and up to Hojo’s were fantastic as the ravine came into sight. Either that or I was just psyched to be there for one last day of snow fun and everything looked great no matter what.
We met up with a couple of the Tuckerman’s volunteers to get an idea of the danger areas. The weather all week had been warm and raining, so we were concerned about falling ice and crevasses. The only place they said was off limits was Sluice and certain parts along the lip. We really didn’t have an exact plan in mind when we started but we knew we had to avoid the couple hundred skiers and had resolved ourselves to doing Lobster Claw or the chute just to the left (I've seen it listed as chute #9 and/or it may be Sluice).
We stopped for a bite to eat at the Lunch Rocks and also to watch some of the skiers. There were plenty of oooo’s and aahhh’s from the crowd when some poor skiers went for a tumble, but fortunately no one appeared to be seriously injured this day. The left chute (#2) was very active too, and I was surprised because it looked to be the most challenging for the skiers. After assessing the area and where people were skiing and climbing, we decided to leave the lunch rocks at the top (near chute 9), then traverse over to the center headwall, and go up from there. Once we hit the lip, our plan was to traverse back along the top towards the Lobster Claw and go down via Lions Head (winter route is closed now, I think).
We started along the traverse just below Sluice with crampons and ice axes and made our way to a small outcrop of rocks about 1/3 of the way up the center headwall. From here we went straight up.
The going was a little slow as we were avoiding the few “crazy” skiers in this area while trying to find a route that had not been skied or climbed. In the end we moved to the left of the outcrop, but stayed right of a small gully that did not look inviting all at. We were well on our way when the clouds came in. Within minutes visibility was down to just a few feet and the rain started (ok, for a brief couple minutes we had snow flurries). It wasn’t too bad to start so we continued up. Unfortunately, the weather got worse very quickly, and we could no longer see where we were hoping to top out…..and it started pouring!
We made a very good decision that play time was over and it was time to get down even though we were only a short distance form the lip. We slowly kicked our way back down until we hit a point we felt comfortable enough to glissade, and started practicing self arrest from here (which was fun until I poked myself in the thigh with the point of my axe! No blood, just one of those dumb things we pay for while not paying attention).
By the time we hit the base the rain was coming down at a good pace and we couldn’t see much more than 30-40 feet. We put on our rain gear and headed back to the Notch to call it a day. But even with the rain, it was still fantastic to be there just hanging out, climbing a little, and watching everyone play on the last oasis of snow.
Equipment: Winter Gear
Special Equipment: Crampons, ice axe, and a camera!Pictures from the Tuckerman's Hike >>
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