Tux Trip, April 17-19, 2008

(Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by Ratt, copyright © 2008 RattTronics. All rights reserved. Where otherwise indicated, copyright is by the author.)

Background: After hitting Vail in 1995, I didn't go downhill skiing again for over ten years. Finally, in 2006, I gave it a shot. In '07, I went three times...
...bought some new skis...
...and talked three buds into a 2008 run of Tuckerman's Ravine.
In my youth, I'd hiked and skied Tucks a bunch of times, mostly with my bud Roger. The first time was probably 1978, butt I can't really recall.
Roger and I hadn't been there since 1986, before we'd gotten married, before I'd moved out of New England. So I was psyched to head back.
Bart Martini and Rossko Rugaber are two guys I work with, and they were eager to go. Bart had been there once before; Rossko, never. I also called Roger, and he said "sure."
So we planned. I skied a lot in the '07-08 winter, bought some new gear for the trip, and hiked up and down a few hills (sometimes with a 40-lb pack) to get these AARP-ready legs into shape.
This was a great snow year. We all surfed TimeForTuckerman.org a bunch, getting the beta on weather conditions and like that there. Thet-ol' resource didn't exist in the 1980's, you know. Warn't no YouTube, neither. We were going crazy with anticipation.
So Roger flew from Seattle to Manchester. (He almost didn't make it; something suddenly came up at work, and his vacation was in serious jeopardy. He worked past midnight, then got up early to catch his flight.) I left work on Wednesday, mid-day and drove to Manchester to pick him up. We packed up the car with all our gear, stayed for the night in some-ol' hotel in Gorham, and headed to Pinkham Notch early Thursday morning. (Rossko and Bart were going to begin on Friday morning; since it was Son of Inferno Weekend, I was worried that they wouldn't be able to get a space in the shelters.)

April 17, Thursday: Assault with a short run in the Bowl
Roger and I got up early, hiked up to HoJo's and got a place in a shelter. (In the 80's, we'd always stayed in the open-faced lean-to's. This time, we got a lean-to with a sliding wooden door in the front.)

Topo, with the track of three daze of skiing and hiking (well...2.9 days of hiking and 28 minutes of skiing)
(Note: click on all these thumbnail pics for the full-sized versions.)

GPS Tracks

A view from the road
from the Road

A snowy dome looks over the Pinkham Notch Visitors' Center
Dome from the 

Bummer that this is out of focus. Trust me: the scale read 75 lbs. (On the left, you can see the 34-kg mark fairly well.)
75 pounds!

Roger decked out to hike up

Roger Ready

Never before had we seen snow all the way up the trail. I was envious of those who were geared for skinning up, while we had our skis and boots adding to our backpack weight. More to the point, this would mean that, for the first time in our Tux careers, Roger and I would be able to ski down the Sherburne to Pinkham Notch. That, I was looking forward to!, but with some trepidation, what with the big-ol' 50-lb. pack upside my back.
Roger and Your Intrepid Correspondent on the hike
Ratt Hiking Roger Hiking

Boott Spur (left) to Hillman's Highway and the Lower Snowfield (right). Over on the left, behind some tree branches, is one of the Boott Spur Gullies; to the right of that are Cathedral Gully and the steep and infamous Dodge's Drop.
Boott to 

Lion Head
Lion Head

First view of the Bowl

Da Bowl

We dropped some gear, and I got suited up to go skiing. Roger was kinda tuckered out from his recent late night and flight, and from hoofing his heavy-asseted pack up the mountain, so he opted to hang out in the Hermit area. I headed for the Bowl.


The Bowl, from near its base (standing, left to right: Left Gully, The Chute, The Headwall, The Lip, and The Sluice)
The Bowl

Alone, I was looking for someone to ski with. I found Hillary, who was hiking with her parents, skiing alone, and also looking for someone to ski with. We booted up to a spot just below the Lip of the Headwall, clicked in, and headed down. I hadn't been on anything this steep in thirteen years, butt it all came back to me--pretty much. (I admit to skiing conservatively most of the weekend.) We skied down to Hermit (which I'd never done before).
Note: since we'd mostly hit up Tuck's around Memorial Day weekend, after the school semester was out, we were blessed with much more snow and many more options than ever before. There were a lot of "firsts" for Roger and me.
Hillary (who was a year old in '86, back when I was there last), with the headwall behind her. ¿Steep, eh?

Today's altitude profile
1st Day 

April 18, Friday: Reunion at Hillman's Highway

Into the late evening, our shelter wasn't full. That pleased us, as we figured that Bart and Rossko would likely secure a spot in the morning.
Unfortunately, we were awakened after midnight, with the screech of the wooden door sliding open and a headlamp shining in. "Got room for three?" asked the headlamp. They'd hiked up in the dark, of course.
"Yeah," admitted our shelter-mate Chaz, and we all scooted over to make room. It was looking as though Rossko and Bart would find No Room at the Inn.
Turns out, the guys who arrived in the middle of the night were the ones who skied naked in the Bowl the following day. They got bawled out (ha! get it?) by the park rangers. It's a tradition...
We got up in the morning and headed for Hillman's. We hadn't been on that trail since our first time, ca. 1978. On that trip, Hillman's hadn't been skiable all the way to the top; this time it was, and we booted up over the lip.
(For those of you who aren't Tuck's regulars, that's Wildcat Mountain way down below in the distance.)
Roger hiking up Hillman's
Climbing Hillman's

Ratt Boy hiking up Hillman's
Ratt Boy 
Climbing Hillman's

Roger cresting Hillman's
Some Bare 

Looking down Hillman's Highway


We had a walkie-talkie, to hook up with Bart and Rossko.  We were at the top of Hillman's before we heard from them--and they weren't close. We took our first run. While we were waiting, I took another run; Roger hung out at the Hillman's base.
Roger making turns

Ooooops--that turn didn't work out so well

Back up with another turn

Your Intrepid Reporter, with a graceless turn at the bottom

Not at 

Finally, in the afternoon, they reached Hillman's. Wearing a lot of black in the hot sun, Bart was overheated and stopped at the pinch rocks 2/3 of the way up Hillman's. The other three of us headed for the top.
Rossko, Roger, and I at the top of Hillman's--with the summit in the background
Top o 

Rossko's turns

Rossko's turns
Down at 

Someone, sliding

Back on his feet and turning
So Fast, 
He's Blurry

Today's altitude profile

Hillman's 'Tude

Rossko and Bart did, indeed, have to ski down for the night (butt not until after we shared a few snorts of a bottle of tequila at HoJo's, to celebrate Bart's birthday). At least they didn't have heavy packs for the Sherbie! Roger and I headed back to our shelter for the evening.
Note the snow to the top of our lean-to
To the Roof

Roger looks from the "kitchen" down the snow steps into our lean-to
Da Cook's in Da Kitch

The shelter next to ours: they'd shoveled out their picnic table, while we left the snow mound in place
Shoveled out

Cozy accommodations, eh? This shelter sleeps 12.
Close Quarters

April 19, Saturday: The Bowl and Sherburne

We got up and headed for the Bowl. This was the day when the Son of Inferno would have its race down Left Gully. With the race on, and beautiful weather (sunny and 60's), the Bowl would be way crowded. The batteries for the walkie-talkie had died out, so...well, we were hoping that we'd see Bart and Rossko.

Sunrise comes to the Presidentials

The race course down Left Gully

Left Gully

Combine Inferno Weekend with 60+-degree sunny weather, and you have a recipe for a fustercluck of people. In the photo below, you can see a few hundred people at the Lunch Rocks, and a well-populated Boot Ladder up toward the Lip. If you fell climbing the Boot Ladder (which is entirely possible; though the steepness isn't obvious in this picture, refer back to the pic of Hillary, above, to see how steep a wall they're all climbing), you'd likely take out a few skiers on your slide down.
Lotta folks in the Bowl
Crowded Bowl

I got a quick run down below the Lip, for warmup, while Roger took a break. Then we hit the Lobster Claw. 
A look down at the crux move of Lobster Claw
Down at the 
Claw's Crux

Your Intrepid Correspondent, heading for a turn in Lobster Claw
Ratt - Claw

Roger finishes up some tasty Lobster Claw

Roger - Claw

We found Rossko, who'd gotten ahead of Bart, in the Bowl. We never did find Bart. Rossko and I headed up for a run of the Lip, down into the Bowl. (I'd never run the Lip before; it was always all rocks. Woo hoo!) Rossko also grabbed a short run of part of The Chute. Then we headed down to HoJo's; after a few minutes, Bart found us there. He'd made it to the Bowl, butt couldn't find us in the fustercluck. Too bad we'd blown the walkie-talkie's batteries the previous day, shouting dirty limericks and stuff.

Panorama of Tuck's, from Dodge's Drop (skier's right) to the Bowl (skier's left) (Photo by Bart)

Looking down the Chute (Photo by Rossko)


We all geared up and headed down the Sherburne.
Roger in the Sherbie
Roger - 

I tell you: I'm not great in the bumps, under normal conditions. Put a 50-lb pack on my back, and...it ain't pretty. I made it down, butt I'm glad that nobody got me on video. Butt if your game is good, don't this look tasty?
Rossko in the Sherbie
Rossko - 

Bart in the Sherbie
Bart - 

Your Intrepid Reporter, trying to keep on balance in the Sherbie

Dork. (Photo kindly provided by Rossko.)

Today's altitude profile
'Tude - Day 3

We had dinner at a restaurant in North Conway, then Rossko and Bart headed back to Noo Yawk. Roger and I headed to my Mom's place in New Hampster.

Bonus: April 20, Sunday: Mystery Peak in Massachusetts

On the way back to NY, after dropping Roger off, I snagged a peak in MA, off of Route 2. Then, taking the scenic route back to NY, I grabbed an ice cream at Bart's, near Orange, MA, on the Mohawk Trail. Chunky Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry is still da Bomb!

Atop the peak
Atop Mt. Wach

Mystery Peak Altitude Profile

Wach 'Tude

So, to sum up: Firsts for Roger and me: Hillman's all the way from the top, Lobster Claw, and the Sherburne. For me, also: taking on the scary steep Lip of the Headwall. For Bart: Hillman's and the Sherbie; and, for Rossko: Tuck's itself, including Hillman's, the Bowl, the Lip, the Sherbie, and a part of Center Gully. A good time, much like one of my ex-girlfriends, was had by all.

Things I learned:
  • I don't need so much durned food. (I probably had five pounds' worth of dead weight messing with my balance as I was heading down the Sherbie.) If you run out of food, you can always live off of Snickers bars, bought at HoJo's.
  • When you have a 50-pound pack on and boots clipped into downhill skis, if you land on your back you will have a distinct appreciation for how an upside-down turtle feels. (Thanks, Bart, for extending a hand to pull me back onto my feet!)
  • I need a new pack. That-ol' 20-year-old external frame thing, with the bent frame, was digging into my hip bone, and no amount of extra padding kept it from punching me in the side every time I hit a mogul.
  • You can go several days on one Coleman PowerMax fuel can. There was no need to carry two of them. They're less than a pound apiece, butt still...
  • Don't bother packing cheap coffee for Roger. Remember: Seattlers are coffee snobs.

    Things on my to-do list:
  • Ski down from the summit.
  • Run Left Gully or the Chute--or both.
  • Dodge's Drop--nah, I don't think so.

    Well, that's the story of this year's Inferno Weekend at Tuckerman Ravine. Hope you enjoyed it. I can't wait to get back.

    Note: you can see another perspective on this trip at EveryTrail.com, with the photos arrayed with a downloadable GPS trace.

    Want some niiishe Tuck's YouTube lynx? Here you go:
    Headwall Crash'n'Burn
    Another Headwall Crash'n'Burn
    Yet Another Headwall Crash'n'Burn
    July 4
    Borat skis Tuck's
    Sledding Crash'n'Burn
    Running the Bowl in an Inner Tube
    1993 Footage
    Lots of Crashes'n'Burns
    Jumping the Headwall
    Click here to scurry back into the Ratt Hole!