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
Roger and I hadn't been there since 1986, before we'd gotten married,
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
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
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
all our gear, stayed for the night in some-ol' hotel in Gorham, and
Pinkham Notch early Thursday morning. (Rossko and Bart were going to
on Friday morning; since it was Son of Inferno
Weekend, I was worried that they wouldn't be able to get a space in
April 17, Thursday: Assault with a short run in the
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.
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
days of hiking and 28 minutes of skiing) (Note: click on all these thumbnail
pics for the full-sized versions.)
A view from the road
A snowy dome looks over the Pinkham Notch Visitors' Center
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.)
Roger decked out to hike up
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'
pack upside my back.
Roger and Your Intrepid Correspondent on
Boott Spur (left) to Hillman's Highway and the Lower
(right). Over on the left, behind some tree branches, is one of the
Spur Gullies; to the right of that are Cathedral Gully and the steep and
infamous Dodge's Drop.
First view of the Bowl
We dropped some gear, and I got suited up to go skiing. Roger was
out from his recent late night and flight, and from hoofing his
pack up the mountain, so he opted to hang out in the Hermit area. I
for the Bowl.
The Bowl, from near its base
(standing, left to right: Left Gully, The Chute, The Headwall, The Lip,
and The Sluice)
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
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
butt it all came back to me--pretty much. (I admit to skiing
most of the weekend.) We skied down to Hermit (which I'd never done
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,
Today's altitude profile
April 18, Friday: Reunion at Hillman's Highway
Into the late evening, our shelter wasn't full.
us, as we figured that Bart and Rossko would likely secure a spot in
Unfortunately, we were awakened after midnight, with the screech of
the wooden door sliding open and a headlamp shining in. "Got room for
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
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
Ratt Boy hiking up Hillman's
Roger cresting Hillman's
Looking down Hillman's Highway
We had a walkie-talkie, to hook up with Bart
We were at the top of Hillman's before we heard from them--and
weren't close. We took our first run. While we were waiting, I took
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
Finally, in the afternoon, they reached
a lot of black in the hot sun, Bart was overheated and stopped at the
rocks 2/3 of the way up Hillman's. The other three of us headed for the
Rossko, Roger, and I at the top of Hillman's--with
the summit in the background
Back on his feet and turning
Today's altitude profile
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
Roger looks from the "kitchen" down the snow steps into our lean-to
The shelter next to ours: they'd shoveled out their picnic table,
while we left the snow mound in place
Cozy accommodations, eh? This shelter sleeps 12.
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
(sunny and 60's), the Bowl would be way crowded. The batteries for the
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
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
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
Your Intrepid Correspondent, heading for a turn in Lobster Claw
Roger finishes up some tasty Lobster Claw
We found Rossko, who'd gotten ahead of Bart, in
We never did find Bart. Rossko and I headed up for a run of the Lip,
into the Bowl. (I'd never run the Lip before; it was always all rocks.
hoo!) Rossko also grabbed a short run of part of The Chute. Then we
down to HoJo's; after a few minutes, Bart found us there. He'd made it
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
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
Roger in the Sherbie
I tell you: I'm not great in the bumps, under
conditions. Put a 50-lb pack on my back, and...it ain't pretty. I made
down, butt I'm glad that nobody got me on video. Butt if your game is
don't this look tasty?
Rossko in the Sherbie
Bart in the Sherbie
Your Intrepid Reporter, trying to keep on balance in the Sherbie
Dork. (Photo kindly provided by Rossko.)
Today's altitude profile
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
Mystery Peak Altitude Profile
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
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.