I noticed this poster the other day at a local supermarket, with temperatures in the 70s and local snow a distant memory. I thought about going up to the Customer Service Desk and demanding both a "Family Fun Book" and more "Wonderful Winter" through April 22 -- although I would have settled for at least March 22 too, sigh.
Saturday March 17 we typically would have gone on a family ski at one of our local xc ski centers. Instead we had to settle for a family hike. I had skied some nice untracked powder only 16 days earlier at this very location, but winter seemed like it was many months in the past.
The red object to the left is the grip of Micayla's ski pole, which she had insisted on bringing along, perhaps to boost my spirits. Here she is taking a snack break from hiking as well as from constantly probing the dirt and mud with her ski pole.
Wednesday, March 21: the tour (clockwise).
March 18, the day after our family hike, Josh notched his first rando race victory at Bromley, with Jerimy close behind, and me a distant third. The following day I took three runs on the remaining snow at Berkshire East, which is probably discontinuous by now (although I'll investigate Friday morning just to be sure). On Wednesday, Team Mass Rando hiked alongside a bare Cog to the utility line, where we started skinning and kept at it for awhile above treeline.
From the Cog we dropped into Airplane Gully, which had good April 21 coverage. The slight suncupping was only a minor drawback, and whoever came after us probably had nearly perfect conditions.
After fighting my way through the trees (while Jerimy and Josh looked with amusement) in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a portion of Spaulding Lake (an annual quest at which I have succeeded only once), we skinned up for a while and then hiked up near the Great Gulf trail, which provides a nice view of the ski terrain. Toward the left is Airplane Gully, then Pipeline, and finally Haulaway (sort of). Looks like Sphinx Gully though has absolutely nothing left to ski.
Photo op after topping out -- and no, I did not (or at least not deliberately) color coordinate my skis & helmet! At this time the summit temperature was hitting around 50, and would eventually break the old daily record high by 11 degrees at 54 degrees (only about 10 degrees below typical *summer* temperatures), as well as tie the all-time March high.
Now granted Josh isn't all that big a guy, but he sure looks even smaller compared to Great Gulf (as he boots up a small steep snowfield after diverging from near the Great Gulf trail).
After a short traverse across the base of the summit cone, we skied the NE Snowfield, with very soft snow, but decent cover – about like April 21 overall. Traversed across the base of the East Snowfield, then booted up Southeast Snowfield. Skied down and then traversed over, bypassing the center of the bowl since we couldn’t get a good visual on crevasse hazard. Chute Shoulder skied very nicely, but then Chute was quite manky with super deep runnels – although at least that’s still a typical April 21.
The view of Right Gully was probably the most discouraging site of the date -- pretty much like May 21 (seriously).
After climbing up Left Gully (which had good April 21 cover, and looked like nice snow conditions too), we took a short hike up and over then down into the top of Airplane Bowl in Oakes Gulf, so as to ski down onto the flats then skin up the other side, just as I had done as late as May 12 last year. Unfortunately, as shown in the picture (taken later on from the other side of Oakes), March is the new May in Oakes. I apologized to my partners and we hiked back up and over to . . .
. . . the pleasant low-angle snowfield about Halfpipe Gully, which I skied down up to the crux. This time at least I told Josh and Jerimy to wait up on top, so they wouldn't have to hike back up like I'm about to . . . actually, although what I thought was the crux was bad enough (look at the questionable snowbridge toward the middle left, although the unseen area to my right is fine), but much further below a waterflow has taken the place of all the prior snow.
Jerimy and Josh waiting patiently (?) for me to hike back up, or perhaps discussing whether to dismiss me from my tour guide duties . . . although then again, I did tell them that Halfpipe Gully probably would not be skiable based upon recent beta and weather, but was still tempting to check it out!
Just a little bit more hiking brought us to a lateral snowfield that led nicely into Main Gully, although I was able to ski down (navigating through the trees) only to ~4560' (while Jerimy and Josh wisely curtailed their skiing even higher above), which is ~360' above the base of Double Barrel and ~460' above the transition point on the flats.
Thanks to a picture we took from a Cog vantage point earlier in the day, getting from the Lakes into Monroe Brook was quite easy, so April 21 there, and ditto for the highest skiable elevation.
While in Monroe Brook, we realized that I must have inadvertently pressed the detonate button on my emergency satellite messenger, as evidenced by the four (yes, four!) helicopters flying overhead.
Although the first third was quite nice, like April 21, the middle third was more like June 21. Now granted I had been warned, and granted I've never skied MB in June, as by then the entrance at the top is horrible and the exit at the bottom even worse. But although I knew MB had never filled in well this year in the middle third, and although I had recent beta, still, I couldn't believe for how long we needed to carefully sideslip, through gaps in the tall trees the width of my 163cm Hagan X-Ultra skis (or less).
The bottom third opened up, although then we had to contend with undermining danger, before ducking into the manky glad. And finally the nordic ski out on the ART, which after a brief portage I was able to continue to within 560 meters (straightline) of the Cog upper parking lot.
The following morning, I caught this unstaged mother-daughter banana-eating moment, continuing the unseasonable tropical theme.
Mommy seems to be thinking, "Hey, you gonna finish that? I could use another!"