Route (counterclockwise) was actually reasonably efficient in terms of skiing:non-skiing vertical descent at over 40%. However, in terms of vertical:horizontal, not so efficient!
Original plan was to head up early enough on Wednesday morning to ski in Jefferson Ravine. My departure time at around 8:00am was okay, but unfortunately that was not from the Lowe's Path trailhead but from . . . Amherst. And first I was heading to Boston for some work.
Didn't start hiking until about 3:15, and although I reached Gray Knob hut in almost two hours flat, way too late for any ravines skiing.
So after dinner I settled for skiing Gray Knob Chute!
Titanium spork (http://www.rei.com/product/660002/snow-peak-titanium-spork) = $9
Cut-off retired Platypus bladder (as cereal bowl) = essentially costless
Granola cereal with powdered milk = $1 or so
Outdoor breakfast at the hut = Priceless!
(Well, okay, actually $13 for the overnight lodging fee, but still...)
Castle Ravine from left to right:
- Baby Sister = pretty much nonexistent
- South Sister = somewhat tempting, but based on prior experience, harder to get to than it looks at this stage
- Middle Sister = cruxed out (as is typical)
- North Sister = just a short snowfield up high
- Twisted Sister / Wicked Stepsister = more of a conceptual line (as always...)
Approaching from Edmands Col, from left to right:
- Chandler Ridge snowfield (barely visible)
- Hallway (thin line)
- Mother-in-Law (sort of there)
- various small gullies (each with about ten names) feeding into Airplane Gully
- Airplane Gully
- ridgeline snowfield leading from Haulaway etc toward Sphinx Gully
- Monroe Brook (far right, much more distant)
A little while after this picture was taken, I took a run on a short snowfield just below the summit of Jefferson. I justified this on somewhat practical grounds as I angled over from it toward the top of The Beach, but really I just wanted to get in some skiing by then!
Approaching the rollover on Stealth Gully, looking across at an almost entirely nonexistent Abby's Way.
So let's see, the avy ctr lists Right Gully as due S, also having a really bad season.
Abby's Way goes from SSE to SSW to S.
Oakes Gulf's Airplane Bowl at SW also had a really bad season.
The Beach (not visible here) skied perfectly, and lead into a very nice Stealth Gully.
The snow didn't continue all the way to the floor of Jefferson Ravine, but still, at over 1070' vertical, I had no complaints - oh wait, that's not quite right . . . since Abby's Way was entirely nonexistent and even Zig-Zag Gully had poor coverage, I had to climb back up Stealth Gully then contour all the way back along the rim of the ravine -- too much horizontal!
From just below Thunderstorm Junction (finally!), view of Jefferson Ravine and Great Gulf.
Not shown (in the other direction) is the reliable wave-like snowfield on the backside of Sam Adams. Also in good shape was the extended wall-like snowfield from Sam Adams toward Abigail Adams, but given that I was running out of time to make my daughter's bedtime, was quicker just to take the casual hike straight toward . . .
King Ravine w/ the 7 looking splendid...unless you focus on the bottom! The top skied absolutely perfectly (and w/ excellent coverage) - what a hoot to ski such a steep line as easily as a groomed bunny slope. Transition to the other gully was a bit brushy, but still an easy traverse w/ nice turns.
Then after that, where's the snow? A brief schwack to my right, I skied a bit more, for 1130' vert total. Yet now what?!? Who knew King Ravine was that brushy under all the snow we typically ski down low at this time of yr.
The pitch + "fragile alpine vegetation" made for the kind of travel where 10' of distance takes about one minute. I had to hook up w/ the hiking trail very soon or else *hours* would be added to my exit. GPS said I was pretty much right on the trail, but that was based on a Garmin trail overlay (not my own field waypts), so could be far off. Still tho, I had started off w/ the trail on my left and I hadn't noticed crossing it.
I chose left, and after about 2 min of intense struggle, the trail!
Flashback to May 12, 2001 -- first time skiing in the Northern Presidentials, and we made the mistake of returning to Lowe's Path trailhead via the King Ravine trail, which entails crossing two unnamed (?) creeks and then Spur Brook. A heavy rain had started up once we were well below treeline, and with a deep snowpack up high, these water crossings -- even on a marked regular hiking trail -- were raging. Vowed never to make that mistake again!
Flash forward a bit to April 26, 2009 -- apparently I forgot about that vow. Here's my partner (shown in a screen capture from a video) contemplating the crossing. Note that the white = not snow but raging white water. (The sound on the video is also quite impressive.)
April 26, 2009: Another stream crossing.
After making the same mistake twice, in 2010 and 2011 we just hiked out to App, then approached random people in the parking lot to get a ride back to Lowe's. I had also stashed running shoes in the App parking lot just in case.
Back to April 19, 2012: I had spent most of the tour in my amazing new La Sportiva Vertical K trail runners (http://www.sportiva.com/products/footwear/mountain-running/vertical-k), so I was all set to hike out to App, ditch my pack, then jog back along Route 2 to Lowe's to retrieve my car.
But based on how little snow I had seen below treeline, I decided to risk the King Ravine return to Lowe's.
The first two water crossings were trivial this time. Finally, approached the Spur Brook crossing with some apprehension and . . .
Yes, this is how dry the lower elevations are now!