The Cutler River, which drains Tuckerman Ravine, sounded like a freight train Saturday morning as it pounded down towards Pinkham Notch fed by snow and ice that's melting from the recent spate of warm weather.
|I think you get the idea.|
|A veteran Tucks skier who's been skiing the Ravine for about 20 years gleefully on his way up.|
|A remnant of snow hugs the shady side of the trail.|
This could be the trail to Shangri La.
|Liz has got the bouldering bug and has to stop at every rock to test her skill.|
A skier coming down in the center of the Ravine with the rocks of the actual "headwall" towering above him. After Pickering, it took another 70 years before geologists were pretty much in agreement that Tuckerman, and several other ravines and "gulfs" are true glacial cirques and that they were carved by small, local, alpine glaciers that resided here for hundreds of thousands of years. The local, alpine glaciers were overridden tens of thousands of years ago by the last continental ice sheet, the "Wisconsinan", which also contributed to the present shapes of the cirques. The other cirques delineated include Great Gulf and Madison Gulf (possibly one glacier between them), Huntington Ravine, King Ravine, Castle Ravine, and a small cirque-like formation in Oakes Gulf. The cirques occupy the east and north facing slopes of the Presidential Range because of the directions of the prevailing winds.
This is the area of the Headwall that has a fatal charm. It is certainly not the only source of deadly missiles of ice but it is the primary one. Ice building up on the rocks in the late fall and early winter of the preceding year begins to melt and insolation warms up the rocks as they emerge from the snow pack in the middle to late spring. The Forest Service has spent a great deal of effort over past decades in mechanically controlling the ice fall (as in shooting it down when there's no one in the Ravine, as well as educating skiers, snowboarders and hikers, the exact dangers presented by the ice. I was present in 1959 when a skier was hit by a large piece of ice very close to where I was standing when I took this photo last Saturday. The skier died while being carried down to the road. I have also witnessed, and taken part in umpteen rescues, skiers getting hit by falling ice and/or sliding headfirst into the rocks and sustaining fractured skulls, punctured lungs, broken appendages, etc. It is one of the hazards of skiing in Tuckerman and, of course, to some it makes skiing in the Ravine more "fun" or macho. The forest service is to be given much credit and applause for their successful efforts in decreasing deaths and severe injuries (all injuries) in the past 20 years.
Getting closer to the lip. At this point a basketball-sized chunk of ice whizzed to my left. When ice breaks from the rock it sometimes make a loud cracking sound like a rifle but sometimes it doesn't. There is usually someone watching vigilantly who yells the alarm "ICE!, ICE!" with the location of the track it is taking. Sometimes skiers out race the ice but I've watched helplessly as skiers ski right into the path of the falling ice. The ice picks up incredible speed so it makes it difficult to sit and think what the best evasive action might be. You kind of have to move on instinct.
In this photo, where I was lying on the snow to take it, the main item is the water that was seen cascading down over the lip, emerging here for a moment before descending down across the floor of the ravine under the snow pack. It's a lot of water, but also a hot day, or becoming a hot day. Where I was lying I could hear the roar of the water a foot, or so, below me under the snow and ice. It's a bit eerie.
Here's that bowl shape, a definition of a cirque, in the two opposing walls curving down to the Little Headwall. Just sliding around in our boots, called boot skiing, was great fun. The snow was perfect in texture. One good thing about the snow this year is the long runout from the headwall across the floor of the Ravine which increases safety a lot. In all of the above photos of the Ravine I am struck by the apparent density and height of the vegetation, the alders and birch and in some places balsam fir. It is just conjecture but it seems to be denser and taller but maybe the lack of snow depth gives it that illusion.
Liz inhaling the smell of balsam.
Tom, Assistant Caretaker
The trail down.
Vortex of icy water in the Cutler River at Third Bridge. I dare you!