Sunday, March 31, 2013

3-30-13 Ammonoosuc Ravine, Mt. Washington (aborted)

After my customary early morning, three and a half-hour drive between home and the mountains, I turned onto the Cog Railway Base Station Road heading up to the base of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (the Ammy). I was going to run up to Lakes of the Clouds, chop a hole in the ice, measure the ice's thickness, measure the temperature of the lake at one foot-intervales, run back down, run up to Lonesome Lake and repeat the same steps there. As I approached the range Saturday morning it was well hidden behind brooding clouds that were dissipating the closer I got to the base station.
Mt. Jefferson early Saturday (3-30-13) morning shortly after the clouds cleared away.
Up the hill just below the base station the clouds are moving rapidly off, rising on thermals provided by warmth from the sun's first rays. It was still quite cold on the west side of the mountain.
Marshfield and the base station restaurant and souvenir shop. The summit of Mt. Washington is to the right and in the clear. There's obviously no shortage of snow.
Looking west to the Twins.
There were groups of hikers preparing to set off; not as many as I expected.  Fresh snow had fallen during the week and conditions were perfect for hiking. There were only a few skiers about. I did up my pack, drank some fluid and went to change into my mid-weight Salomon boots only to discover that I'd left them in the kitchen at home! It's the first time I've done that as I usually pack up the evening before a hike and double check to make sure I have footgear. At it was the Salomons would not have been enough. Conditions required mountaineering boots and I wasn't planning on bringing my Sportivas anyway. It was a laughable moment. I most regretted having to abandon a hike up the Ammy, my first for 2013. I even put snowshoes on and tightened my gaitors to see if I could make headway with just my lightweight hiking shoes but in only a quarter mile my feet became wet and cold, too cold to go up to the ridge safely. I was out of luck, but made good use of the time spent and distance traveled by ensconcing myself once again in the library at the Highland Center (HC) for nearly six very productive hours.
The HC's library is the best thing about the center and is a comfortable place to spend time and it houses almost a complete set of Appalachia. I surfed all the volumes from 1907 to 1934 on Saturday looking primarily for information on trail planning and building of which there is a huge amount in the span of those years. Its problematic in that almost all the articles are compelling and cry out to be read thoroughly so that the remarkable history they contain can be given a new audience. I was particularly looking for pieces written by Robert Underhill, "Slim" (Stuart) Harris, Nat Goodrich and Paul Jenks and found plenty of material written by each of them about trails and plants.
As I headed home around 2 pm on Saturday this is what the range looked like. Kind of makes you want to be up there, doesn't it? That's the Bretton Woods Resort to the left in the background.

At some point I'll share more of the gems I found in the old Appalachia, but here's a small sample. The above photo is from the December 1929 Appalachia and is of Mt. Lincoln from the Old Bridle Path. It's a valuable document because you can see the extent of the logging up Walker Brook.

This is a photo from 1916 looking across Lonesome Lake at the cabins and boat house that were built there in the late 1800s as a fishing and hunting camp. It was leased by the AMC in the early 1930s to become the first Lonesome Lake Hut. Look at the slide tracks on Agony Ridge that slant down into Franconia Notch. (from Appalachia).
A wonderful photo taken in 1932 by Robert Monahan of Lakes of the Clouds hut and Mt. Monroe that I also copied from Appalachia.
A photo from the 1929 Appalachia that's similar to one from my last blog entry on 3-17-13 that was in color but showed the same layered cloud formation, an altocumulus lenticular, stretching out over the northern peaks. Jefferson's Knee is also similar in my photo.

This sketch was also found in the 1929 Appalachia accompanying a great story by Robert Underhill about an extensive trip he took in the Pemigewasset Wilderness that year with two friends. The piece contains several other sketches by artist Arthur Shurtleff.

Monday, March 18, 2013

3-17-13 Tuckerman Ravine

Mt. Adams (left) and Mt. Madison (right) under a lenticular altocumulus cloud Sunday morning photographed from the Glen House site at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. If you enlarge the photo you can see snow dancing up the ridge between J.Q Adams, the bump on the ridge near the center of the photo, and Mt. Adams, itself, that indicates high wind speed associated with the lenticular clouds.
Mt. Adams, right, and Mt. Jefferson on the left. The darkened ridge jutting down from Jefferson is "Jefferson's Knee".  Jefferson Ravine is to the right of the Knee. Wonderful colors!
Mt. Washington with Boott Spur on the far left. This is the east side of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range and the location where I took the photograph, back in the 1800s, was referred to as "The Glen" the name used in previous articles in this blog about trail building. A bridle path to the summit began here and was used for just a few years before the road to the summit was completed. By 1860 the bridle paths were no longer in business. The Crawford Path fell into disrepair but was still used by hikers, particularly with the brisk hotel trade growing in and around Crawford Notch and westward towards Twin Mountain
Close up of Mt. Washington. In an hour I would be up in that cloud.
Starting up the Fire Trail towards Tuckerman Ravine in early morning light.
AT (alpine touring) skier heading for the top of the Sherburne Ski Trail.

Couple heading down after a night in one of the shelters. Temperatures over night dipped to minus 7 degrees farhrenheit and the wind was whipping the loose new snow around.

The proud owner of this handsome mustache.

Three guys heading for the summit.

She said her Appalachian Trail name was "Belle of Baltimore".  She was on her way down after spending the weekend camping in the Ravine with her husband and their handsome pet.

The bridge at the 2/3-of-the-way mark is still under a lot of snow.

Ski tracks on the Cutler River (Alpine and Telemark skiers bushwhack a lot).

Getting close to Raymond Corner which is an indication you're almost up to the shelter.

This is John. He lives close to the mountains and is a frequent hiker on the trails. He completed his 4000 footers last fall and is looking for out-of-the-way places to hike. With temperatures around zero and a bit of wind he was out in an all-cotton outfit consisting of blue jeans and a hoodie!

Shelter #2.

 Behind the shelters is this outlook across Hermit Lake towards the Little Headwall and where, weather permitting there is a great shot of Tuckerman Ravine, but not today. This is the bottom edge of that lenticular altocumulus cloud I photographed at the Glen House earlier. The wind, here, was leaping out of the ravine, propelled by gravity and the cold temperature, racing across the ice and ripping through the firs and soundling like a freight train.

Lion Head.

Hermit Lake Shelter.

There were just a few folks about. Some that had hiked up had already skied down the Sherburne and this group was getting ready to do the same. The conditions above the shelter were pretty nasty with high wind gusts and blowing snow and low temps. A group did head up Hillman's Highway but were soon lost in the clouds. The snow depth at the official snow stake was 61 inches. Rain last week (3-13-13) got up the mountain this far and settled the snow and left a thick crust but probably all for the good. The Ravine picked up 4 inches of new snow on Saturday-Sunday and a foot, or more, is forecast for this coming Tuseday (3-19-13) and even more later in the week. The winter isn't over yet.

David Weston, one of the AMC's intrepid Tuck Shelter caretakers.

A glimpse of the hut interior. It always feels like home to me. I'd come up to do some research which consisted of sitting on the couch next to the heater and reading a Masters Thesis written in 1978 by a University of Massachusetts grad student by the name of Diane Eskenasy. The title of her thesis is The Origin of The King Ravine Rock Glacier in The Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Her thesis, and several others on various topics, somehow, or other, ended up at Tuck Shelter some years ago and have been sitting in the book shelf there. Like a lot of other people I've been curious about the "rock glacier" in King Ravine for years and have wanted to camp on the floor of King Ravine for a few days to explore its nooks and crannies. The rock glacier is reported to be the only one of its kind in New England. They are commonly found in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming. Ms Eskenasy wrote: "King Ravine, one of the north facing cirques on the Presidential Range, contains an inactive rock glacier, a mass of rocks having the morphology of an alpine glacier." I may, this summer, get into King Ravine and integrate Ms Eskenasy's thesis into a blog article with photos that might help explain what a rock glacier is and how it evolved.

Shape of the King Ravine rock glacier from an aerial photo. The mass of rock debris is roughly 1800 feet long and 1000 feet wide. ( Diane Eskenasy, 1978).

Profile representing the rock glacier after the separation of the King Ravine ice lobe from the continental ice sheet after the disappearance of the ice sheet from New Hampshire. (From Eskenasy, 1978). (I took photos of the diagrams in the books holding my camera with one hand while I attempted to flatten the page with my other hand--which accounts for the distortion in parallax)

Modern profile of the rock glacier. The term rock glacier doesn't imply that the rock lobe is moving. It means that the glacier, at one time, when it was active transported blocks from higher on the cirque headwall. The predominant ice has since melted leaving the blocks in the form of a glacier. The time line between the first diagram and this one is roughly 11,000 years (from Eskenasy, 1978).

The view out the west-facing window in Tuck Shelter which has a spectacular view of Tuckerman Ravine--normally. It's possible to sit in the swivel chair and, with a good pair of binoculars, watch skiers and hikers in the Ravine.  
Around noon the temperature had struggled up into the positive single digits but the wind was still gusting above 40 mph so it wasn't your best hiking weather. As I was just about to head down there was this good-sized group trying to stay warm on the porch while gearing up to head out.
This is as clear as it got while I was in Tuckerman Ravine--even a small patch of blue sky! I told everyone that after I left it would clear up and be a beautiful afternoon. I'm not sure that actually happened.

A man and his dog. We got into a conversation about dogs trained to find climbers buried in avalanches which brought up the famous German Shepherd by the name of Tuckerman, now deceased, who was trained by his owner, Brad Ray a US Forest Service Snow Ranger based in Tuckerman Ravine, to search and locate people buried in avalanches. Tuckerman (the dog) would quickly sniff out "victims" that Brad had buried at different levels under the snow on steep slopes, like Hillman's Highway and the lower snowfields. It was pretty cool to watch how fast he could find the volunteer victims.

I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure that's his girl friend.

Two more hearty souls coming up the mountain.

In some of the photos you can see shards of sun stabbing through the clouds and trees here and there but a few seconds of muted sunlight would quickly be replaced with blowing snow and the gray, flat light. This photo is just above Raymond Corner on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail (also called the Fire Trail).
Lucas and his dad. I repeat this a lot but it's gratifying to see fathers bringing their sons and daughters to the mountains. This was Lucas' first time and he wasn't 100 percent enthused but it would be interesting to "follow him" and see if he comes back in his later years.
Another first-timer and obviously enthused about the hike. 
The Cutler River just above Pinkham. Most of the very early hikers, from the mid-1600s to the late 1700s, it's believed, approached Mt. Washington from the east and began their climbs in Pinkham Notch following the Cutler to Tuckerman Ravine where they then ascended Boott Spur and from there traversed to the summit cone and the summit itself. It's interesting to try and imagine what the bushwhack up beside the Cutler and up through the krummholz to the above-treeline areas of Boott Spur would have been like in the early 1700s. The Cutler has some great swimming holes! When I was 17, in the early1960s, on hot summer afternoons and evenings groups of us, young men and women who worked at Pinkham or in the huts, used to follow the river upstream a ways, until we were out of sight of the lodge and our boss, and swim and drink deliciously clandestine beer.

Finally I passed some one close to my own age. This was another father and son duo with the father on the left. They were heading up to ski the Sherburne. We had a nice chat about the "good old days."

3-16-13 More Big Trees

Saturday morning produced an unexpected snow storm in the White Mountains that left several inches of very light, dry snow that was lovely to see. It was enough to turn ski conditions from awful to excellent but, during the height of the storm whiteout conditions prevailed. I settled into the library at the AMC's Crawford Notch center for several hours of research--reading old Appalachia--and enjoying watching the snow blow by the windows. I spend the afternoon communing with trees and motoring around on the northwest ridge of Mt. Adams on snowshoes.

Bushwhacking on snow shoes is the perfect way to travel in the woods. There's a sense of freedom in the feeling that you can go anywhere you like. Another plus is that it's great exercise. I traversed along the contours fairly high up on Nowell Ridge, recrossing my path of last August in places but, taking advantage of the crust on the snow, I ranged out farther to the south west heading into Cascade Ravine.

 If you get lost you just follow your tracks back home if it's not snowing heavly. I've made that mistake.            
Even though the snow stopped around noon there were already fresh tracks in the new snow indicating some traffic on the Lowe's Path likely from hikers planning to spend the night at Crag or Gray Knob. The weather wasn't shaping up the way it had been forecast as late as Friday. The wind was picking up and the temperatures were lower than forecasted and dropping.
A zombie beech tree.

I measured 24 trees, mostly yellow birch (B. alleghensis), and this was the average, as on previous data-collecting trips. These were large trees but just under 3 feet in diameter.

I could see this tree from quite a distance away and it towered over other trees in its proximity.
It measured slightly over 10 feet in circumference, or 3.2 feet in diameter; the largest I measured on Saturday. I'm still looking for one 4 feet in diameter, or larger.
It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. 

Lovely late winter colors. I stopped at Lowe's after my jaunt and talked with Allen Lowe, grandson of Vyron and Winnie Lowe, both mentioned in Part III of the blog article on "Bushwhacking The Pemi". Allen's grandmother, Winnie, was the first and maybe the only woman to drive a horse and carriage up the Mt. Washington Carriage Road just after she an Vyron were married in 1892. Vyron was a guide on the northern peaks for many years and a life long resident of Randolph. Allen has a lot of personal photos of Randolph from the early days of hiking on the Presidential Peaks and neighboring mountains.