tMail On Lincoln
It was -20°F in Danville when I set out this morning, but as much as it was cold, it was that much fun. Another glorious blue-sky day with low wind. In a weird lull that started around midnight this morning and is now coming to an end, the winds just died. At most we had what could be called a light breeze that was probably more due to upslope convection.
And the visibility? Holy crap. We could easily see from Jay Peak south to Killington along the entire spine of the Greens. Trip reports and links to picture galleries will be posted as they are generated, so check back soon.
Also, tMail and I met a guy on the OBP who referred to "Lincoln's Throat". tMail hunted around and found this. Even though the original plan for our hike on Tyday was to bushwack the west ridge of Lincoln, it seems clear that the gullies/slides in the big ravine are likewise appealing. We think there are two interesting hikes: climbing up the low-angle ice in the ravine and climbing the ridge to Lincoln. This spring, for sure.
tMail On Lincoln
All signs are pointing to a day at Tuckerman's on Friday. While the weather will likely be somewhat overcast and possibly snowy, the temperatures are getting milder these days. This was the time of year that tMail and MD and I wandered around in the frozen fog on the Bad Boy and took the now-famous video (YouTube).
The pic at right at the top was taken last Sunday and was posted at tuckerman.org and is of the top of Dodge's Drop looking toward the summit cone.
The lower pic was taken by me on January 13th and a comparison shows how much the summit and ravine has filled in.
We'll post details of the trek on Friday as The PM and Tyler make their intentions known.
[Update 2/28 11am] Via The Puppet Master: Meet at Pinkham Notch Lodge at 8:30am on Friday, 3/1. Prepare for the Lion's Head route.
[Update 2/28 2pm] Via The Puppet Master (See Comments): Plan B. Do NOT meet at Pinkham. Repeat: Plan B! ... Plan B continued....Meet in the east Lafayette Place parking lot at 8:30. That means, If I understand my points-of-the-north-south-finder, the side of Franconia Notch at the bottom of the west slope of Franconia Ridge, most readily accessed from the north-bound side of rte 93 via the turn just past "The Basin" and just past where 93 merges from two lanes to one. This would be, I should clarify, the opposite side of the highway from where the ranger station is, and also the opposite side from where the campground, lake and Cannon Mtn are.
If I may further elucidate, if you were heading north on 93 through Franconia Notch, this would be a right turn directly into the parking lot where the Old Bridal Path trailhead is, as well as access to the Falling Water trail and the payphone that is now almost buried in snow.
And in case there is still ambiguity, go up to North Kinsman mountain. Face the noon-day sun. Point left at where you should have gone, and that's where we'll be.
Posted by muthaz at 5:56 AM
As promised, I headed up to Dead Man's Ridge yesterday in the bright sun and blue sky. It was surprisingly cold out but the winds were light and the ridge was manageable with base layers and my light yellow windbreaker. I had to put my face-mask on frequently in the windy sections but no goggles were needed. I don't know what the conditions were - probably about 15°F or higher with 20mph winds in the windy spots. There wasn't a single person on Falling Waters or on the Ridge while I was up there. The drifts from the previous night were all fresh. The first person I met was on the Lafayette summit, doing the Loop in reverse. Of course there were many people on the OBP, including the hockey players (heading down).
In a major reversal of my normal cordiality, I gave one-word answers to all questions from the n00bs:
"How was it up there?" "Fine."... "Is it windy at the Summit?" "No." ... "Can you bareboot the ridge?" "Yes."... "This is steep. Is it far to the ridge?" "No."
As long as you look at things from my point of view, those answers were correct - although when they encountered the cold, gusty winds, the thick ice and the steep ascents they may have thought otherwise.
The hike was crampons-only until the Hut, then barebooting down to the parking lot. As the PM saw yesterday, trail conditions were well-packed. The worst part was that all the thawed ice/snow on the trails was now frozen solid and covered with a light layer of snow. This meant that all past post-holes were like cement pits. To slow my speed on the steeps it was easier to head into the soft shoulder, which was firm enough so that I never really dropped deeper than 6-12 inches even though the snow was up to the trail blazes on the trees. The descent was pretty fast and a no-brainer to bare-boot/butt-slide/boot-ski.
The air was very clear, in spite of a low-level haze. Pics are posted here. Regrettably, without any clouds at all, the scenery was kind of boring - visibilty over a 100 miles and just bright snow, well-packed trails and no annoying conversations until the descent - and those were brief. No wonder people die up there.
Posted by muthaz at 10:47 AM
This morning I waited with Sue for the Rte 2 commuter van. It was clear last night as this last cold front firmed up any last moisture in the snowpack in preparation for Tuesday's storm. We watched the colors develop in the sky as the last stars hid from the dawn.
After she left I took a few shots around Danville and caught sunrise over Mt. Washington and first light on Lafayette. The shots were taken from Danville. Click here to view Picasa album.
Posted by muthaz at 8:49 AM
In a revenge killing worthy of World News Weekly headlines, the PM has completely destroyed Franconia "Dead Man's" Ridge. Where once a high ridgeline with dramatic peaks punctuated the skyline of Franconia Notch, now a rubble pile fills an inconsequential swamp. The technique was to apply pressure with his size 13's in repeated kicks and stomps, then to "bareboot the poor bastard". The PM was was asked if there was any emotional fallout from this wholesale slaughter. He replied quietly after an introspective pause "No". Pic at right shows the ridge being destroyed.
I have to pick up some copper fittings at Home Depot in Littleton today. I think I'll head down to Franconia Flats on my way and take some pics.
Posted by muthaz at 5:49 AM
This isn't about re-animating zombies - it's about the surprising consequences of two route-finding experiments that were totally astonishing. Last Sunday, before the big rain episode, and today, as the snow started, Spanky and I went into the woods and marshes for some adventure. The idea was to snowshoe off-trail, away from our own prior tracks and explore the local terrain on days when there was completely flat light. The question to answer was: given the tangle of swamps, dense red-pine forests, rolling terrain and lack of prominent geological features, sun or compass, how hard is it maintain a mental map.
The area we were exploring is about four square miles behind my house. The largest change in elevation over the course of an hour-long trek is less than 100ft. The largest elevation change in a single ascent/descent would be about 10-15ft down to a brook - at most. The character of the land is, of course, snow-covered and dense woods punctuated by open and woodland marshes, beaver ponds and streams. All the farmland and pasture is on the periphery as this regions is too rough and boggy to farm. I'm sure at one time it was logged, and at times it seems as if we're coming across old road-grades - but in general there aren't any prominent features to give visual clues as to where in the heck you are. The fir and pine grown so close in patches that it seems almost impenetrable. It's also inevitable that if we hit a stream bank, that we'd follow along until finding a crossing.
Our trek Sunday was to just go out and wander around until we came out somewhere we recognized. This isn't dangerous because in general, the nearest road is within a 45minute slog as long as you're not going in a circle.
Our mission today was to head south (without a compass) for a while, then west, then work our way in a 'clockwise' loop back home.
In both cases we wanted to explore areas we hadn't been before.
Here's what happened in both cases: we came out at places we recognized and in BOTH cases we had circled counter-clockwise even though I thought we were working our way clockwise. Now I have a pretty-good (I think better than average) sense of direction - but this was a total surprise. With no visual cues other than just keeping a mental tally of turns I screwed up so bad I actually looped around in the OPPOSITE direction. It was so startling that during the week we retraced Sunday's trek in the opposite direction, following our trail in the bright sun and blue sky. It was completely stupid. The trail clearly looped in an obvious way - but when the sun is out this stuff is almost mindless. In retracing my steps I had no idea how I COULDN'T have known where I was heading, but I knew I had been totally confused - thinking I was heading south when I was heading north at times. That's bad.
But then it happened again today.
Now admittedly we designed the trek to be difficult. These woods and swamps are very challenging to navigate and even the easiest routes twist and turn horribly. If I had a compass, an attempt to walk due east, for example, would last about a minute and then require looping around to bypass something. But man, coming out on the OPPOSITE side of my starting point from where I thought I'd emerge was really disorienting. At least on a mountain we have 'down' and 'up' to help guide. These woods are like a freaking black hole.
In the map on the right, the blue route is where i thought i was going (roughly). the red and green routes are from Sunday and today, and aren't at all exact, but rough guesses at where I was. The big 'dots' are at the end of the treks before heading home on recognizeable routes.
Posted by muthaz at 2:52 PM
My nieces are coming to visit today for a few days, leaving Saturday (Ruby is driving up with her sister Hattie and Ruby's friend Caroline - it's a ROAD TRIP!). We're going to do some skiing, snowshoeing and sitting around so I'm not doing a big hike until Sunday.
I'm going to be watching the re-freezing of the snowpack and if things shape up there could be some outstanding cramponing terrain (axe mandatory). tMail, if you think you'll be going out on Sunday we can always tackle one from your list. If I'm going alone or with the Vermont contingent, I'll probably take another crack at Bamforth.
Bad, Bad, Bamforth.
I'm also really interested in checking out the avalanches on Mt. Washington. Check out Chauvin Guide's Jay Philbrick's recent post and photos.
Posted by muthaz at 6:01 AM
The same plot from the previous post, uploaded to IBM's Many Eyes web service (think Flickr for info-visualizations). The plot can be viewed there as well as embedded in this blog.
[Update 2/19 1030pm] Added additional dimension. Little dots are single summit hikes. Medium dots are Two-Summit hikes (Hancocks, Jefferson/Adams, Pierce/Eisenhower, etc.). Huge dots are treks, like the Carter traverse or the Dry River Wilderness hike.
The darker the dot the more times I've done that same hike.
Posted by muthaz at 8:36 AM
If I add up miles and feet of elevation for all hikes, excluding regular runs and exercise, but including the Jay XC marathon and the two MRG snowshoe races, I get the following:
Total Miles: 771
Feet of Elevation: 260k
I started the clock with the Osceolas hike w/ Treadmill back in early Feb 2006 (followed by the 2006 Bad Boy). So this plot excludes all the presi-traverses I've done and all earlier hiking. I didn't feel like going back to 2005 when my record-keeping was spottier.
This also excludes about 600 miles and thousands of vertical feet of biking, kayaking, downhill/backcountry/xc skiing, marathons and other races and is basically just backpack hiking. One day I may go back further, but it's not likely at this point.
Check out these two graphs. The XY plot is interesting but the three colored lines are just for fun and I don't think the three lines mean anything. The data seem to group naturally into three 'types' - but I think that has more to do with the hikes I like and the tendency to see patterns where there are none.
Posted by muthaz at 7:28 PM
The Bamforth Ridge Trail has struck again, claiming two victims today: Mr. Mutha from Danville, and Mr. MadDog from Richmond (or is it Jeffsonville? or Underhill? or Allah knows where?).
Did we have to turn back shy of the summit of Camel's Hump? Not a chance. Rather than intimidate us into turning back after demanding a sacrifice of blood, the Bamforth trail used another tactic today: evasive maneuvers. It went away. We were about 10 minutes into the hike and that was the last we saw of it. Worse still, we ended up on a small mini-summit one ridge over. When we finally got a look around after a bushwack reminiscent of Hell Brook, we saw the view shown in the pic at right. We were over two hours into an aggressive bushwack and we wanted to be on the ridge in the distance. Between us and that ridge was classic, contorted, snowy, rugged Green Mountain topography. We dropped into the little valley and had lunch on a big beaver pond and then turned around and followed our trail back to the car.
Of course the conversation was great, the weather was bitter cold (low wind, but biting, bitter, sapping cold - I think it was below 5°F) but the sun was bright and the company excellent. There were song birds out, really large, fat chickadees and woodpeckers. To give an idea of the cold, note that I normally ascend in light windstopper or nylon/lycra gloves/liners like we all use. On this day I wore my insulated gloves - on the ascent! And that was while bushwacking in steep, deep snow.
And best of all, at the beaver pond, Mad Dog pulled out a large thermos filled with hot tea, sweetened and with milk. Man, in that bitter cold sunshine it was the greatest thing. I had started to get deep body-trembles from lowering core-temp and that tea kicked ass. Even though we stood in the full sun in dark clothes, it was a toss-up between whether the cold or sun would win. Hot, sweet tea. I'm hooked.
I'd also like to point out that while the air was cold, the snow was colder, and we were breaking trail. We both noticed our feet were getting cold, in spite of the insulated boots and the hard work.
We'll try Bamforth again another day.
For anyone with a topo map out, the height-of-land where the picture was taken is a feature with an elevation of about 2,360, located at a bearing of 10° west of true north of the Camel's Hump summit. I'm going to find it on Google Earth and get an annotated pic up. This place was out of control. Pics coming later tonight.
[Update 2/16 18:31] Found our bushwack on Google Earth. Click on lower pic on the right to zoom. Pic of MadDog (above right) was taken on the little mini-summit w/ exposed ledges.
What can't be seen in this picture is how steep this hike was and how rugged and beautiful the terrain is. It reminds me how extraordinary the Green Mountains are. I can recall several conversations with people from other states who have hiked in the Greens and commented on how unprepared they were for the beauty and challenging hiking.
tMail and g-$$$: we'll drag you up here soon.
We got back to the car pretty early (I think it was around 2:30 after a 7:45am start) so MD got to his 5pm party and with the bright sun and blue sky, I got home in time to take a nice 50min cruise on XC skis with Spanky. I had my fast skis out on some groomed trails and got a little overzealous on some tight turns and crashed into some brush/tree/snow stuff. My hip hurts. Ow.
I don't know about down south, but this cold snap is about to end with temps in the 40's by Monday and snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain in the forecast for Sunday night and Monday.
[Update 2/17] Pics are posted at Picasa [Link].
Posted by muthaz at 5:15 PM
Saturday the 16th is "The Big Snowy". It's a trek in deep snow. Where? Don't know yet - I guess it depends on who's going to be around. If it's just me, I may take a crack at Bamforth or take the day off entirely because on Sunday I'm going to spend the entire day in the backcountry on skis behind Bolton Mountain. Regardless, I think snowshoes will be the gear-du-jour for a week or so. It's also looking like Saturday will be a clear, cold, low wind day - a great day to be at high elevation.
Any thoughts on the matter?
[Update 2/14/08 7am] Interesting comments from tuckermanravine.org on snowpack conditions:
[Update 2/14/08 12:08] It's Back To The Bad Boy! It'll be a hell of a snowy trek, but the descent should be really, really fast. Anyone planning on hitting back what that mother pitches should chime in in the comments. The PM and g-$$$ are out for logistical reasons. MD is in (as of this writing). tMail or anyone else: we're waiting ....
"Now that we have covered the details of snow stability today, we should step back for a moment and look at the big picture. This season is giving us some dramatic avalanches and some of our paths are running way bigger than normal. During our last cycle on Sunday and Monday, Hillman's Highway ran bigger than I have ever seen it go in the ten years I have been paying attention to avalanches on Mt. Washington. This avalanche cleaned out a swath of mature forest in its runout with trees around 60 years old uprooted, snapped and tossed around like toothpicks. The Escape Hatch also cleaned out a bunch of trees and other avalanches in Huntington filled in the base of the Ravine to make it feel more like the floor of Tuckerman. These large avalanches are paving the way for the next big cycle to run even farther. Well developed start zones in many of our forecast areas means that avalanches will be more common as there are less anchors to keep the snow put. We also have a lot more avalanche terrain now. Snowfields all over Mt. Washington and the Presidentials are developing and avalanching. Chris observed fracture lines all along the eastern side of the Presidential Range yesterday. We observed activity around the Ravines in unusual areas including tree covered gullies and snowfields. File this information into your brain to use as you are traveling in the mountains this winter. Expect avalanche terrain in areas you don't usually see it and expect avalanches to exceed their normal track lengths during avalanche cycles."
[Update 2/15/08 18:30] Uh oh, maybe back to the Green Mountains. Maddog's got a date Saturday night. And let's not forget the forecasted bitter cold: -20° to -10° on the bad boy, with 50-70mph winds.
Posted by muthaz at 6:51 AM
In anticipation of the coming storm tonight, I cut the snowbanks back about 30 inches to widen the driveway and make room in the 'parking area'. In the process I noted some interesting aspects of the accumulated snow that I was digging into. Basically, I was digging a test pit, like one would do to evaluate snowpack stability. Here's what I noticed - and will probably photograph one day:
- Snowblowing simulates windblown wind-crust. The process of shooting snow through the chute allows flakes to adhere to each other and lay down a crust made of larger, more icy flakes that pack tighter due to both the larger particles and the higher velocity. This snowblown layer overlying cold powder is only stable to the point where it breaks under its own weight. When horizontal, this is unlikely. When on a slope, will happen spontaneously - but unpredictably. I relied on this so I could undermine the windcrust with a snowshovel, and then hit it with a spade to crack it and have the slabs drop to the ground on their own.
- After a lot of time has passed, even frozen slush will turn to sugar. Under all the snowbank is 'sugar'. Heat from the ground gets trapped under the snow and it melts the snowflakes. All that water vapor seeps upwards, collecting on flakes and turning everything into sugar. It destroys the adhesion completely, creating a unbonded layer on which the upper layers - no matter how coherent - to slide. Because my driveway is almost level, nothing moves - but when I dig out the snowbank, I'm digging into sugar.
- The history of the snowpack is pretty interesting and reliably interpreted through digging pits and examining the walls. Never underestimate the ability of the snowpack to reveal its character through a dug pit.
Posted by muthaz at 9:57 PM
Yes, I won. It's true. I came in first in my age group, among all men, overall and best in show. By the time I hit the turn-around point there was nobody in sight, and as I crossed the finish line there was nobody breathing down my neck. This was an incredibly one-sided race, but that's what it's like when you are an elite mountain runner.
What did you just say? There was nobody else in the race? So what! Don't ruin my dream moment. Okay, so it was just me and a speed-hiker who hiked the course w/ a backpack, but so what?! I still came in first.
Oh yeh, and the official timer/race organizer was in the bar when I finished, but I went and got him and his stopwatch was still running, so we figured out my 50:40 finish.
Better yet, check out the graph on the right (click to zoom). It's a great example of how this race is heart/lung limiting. The ascent and descent are almost perfectly linear in feet-per-minute - the slope decreases and I speed up, the slope increases and I slow down. I probably maintained a constant heart-rate the entire time.
Oh well, maybe we'll get more entrants next year.
And if you're bored, feel free to peruse the race course map (on the right), overlaid on the Mad River Glen ski trails map. (Click to zoom.)
Posted by muthaz at 7:01 PM
Today's avi report from tuckerman.org is pretty interesting. The report makes a few remarkable points:
- All of the classic start zones have triggered, some repeatedly Mutha's Driveway Snowbank (Click To Zoom)
in the last 48 hours.
- Most of the runouts have been packed in with brush and trees removed - apparently making near record snow volumes. As a consequence, the runouts are so well developed with all obstacles removed & filled-in that they are expecting near record-breaking distances as the snow rides on smooth, well-packed surfaces.
- Good snowfall amounts (about 2ft in the last 30 hrs) and snow in the forecast is filling in everywhere. Another storm is brewing for Saturday. Lack of substantial wind since last weekend is setting the stage for a tremendous amount of snow moving around once the winds pick up by Sunday.
Posted by muthaz at 1:36 PM
It's a comin': The Mad River Glen Uphill Snowshoe Challenge. It's about 2000ft in elevation gain, up a ski trail. It's up and down by the same route, 1.5 miles each way.
I'm just getting over a week-long head-cold, so I'm going to whine like a little baby. Sue asked "why not just bag the race?". I replied "because i have a need to see the puppetmaster disappear into the distance and reappear on his way down while i'm heading up, only to disappear again." it has to be seen to be believed.
we're getting dumped on with heavy, wet snow which will pack better but we run on ungroomed surface and it could be all mashed potatoes... that'll be slow going.
And the big reward afterwards? Gung Hey Fat Choy! At Castle Del Louie!
Posted by muthaz at 11:05 AM
(This is posted as its own article, even though some content appears as comments in the previous post. )
tMail's: Videos Here and Here, Pics Here. The Snow Fields (Image by Tim Finocchio)
PM's: Videos Here, Pics Here
Bob W's: Videos Here, Pics Here
Wow Bad Boy did not let down this year. My weekend started with a late departure on Friday night to pick up the money man G-$$$ I think we arrived at the Chateau around 10pm. Quickly set up came and went to bed. Saturday we woke up fairly early everyone was doing there own thing getting ready eating talking. There didn't seem to be too much talk about the hike despite the Category 2 Hurricane winds predicted. We hiked as a strong group all sticking together and then breaking up in Heather's Crotch...once at the normal stop to change before treeline a group of 3-4 of us departed MPM, BW (Bob Warren), myself and MD.
We got blasted by the winds...crawling on hands and knees at times... I am going to cut to the chase to the I heard it on the Weekend of Bad Boy:
- Johnny B saying lets go easy today hiking.
- My urine is already the color of rust in the vistor center's bathroom.
- I hate Heather's Crotch
- I am losing my fingers and toes (Little Richie)
- DUDE...want some fish and cheese..
- You ready, I am ready, ready lets go.
- The following is dialogue somewhere on Bad Boy...None of this feels rights, Johnny you know where we are? No I can't see anything. MPM, "I think we are okay". Tmail, "We are to low", Roland, "Lets go up"...10 minutes later. Tmail, "Still doesn't feel right". MPM, "We are good I can see something". We all take a hard right go straight up and like magic the Key Hole.
- Tmail to MPM..."We are going to get BLASTED"
- Running this morning with Spungie and Johnny B...Johnny B says "I hope nobody got offended by my drinking"
- Roland was hunkered down behind some rocks and says "I saw people get blown over and bodies all over the trail I thought people were getting shot"
- The sounds of train running over my body...I heard that about 100 times.
- Can I throw my ice ax at you?
- Want to see me do a naked belly flop?
- Spanky, "that's OUR dog"
- She is a Buffalo
- "We ran out of that beer" bartender at Cougar Liar
- "BAD BOY"
- Feeling relieved on the Lion's Head trail along the ravine that the winds were blowing out of and away from the ravine.
- Being picked up and relocated 6 inches to starboard by a big gust.
- Feeling disconcerted that 100m later the winds were blowing directly into the ravine.
- Standing w/ g-$$$ in the upper snowfields, looking around in all directions and seeing nothing but uniform grey. It was like floating in milk.
- Watching sand-like ice driving along the surface of the snow like flowing water.
- Being nipple-deep in spruce-traps below the lower snow-fields.
- Taking out the North-South Magnetic Perspective Redirector and magnetically redirecting my perspective.
- Barebooting down Heather's.
Posted by muthaz at 6:39 AM
Hopefully the kids are all settled in and tucked in for the night down at the condo. I think g-$$$ was driving up tonight in the Current Conditions at the MWO (Click To Zoom)
freezing rain. I'm leaving around 6am for an 8am trailhead departure. One last look at the MWO tonight and wow, the excitement is palpable.
I'll be heading straight to Pinkham Notch and checking the logbook to see if the Bad Boys have signed in, then heading up Lion's Head to poke around in the winds above treeline. Knowing me I'll probably be in snowshoes ... or crampons only ... or snowshoes ... or ... crap.
I do know I'll have a Spam sandwich on whole-grain bread, one liter of water and some toilet paper in case the Spam needs an exit strategy.
Oh yeh, and I'm bringing a kite. Should be good flying weather.
Posted by muthaz at 9:08 PM
Last night was show night on VCAM15. My hour long live call-in show ("Welcome To Reality") is normally hosted by me, but in an interesting variation we just set up an empty chair, pointed the camera at it and people called in and were on the air (I had an open house at the school where I teach). I didn't go to the studio - in fact I didn't see it until this morning. We streamed it live on the web, and of course we make the show available for later viewing at ustream.tv [Link]. It was one of the best shows ever, but because there are long gaps of silence it's hard to appreciate. The show was titled "Reality & David Adolphus" - which is a joke so obscure that only I get it ... and maybe one other guy I know.
The callers are brilliant. Many of them get the idea and some have no clue. One way to 'watch' the show is to click 'play' and let this stream while you're doing something else... and from time to time you'll hear a caller, so keep the sound up.
There's really nothing to see. It's just the empty chair in a dark studio with a soda bottle and some crackers.
Posted by muthaz at 1:13 PM