Rocket Ride at Burke Mtn

The Burke Mtn Ski Resort is closed for the season but the skiing looks to be about as good as it gets.  Dogman and I found a 4ft deep snowpack that was more than bombproof - you couldn't post-hole and jamming your ice axe in only got it about 3 inches into the base.   The base wasn't crust - it was firm (you could drag an ice axe tip through it for self-arrest, which we tested and in some cases had to implement.

We had quite a snow this morning so there was about 3 inches of new snow on top of the established base.

Dogman and I pulled the sleds (Paris Expedition) to the top, with Trudy, Spanky and Jake.  We went all the way to the top of the mountain and sledded down black diamond trails (marked in light green on the map at right).

This was the fastest I've ever gone in a sled, by a long shot.  We had helmets, face masks and goggles and used ice axes for the self-arrest for the times we popped out of the sleds.  The posture we chose was seated, legs over the sides with boots in the snow for steering and the axe in hands across chest in standard 'prepare to die' configuration.

The climb up was about 45 minutes to the parking lot just below the 3267' summit.  The total elevation gain was roughly 1200' (it's about 2000' from the base lodge to the top of the main lift).

Our first time down was hysterically fast but fraught with momentary panic at the high speeds, sled instability and sheer excitement.  The descent featured 3 or 4 stops, either accidental or of the 'stop-at-the-edge-and-look-over' variety.  This is a serious descent.

The second time up we climbed to the top of the Poma lift, probably 150' vertical short of the parking lot.  This is the top of the 'steep' part.  We were determined to make the run to the base in one continuous ride, now that we had the experience.  I ended up wiping out mid-run as I began approaching a gentle turn in the trail but was unable to manage migrating to the right.  With about 100m to the trees my efforts to drift right made the sled go into a tailspin and I got ejected.  Rather than self-arrest I shot downhill on my back (gortex whistling) until I came to a stop.  The sled shot over me but was arrested by the ankle leash I had fastened it with.

The rest was done in a continuous run.


  • The speed.  Nothing like it.
  • The snow kicked up by my boots formed a massive cloud around my and covered me, packing snow into my mouth (i had to chew it to get rid of it) and into my nostrils.  It was good snowball snow, but as we descended got heavier.  Toward the bottom, instead of merely crashing into my face, it was like a mashed-potato food-fight and I had to clear my goggles with a quick glove-wipe about every 5 seconds.
  • The speed.
  • The soft texture of the snow.  No bruises, injuries, sprains or tender tailbones.
  • The speed.


Lafayette w/ Spanky, The Puppet Master & Riley

Up and down Lafayette via the Old Bridle Path.

Mutha's Trip Report (pics here):
A blue-bird day like no other. Lafayette rarely fails to deliver. The PM and I had slightly different ideas on what to bring. He had a full winter pack and went w/ microspikes. I had my smallest pack with only a windbreaker and a mid-weight top in it and wore crampons.

We were both right and both wrong in so many ways. I wore a sleeveless top for the ascent, which was great until I got above treeline and froze my tits off. I lost two fingers on each hand on the way up in the stiff wind. Temps were probably around 20° and the winds no more than 10-15 mph or so but sleeveless w/ fingerless biking gloves ... uhh, kinda cold. I got to the summit first w/ Spanky and made a beeline across the top and around the 'back' of the summit to the southeast corner where I could put on everything, including a fleece hat. Damn it got cold... but not as cold as on the way down, where we both completely lost all fingers and I thought I'd end up with frostbite on my cheeks/nose


Other highlights:
* [Updated 4/11 to reflect site info from Fred] Saw a few people on the trail - pretty empty day though. Passed a solo hiker at the hut, saw him again at the summit and on the lee side of the summit (: Fred.  He introduced us to Trail NH which combines GIS info w/ trail reports from VFTT and Hike-NH, NETC and others.  Back down at the Hut we chatted for a while w/ some older folks that were having lunch who, of course, were familiar with folks I knew in Danville.  All socializing aside it was astoundingly sparsely populated up there for a picture perfect day. ... although I did think I was going to lose skin from the cold wind on the way down .... and i completely lost my fingers .... but whatever.
* On the way down, two guys skinning up were going to ski into the ravines. Both had helmets.
* On the way down, a guy coming up stopped to chat about the weather for a second. He kept referring to the schmutz in the sky caused by airplanes and the fast-approaching weather. I think he was insane. I just took off and left the PM to deal. WTF man, it was a gorgeous day!
* Great social day too. The PM and I covered a lot of territory: jobs, relationships, licorice and sardines. Hell Yaz!
* Took another 30 photos of the damn dog. Hey man, it's all digital. 1's and 0's. So stop complaining.
The Puppet Master's Trip Report (pics here):
Beauty of a day today.  The bluebirds were chirping and Mutha's wheels were turning! My regrets -
  1. Agreeing to "blast" up Lafayette with Mutha.  I now know what that really means - wow!  It was like running with TMail, following a ghost!  Mutha had us to the hut in 1hr 15min.
  2. Bringing my full winter pack and not a paired down version appropriate for the day.
  3. Believing in microspikes while trying to front-point up a rock-hard, ice slab... eek!
  4. Not packing more licorice logs - http://www.rjslicorice.co.nz/
 Heard on the hill today -
  1. "F*cking Tmail" - for getting us to buy more gear and his inviting us to chase him as he runs like a lightning streak
  2. "F*cking MadDog" - for talking relationships on hikes, keeping it all in perspective, and asking for a 600 mile triathlon later this year
  3. "F*cking G$" - for not buying a condo in Waterville yet and getting us thinking about hiking/trips out West
  4. "F*cking DogMan" - for battling the racer mentality (i.e. "get to the finish"), being full of zen, and sliding down ski hills like it's his job
My major rants....
Great day out.  I needed that mountain therapy!

Pics (a lot in B&W due to brightness of sun)


Eisenhower & Pierce the Fun Way

Dogman, tMail, Jake, Spanky, Trudy & I tackled Eisenhower via Edmands Path.  We had a 2.3 mile walk along the Mt. Clinton Rd. to the trail, which we were able to follow until were in the alpine zone above the deciduous trees (except for a few wayward birches) at which point we just went up.  The trail follows the ridge so it wasn't a problem for route-finding but it did get pretty steep.  Above the trees, still steep, this western approach encounters the large, wind-swept bulge of Eisenhower (Boob Mountain).  The true trail avoids some of this by veering north around the bulge, following the countours to the Crawford Path.  Without a trail, we just hammered straight east on a beeline to the summit.  Some highlights follow ...

Mutha's Trip Report (pics here):
  • The snow was an extraordinary texture.  I thought of it as 'butter cream frosting':  yielding but firm.  The only postholes were spruce traps or horizontal, submerged trunks.  Snowshoes were the gear du jour.
  • The wind-sculpted drifts along the ridge were beautiful.  The entire ridge between the summits was entirely navigable on or off trail.  We stayed to the trial more-or-less but it didn't really matter.  The snow was deep and strong.  Even the dogs weren't postholing except in a few soft drifts but no real struggling.  Jake actually was able to stay completely on top of the windslab in places where tMail & Dogman (in crampons) were knee deep.  I kept my MSRs on and probably had an easier time, but not by much.  This was not like the Bamforth Ridge adventure of 2010 or whenever that was.
  • At a mere 7 hours it's clear that this route, or variations of it, will offer some prime adventure.  I'd like to try tMail's original plan of tackling the Abenaki Ravine.  We had that on our Plan A but never really made the push off the trail until we were pretty high up and at that point had kind of let the injection point pass by.
  • The summit of Pierce really wowed me.  I kept repeating "no f**king cairn!"  We all know that little grove up there - a 20ft diameter clearing with a 5ft cairn and trees about 8-10ft tall.  There was almost no sign of any of these.  We wandered around on the beautiful snow among little knee-high conifer tops here and there.  We found an area of the right size, in roughly the right place that had nothing green sticking out of it but certainly no cairn.  It was like being on a bare mountain top like Eisenhower.  
  • Interestingly, the high point was south of the cairn by about 30ft - a Winter High Point!
  • The descent off Pierce was a luge run.  For much of it the snowpack was a good 4ft above the packed trail.  We looked down some postholes off to the side (only spruce traps and over streams).  A few appeared to be over 5ft deep give an easy 8 - 10' of snow on Pierce's west flank.  It would be worth bringing a cargo sled up and rocketing down that thing as long as nobody was coming up it.  The sled might be too dangerous, but something sled-like other than gortex pants.
  • I think this was the first time I found myself thinking that I really like Pierce.  It's definitely a spring mountain.