Hiking and Backcountry Ski Conditions around Pinkham

The past week we have gone through quite the change in temperatures, and we are back to below freezing temperatures which have been great for our ice and snow conditions, as we have lost a decent amount of both due to rain events and above freezing temperatures the past couple of weeks. This past weekend a cold front came in and has continued to stay throughout the week, which has been great for brooks and rivers to freeze again, allowing for better travel on many of the trails around Pinkham Notch. We also received a couple inches of snow on Sunday and Monday in the mountainous areas, which made for some great backcountry skiing the past couple of days!

Saturday morning I did a quick hike up to Harvard Rock on the Boott Spur Trail, the picture above is taken from the ravines outlook right after you see the Alpine Zone sign; a 2.2 mile hike with just over 2,000' of elevation gain from the visitors center. The large boulder on the left is called Harvard Rock, which is found as a destination in the White Mountain Guide. This a fantastic route to travel when the weather is good and you have the proper gear to stay out all day. It is a 5.3 mile hike from the visitors center to the summit using this route.Heading down the trail there are great views looking towards Wildcat Mountain and the Carter Range. For this trail microspikes are definitely needed as there were many icy patches throughout, it has been very well tracked out so flotation devices are not needed.

Tuesday morning I decided to take a sunrise skin up to the Hermit Lake Shelter, although I was not able to capture the beautiful alpenglow in the ravine, the sunrise from the east was spectacular! The skinning conditions on Tuesday have greatly improved from when I had skied on Sunday as the small brook crossings have frozen, making for nice traveling without worrying about getting water on your skins (if this happens usually snow will stick to the skins and build up, as this happened Sunday a couple of times to me). The conditions on the Tuckerman ravine trail are very packed down with areas of ice, so light traction devices such as microspikes are helpful. The ski trail was in descent condition, the upper half had some bare spots with exposed rock, but still good coverage overall. Make sure to look back on your ski down as there are some fantastic views looking back towards Hillman's Highway, Dodge's Drop and Duchess.

Yesterday morning 2 friends and I headed into the Gulf of Slides ski trail to go see how the conditions are. This area is not maintained by the USFS Snow Rangers, so there are no avalanche reports made for this area. Yesterday the avalanche report was calling for Low and Moderate avalanche danger in Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines, so with the proper gear and knowledge we figured we would do a trip into the Gulf of Slides on such a beautiful day! When traveling into the backcountry especially in avalanche terrain it is good to travel in at least a group of 3, and have the proper gear such as shovels, probes and beacons and always dig a snow pit to get a handle of the snow conditions.

The picture to the left is of Central Gully in the Gulf of Slides. The Gulf of Slides Ski Trail is similar to the John Sherburne "Sherbie" Ski Trail as it is a sustained 2.5 mile downhill run, and a bit narrower in places than the Sherbie, and is more flat on the bottom areas as opposed to the steeper sections on the lower part of the Sherbie. This is a great ski trail to do when the avalanche danger is high in the gullies, as the upper sections of the ski trail usually holds a good amount of snow.

This trail starts at the south end of the PNVC parking lot and branches left after the bridge on the Sherbie (please keep in mind that there is traffic heading down this ski trail). You will see a sign as well as the blue plastic blazes designating the Avalanche Brook Trail and the Gulf of Slides Ski Trail, after about a 1/4 mile there is a split in the trail and the Avalanche Brook Trail bears left, so keep right to stay on the Gulf of Slides Ski Trail. The trail is about 20 feet wide in places and has some steep grades of about 20 degrees, please stay to the side of the trail due to downhill traffic.

The views from the top of the Gulf of Slides Trail to the beginning of the ascent of Central Gully have some fantastic views of the Wildcat Range as well as the Carter Range.  It was a beautiful day with great conditions as you can see, we were very happy to be out skiing yesterday! We only went about 1/4 up Central Gully, dug a snow pit to see how the layering was, and with the large ice bulge about 1/2 up the gully we were happy enough from skiing from our snow pit location. The ski down was fantastic, a great amount of snow was still on the trail, although there are a few areas of bare spots that we needed to take caution on. Since you will be skinning or hiking up this trail to access it you will know where the problem areas are on the trail, as there were also a few river crossings that you needed to stop for and very carefully cross over due to the lack of snow and excess of ice. This is a great trail with some fun drops and turns! There are some great backcountry skiing resources out there, my favorite book is the Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast by David Goodman. This covers 50 classic ski tours in New England and New York. If you plan to stick to skiing in the White Mountains there is a great Winter Trails map that has some great information in the areas of Pinkham Notch, Twin Mountain and the Kancamagus.

With the forecast of snow over the weekend please make sure to read the avalanche board here at PNVC, it will be updated daily as well as the Mount Washington Avalanche Center conditions and advisory report which is compiled daily by the United States Forest Service Snow Rangers. These advisories are updated usually between 8am and 9am. You can also call them at (603) 466-2856. If you are getting an early start you can always get the updated avalanche reports from the caretakers at the Hermit Lake shelter as well as at the Harvard Cabin. If you are coming to the notches to climb and do winter mountaineering a great resource for up to date conditions and route advice is through NEice.
The AMC also offers and hosts clinics and group trips for ice climbing, avalanche certifications and winter mountaineering. All of our programs for the '13/'14 season can be found on our Activities and Events Page. For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk.  We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM or by email at amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org. To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm. We also offer ski and stay packages at our Joe Dodge Lodge and the Highland Center
Happy Winter Adventuring

Danielle J.
Backcountry Information Specialist
AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
(603) 466-8116

Labels: , , , , , ,