It has been quite some time since our last post, and the past few weeks have been one very wild ride. We experienced what seemed like three of the four seasons all within a two week span. Heavy powder fell across the region followed by even more powder and some strong winds, just days before we were set to hit the road for an adventure that proved to us how quickly plans can change.
Trip Report: by Christopher Tower
For days I had been following a possible noreaster that was to hit the region, in hopes of finally having a real storm leave us with what we could hopefully call an epic pow day. As I awoke I realized that here in Colchester VT it had snowed a mere 3-4 inches overnight. I was beginning to doubt mother nature yet again. I poured my morning coffee while getting the gear piled up and ready for the day when the phone rang (6:00am). It was Dana Carpenter, calling to inform me that he received roughly two feet of powder overnight in Jeffersonville, and it was still dumping. This was instant motivation to get out the door faster. The rest of the phone calls were made and we hit the road to film at a somewhat new location to us.
As we made our way towards the mountains the snowfall was barely noticeable until we reached Underhill. I swear, you could see the line where 3-4 inches of snow became more like 8-12. We arrived at the lot pumped to see what happened at the upper elevations. We quickly geared up and began the trudge through deep untracked snow. By the time we arrived at the location we wanted to film at the snow was around 30 inches deep, and it began to fall harder than it had the entire storm cycle.
We spent the day building all sorts of features and riding some incredibly deep powder. It continued to snow harder, and by 1:00pm we could only see a mere 15 feet in front of ourselves. We did our best to ride, hit jumps, and film in this incredible white out. By the time we were ready to pack out for the day we measured roughly 40 inches of snow, and still falling!
We returned to this same location the following morning to find another 12+ of some of the lightest Champlain powder possible, not to mention the perfect bluebird skies. The snow was so good that we continued to hit fresh lines in this region for not only a second, but also a third day in a row!
A few of us here at GMR Films were taking the next four days to rest up, and get our gear prepped for our first camping trip of the season. This was the first day we realized that plans can change quickly. Upon waking up (after sleeping in longer than normal) I answered a phone call from Nate Young, who was out getting a few turns in the Notch. Upon informing me that the snow was beginning to fall yet again up there and the winds picking up, we made plans to spend the next two days hitting fresh windblown lines. This was a Tuesday and a Wednesday, so it was perfect. Not a soul in the Notch on either day, and it was all ours for the taking.
We were set to hit the road for Mt. Washington today, but our plans changed quickly yet again. The night before the weather forecasted in the White Mountains looked perfect, but overnight the predictions changed drastically. Heavy winds (100+mph) and extreme low temps (-20) forced us to find a more suitable place to set up camp, at least until the crazy weather passed. Our last second decision was to camp out in the Smugglers Notch in a secluded area that we knew would be a great place to hang out for a few days, and wake up to some pretty epic lines.
With a late start, we arrived to set up camp with only about an hour of daylight left. Perfect in my opinion, since limited time can really test ones survival skills. It was cold and windy up there that night. Within the first hour out there, we set up our tents and began to shovel our soon to be snow fortress (Little did we know at that time that we would do more shoveling than riding on this trip). The first night we cleared a 10 foot by 15 foot area, building snow walls that were around 5 feet tall throughout the entire fortress. We put a fire pit in the middle, and set it ablaze. The warmth of the fire was nice, but the winds were howling and pushing the smoke from the fire down into our hangout. After dinner we put together a plan to turn this into even more of livable area for the next nights work (you have to keep busy when you are out there in the elements of a winters night). We turned in for the night around 2:00am and awoke to a dusting of new snow. After firing up our stoves and making some much needed coffee, we began pointing out the lines and features we each wanted to destroy. The riding started with a few lines that from a distance would look good to almost anybody, however upon arrivial atop of them it was a much different picture. I looked at this line from the bottom and it looked clear with only a few trees to get around. Once standing above though, I realized it was going to be sketchy. There were an abundance of small trees, bushes, and other little pokey things coming out of the snow. We were already there though, and we didn’t hike out of camp up these lines to walk back down. That was quite a way to wake up and start your day; tree branches slapping you in the face the whole way down!
After realizing that some of the other scouted sections of terrain appeared to have similar conditions, we looked at some of the big lines right behind our camp. Pure white gold, I say. The steepest, most open chutes with plenty of fresh, unridden powder to go around. We filmed in this zone until around 3:00 when we decided it would be a good time to go back to camp, gather fire wood for the night, and continue building our snow home. The walls grew that night to around eight feet tall, and we dug individual caves into the walls for sleeping. Around 8:00pm snowflakes began to fall. We all turned in earlier than the previous night in hopes of waking up early for some pow shredding. We awoke earlier as planned, but we didn’t ride a single line that day. Snow fell overnight, but by 8:00am the snow had turned a rainy messy mix. We did attempt to get some turns in, but after walking no more than 100 yards we realized we would be soaked beyond what we could possibly dry out by our fire. Instead we spent the day mentally prepping for phase two of our trip (Mt. Washington), and further customizing our caves. It was funny actually to see the progression of how our snow caves began as just simple dug out holes in the snow, to becoming extravagant, almost luxurious, holes in the snow. I built a roof across the entrance of my cave with pine boughs to block any snow/ran that may come down at night. This inspired Nate to improve the entrance of his hideaway in a similar fashion, even out doing mine a bit. This in turn helped John to build his super cave with a pine bough wall that could have kept most any blizzard from ever entering his sleeping quarters. Did I mention luxury?
The next day we packed up our touring sled and headed out of the mountains for a night. This gave us all a chance to come home for a night to dry our gear out completely, and grab any last minute items needed for our next portion of our trip. This was to be one night home, and then hitting the road in the morning, but things changed again. Once home I was able to get a detailed report of Mt. Washington, and things were looking fairly decent as long as we took one more day at home to let some crazy arctic air pass out of the Presidential range.
We hit the road, finally. The weather appeared to have a clear 3 day and night window, there was a full moon coming, and we were going. Even though we left a 6:00am, we still didn’t arrive at the Pinkham Notch parking lot until 1:30pm. There were a few extra items that we decided to pick up, and while we were off the main path we were able to scout a few possible filming locations for when there is snow again.
We checked in at the center and received our ticket to stay at the Hermit Lake shelters for the next three nights. I remember the lady at the front desk saying “You boys may have picked the best three day window of the winter!” This got us super pumped to get up to camp and start dreaming of the shred to come. Our sled weighs a lot though, and the reality of dragging it to the shelters set in quick. On a normal day we could hike to the base of the ravine in less than 2 hours. With a three person team pushing and pulling our gear up the trail it took us roughly three hours. Most people would call it hell, but it was all part of the adventure for us. Besides, our sled is packed like very few others out there. It carries all of our survival gear, camera equipment, dehydrated meals, and many pounds of bacon. Mmmm, bacon, pear, and cheddar.
We made it to set up our lean-to around 5:30. Dinner was cooked once we were settled in and we snapped some photos/videos of the night sky with a nearly full moon passing over. Not a bad way to start the stay on Washington.
After sleeping through a pretty cold night (5-10degrees), we awoke to sunny skies and not a single cloud. It was warming up fast, too. The many layers you slept in were already too much at 7:30am in the heat of the sun. We spoke with the caretaker that morning and read all the avalanche bulletins. Most stuff out there was moderate to considerable danger, and with the warm temperatures, there was concern that a lot of terrain could slide. We were able to get to the lower snowfields, by hiking up Hillmans Highway to where the two merge. As much as we wanted to head to the top of the Highway, we chose not to. We spoke with a few locals and saw some fractures up higher that were reported to have happened when a skier took a tumble the day before we arrived.
After a day of some interesting riding where snow conditions were changing every hour we made it back to the lean-to to rest up, and eat lots of bacon.
I awoke a few times in the night to some rumbling noises, but quickly fell back asleep each time. And to my surprise everybody woke up well rested on this morning. We made a pot of coffee, and spoke with the rangers about the conditions. Things were looking good, other than the rubble everywhere. Turns out the rumbling I heard in the night was Hillman’s Highway, and numerous other nearby lines had slid overnight. Some of them were big, and they all left chunky wet heavy snow in their paths. The good news was that there were a few lines in Tuckerman Ravine that were at low avalanche warnings, the bad news was that the sun was to get pushed out by heavy winds and rain moving in throughout the day. Gusts were to reach around 120mph!. We hiked up to the bowl anyway, and fought the wind as long as the sun was out. We were able to film some lines, and hit some cliffs, but mother nature was getting rough with us as the day progressed. After managing to stay out until about 2:30pm we decided that we had to get back to camp or we would never dry out, especially since we heard it was supposed to get into the low teens that night.
We headed back to camp where we hung out our soaking wet gear to dry on the cabin rafters. After a couple hours had passed our gear was not drying, it was getting dark and beginning to rain harder. This is when we really tested our abilities to change plans. Nate realized the wet gear and cold temps scenario approaching and came up with the idea of leaving early. The points were all in favor of heading out a night early. Our gear would have been frozen by morning, the terrain would be hardpack/icy again and we would be miserable. It was decided quickly that we should pack up and head down the mountain. It took us no more than 20 minutes to have our gear packed in the sled, and be started back down the mountain just as the daylight went away. What seemed like an eternity carrying our gear up the mountain was a a mere flash of time on the way down.
We arrived at the truck, loaded up, and called a random hotel for the night to get some beer and relax. It was totally our lucky night, because Mt. Washington did see extreme winds, and super freezing conditions that night into the next morning. We could have been miserable, but instead we were getting warm and dried out. Well, sort of anyway. It urned out that this random hotel we called had an indoor water park. Oh Yes! trip complete.
Here is our latest Clip Of The Week, showing some scenes from our recent trip. Featuring music from Addison Chase, with the song “Old Home Days”. You can listen to more at http://www.reverbnation.com/addisonchase
With the crazy weather we have had this season, it seems as though winter just began a few weeks ago. Yet it is in the 60’s and 70’s every day now and we are losing snow faster than most people can ever remember. We normally have a lot more riding and filming to do this time of year, but things seem to be wrapping up early. That said we hope to have more edits before the snow is officially gone, but only time will tell.