After the alarm ignited in the dark wee hours of the morning, I hemmed 'n
hawed about going to Tuck's. I'm tired .... it won't be that great .... is
it worth all of that driving? I convinced myself by saying that if I
didn't go, I'd be kicking myself for staying in the Flatlands as my plans
for climbing had fallen through.
I arrived early, but took my time. I started up and immediately ran into
a winter camping friend that I had not seen in a long while. He remarked
at how cool it was in the ravine and how the ampitheater quality of it
reminded him of the Coliseum with people cheering when somebody biffed.
"Hmm, so when someone biffs, it's the equivalent of a Christian getting
eaten by a lion", I lamented.
I resumed my slog up and encountered a few showers and I turned glum,
thinking that I had been burned by the weather. Snow and ice was present
on the trail in earnest at the upper bridge. When I got to HoJos, I hung
out for a while, counting on a change of weather. I relaxed for about an
hour and observed fog and gloom on top and realized that plans for spending
a mellow day on the East Snowfields was probably doomed. I became restless
and picked up my gear and then looked dead in the eye at a familiar face
that was about 2 feet away from me - Plaid Matt Reagan!
I headed into the bowl and fog/gloom started to disperse, giving way to
glimpses of sun. At the bottom of the bowl, rangers and the MWVSP
recommended that we got to the rocks under the Chute/Left Gully due to the
high danger of ice falling onto the Lunch Rocks. Some people did hang out
on the rocks, including someone who played the flute (or was it clarinet -
I dunno', I ain't a musician) which created a soft mellow feel all day
long. I still took my time, revelling in the cool temps which I knew would
be in contrast to the near record heat experienced in the Flatlands - you
actually needed a jacket, especially since the sun was in and out of the
clouds. Chute was skiable and if you wanted to risk crevasses and ice
fall, the Lip into the Bowl was doable. Right Gully was half open.
Incidentally, so was the top half of Hillman's Highway.
I slowly assembled and put on my crampons and grabbed my ice axe. Some
think of this as overkill, but going to Snow School makes me do it, plus it
makes the climbing much easier and an enjoyable part of the experience -
yes, I'm climbing for the enjoyment, not clinging for dear life. I slowly
climbed up Left Gully and savored the experience. As I neared the very
top, I paused and observed glisse enthusiasts being fired through the crux
headwall like shots out of a cannon. Even though temps were well above
freezing, there was some rough hardpack to negotiate in addition to a small
crevasse where the snow was separating from the top. Occaisionally,
someone would rip the crux ... many more struggled and then a succession of
4 got hammered. I analyzed the situation and though of an electrifying run
I had here in 1994, dropping in the top after skiing on the snowfields at
the top. Been there, done that a few times before which made me realize
that I did not need the extra 50-75 feet of vertical. So, I took my trusty
ice axe and chopped out a platform from the soft snow on the steep headwall
(below the crux) so that I could assemble for a descent.
The downhill skiing was fantastic after I negotiated some hardpack at the
top. Sweet steep skiing on one of my favorite runs and great spring snow.
My Tua Excalibur Mito's really sprung to life and for the first time, I
truly got a great feel for them! I ran into Matt who was climbing and
snapped an action shot of me and continued to the bottom.
The run was so great, I went for another and hoped for a third. Again, I
made a mellow, deliberate and enjoyable climb up to my now well worn
platform which I had to touch up with my trusty ice axe. This time, the
descent was even better. On my first turn, I kicked off a load of spring
snow which triggered that classic "Presidential effect" where you kick off
a load of loose snow that sparkles from the sun and you wind up turning and
surfing in it. The descent was wonderful !
As I neared the bottom, I felt my energy evaporate. I stopped for a long
period of time, and observed much action and how great a place the ravine
truly is. I watched 3 naked snowboarders make some fantastic turns in the
Right Gully and into the Bowl, getting a standing ovation from the crowd.
I completed my run and rather than get a third, headed for some stuff I
had stashed and ate some badly needed food. It was getting late in the
afternoon and I noticed nobody heading towards the Left Gully. Being alone
and getting tired, I decided to call it a day and made some sweet easy
turns to the very bottom of the bowl to the hiking trail, realizing that my
season was sadly coming to an end ..... one more big turn in front of a
patroller, where I sadly blurted out "that's it for the season".
I hiked down to HoJos when thunder rumbled and the related clouds created
a feeling of impending doom. I hung out under the roof 'til the short
storm subsided and I resumed my hike downhill. At around the intersection
with the Huntington Ravine Trail, thunder announced itself and rain fell
like it always does in the North Country - unannounced and steady. I was
too lazy to pull out my rain jacket and I realized that the temps were
rapidly increasing with my descent, so I got a good soaking. Of course the
rain stopped when I made ot to my truck at the bottom.
Great day !!! It was mellow, but I still got in 2 great classic Tuck's
runs and experienced a nice day !! .... but I'm still a bit blue as it
looks like my season is over at Day 49.
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