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On Sun, 13 May 2001 20:39:10 -0400, Jeremy Malczyk <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:
>Stumble, slip, and slide, across Edmands Cutoff to the Col, where weather
>showed signs of souring. Made decision to high tail it for Thunderstorm
>Jct to hit snowfield and fast way to hut. Jim begins own adventure down
>Raymond Path. We set out on the very exposed Gulfside.  Make it .5 mi
>before my helmet starts making weird buzzing noise and my hair stands up
>on the back of my neck. Scream in terror, drop skis and poles, and run for
>nearest shrubbery. 10 min later storm passes and we hightail it for the
>top before the next one rolls in.

Actually I was headed down Israeli Ridge to gentle Randolph Path to lower,
snowless trails, intending to reach the parking lot with plenty of daylight
left.  The mountain had other plans.  The weather Jerm mentioned forced me
to turn down Israeli Ridge rather then waiting for the Randolph trail
junction to head down.  The threat of lightning was so real I actually
remember trying to be aware of the first indication of a feeling of static
charge, a sensation I normally only feel when descending the vinyl twirly
slide near our house with my son.  Luckily the buzz never came, and after
franticly donning a rain shell, I headed below tree line. I had heard the
voices of my comrades a few hundred feet above me on the Gulfside Trail as
they fled the exposure, though thankfully I never did see the flash of
lightning they reported.

Israeli Ridge seemed seldom travelled, and the thick pyramid of snow in the
middle of the narrow trail was posthole city.  I thought I'd been smart to
put two shelters, the Perch and the Log Cabin, on my descent route, given
the questionable weather, but I should have stuck to the way I'd come up on
Friday.  By the time I made it to the primitive Perch, the clouds were
quickly closing in, and the postholing and low hanging branches had slowed
my progress to a crawl.  The Perch is little more than a couple tent
platforms, a privy, and a tiny lean-to.  It's located near the top of the
NW-facing, steep, and heavily treed Cascade Ravine.  The snowpack here is
still over 5' in places.

As I attempted to warm up a little by hiding from the worsening rain and
ingest some energy, I hatched a plan to put skis back on a avoid sinking
waist deep every third step.  As I executed this plan, the world became
white outside the lean-to.  Visibility was way, way, down.  The Randolph
path descends from the Perch about .2 miles to the NE.  Given the snow
depth, hop turns and snowplows down it for a 1/2 mile or so should have
been possible, if the trail junction had still been there.  It wasn't.
Huge slides from above had wiped out the trail NE of the Perch.  As mass of
twisted wood made progress barely possible at times.  There was simply no
way to find the proper way down.  Had I descended, I may have missed the
actual trail by 50', but never seen it in the thick forest.

A lonely set of footprints, probably the RMC caretaker's, appeared about
1/4 mile into the carnage, and lead me back up the Perch Path towards the
Gray Knob trail.  Had they not been there, the only option would have been
to turn around and find another route down, or spend a lonely night in the
Perch.  Rain now came at me sideways on this relatively exposed spot, and I
thanked my maker for giving me the foresight to purchase a truly waterproof
rain shell on Thursday.  My feet were pretty soaked, but at least the core
was still warm.

I reached the Gray Knob cabin after much soul-searching, scrambling, and
general miserableness.  The inhabitants there only spoke French, but I at
least I learned that it had taken me 2.5 hours to travel less than 2 miles
from Edmunds Col.  It was now 6:00 p.m.  I briefly entertained the idea of
heading the 3.5 miles down Lowe's path to the store, but quickly regained
my senses.  Crag Camp, relatively dry clothes, relative warmth, and my
buddies were about .5 miles away.

Enduring thick Bahstun accents and late night shenanigans was infinitely
preferable to a long, cold, wet, lonely night in a lean-to.  It dipped well
below freezing that night, and a healthy frost line covered everything
above 4500' in the morning.  Matt K. and I enjoyed a quick hike down in
good light and weather, and made it to Appalachia in 1.5 hours.  As we
approached the car, an older gentleman who had just cruised into the lot
asked if one of us was supposed to have been down the evening before.  Uh-
oh.  Kathleen had been frantic, called the Gorham police early Sunday
morning, who had then called Mr. Lowe himself, who apparently is the local
police chief as well as general store owner.  Moments later, Dana and
Jonathon cruised by as well, and we quickly traded war stories.  My
thoughts were elsewhere though.  I needed to make that call, now.  Quite a
Mother's Day present.

We'd skied King and Jefferson Ravines, bagged the 2nd and 3rd highest spots
in the Whites, and pushed ourselves physically well beyond where I thought
my own abilities could take me.  One hell of a way to end the season.
Superstar would be super, but could really be nothing but a let down after
last weekend.

-Jim B.

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