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I arrived at Pinkham Notch at roughly 8:45pm on Friday and caught the last 45 minutes of the classroom session of Synnott Mountain Guides AIARE 1 with Al Mandell lecturing.  Afterwards, Al, former Hermit Lake intern Blake and I had a good bull session over a few beers (2 16 oz Torpedos in cans for me - yummy!).  With crap conditions on the Sherburne and needing to be early and professional to instruct the following morning, I felt it was wise to not go to the bunkhouse at Hermit Lake.  Instead, I tried to get my money's worth at the Joe Dodge Lodge.
Next morning: the awesome news that we got 15cm/6" of new.  Yeah, it REALLY snowed!  The bad news was that I was NOT at Hermit Lake and could not get turns for breakfast - I just can't win this year.  Any-who, I met up with the man at the Jackson Community Church to assist instructing his AIARE 1. Good stuff in the lecturing.  Mark (like, not me) just got back from the Tetons where he skied with his kids.  He mentioned that this was very enlightening for him and he emphasized that guiding your own kids in sidecountry/backcountry in avalanche terrain really made him focus even more.  He also told a story of how an acquaintance was caught in an avalanche in the Tetons a few years ago and successfully pulled the trigger on an air bag and then proceeded to crash into a tree with his legs open and the tree splitting his pelvis open AND ripping open his scrotum.
Later, we headed up the Sherburne/Tux Trail and did rescue practice.  This was done to do practice but also to see who was in shape for bigger verts and had their gear dialed in. Unfortunately there was someone seemingly in ripped physical shape that was darn near dying.  We could not figure this out. Wet snow and light rain fell and I repeatedly checked my wicked smaht phone checking out the freeze line on the Auto Road Temp Profile. The new heavy wet snow did a great job in making the Sherburne manageable and even darn right fun!  More lecture followed inside. At the end, Mark and I discussed the problem student and we agreed that if he was falling apart, I would work with him at Hermit Lake while the others went high.  We also conferred with the problem student and recommended some gear upgrades/fixes among other things.
While it was raining a bit overnight in Crawford Notch, some upslope candy was happening above treeline. Next morning, we gathered in the Pack Room at Pinkham Notch, always a favorite spot of mine because it reminds me of the countless epics - albeit some tragic - that originated there.  Our students were really putting an intensive trip plan together in the face of Considerable avalanche hazard.  It was to be their job to lead with guidance from Mark and I.  They really shone when we set up a guides meeting which made me proud of them.
Up the Tux trail we went.......and whaddya' know, our problem student was on a roll with no problems at all which left us baffled.  I brought up the rear which was at a slower speed which enable me to have a relaxing and enjoyable ascent.  Up past Hermit Lake we went into the murkiness and wind. We skinned up the first steep pitch but had to de-ski for 2 bony ice ledges.  Lower Slower Snowfields were outta' the question for any travel and Little Headwall had surprising cover but still not even to safely ski and we suspected that it might have been too easy to punch through.  We got to work in the Bowl and ultimately ascended to the buttress between Right and Lobster Claw gullies.  We dug and analyzed and practiced. We found some easy results in the storm snow on some graupel that snuck its way into the snowpack during the storm cycle that left 25+ cm on Big George.  Mark then led the more intrepid folks to the top of Right Gully, putting on a clinic.  He then left me to guide the rest and I put on a safe travel clinic in the murkiness, making our way through multiple gullies and then quickly down through the slide path that ran through the floor of the ravine. The latter coincided with the intrepid group, so our timing was perfect which made the boss very happy.  The intrepid group found no slabbiness in Right Gully and instead found ankle deep fluff on a firm surface.
Out of The Bowl we went, sideslipping and schussing down the Tux Trail to Hermit Lake. Descent down the Sherburne was a blast even with the copious number of spruce popping up on the upper part (hullo, two certain "Friends" groups have to get the lead outta' their a$$es and there is at least one person that will volunteer).  We convened for a guides meeting in the pack room and exchanged thoughts. I told Debra and Jessica that they are better skiers than they realize and that I was proud of their planning and managing the AM Guides Meeting.  I received some flattering compliments and I will leave it at that. Mark P. Renson

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