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        I was treated to some snow showers on Route 302 on my way in the morning.
 Driving up Rte. 16 I saw a lenticular cloud capping the summit of Mt
Washington - uh oh, that means serious turbulence on top.  Arriving at
Pinkham Notch Lodge, the lot was nearly full at 7:15, just as it had been 2
weeks earlier .... and just like 2 weeks earlier, a cold forecast was
issued - this time it was even colder with high temps forecasted to be from
5-10 degrees for a high on the summits, hardly enough to warm things up
from the minus 45 wind chills on the summit that were being experienced at
the time of the issuance of the report.
        This time, I went for it, anyway.  I was feeling lazy, but when I put on
my pack, I became happy and energetic as I knew that I was in the element
that I enjoy - being in the mountains.  Snow on the ascent didn't begin in
earnest until after the 2nd switchback.  My tortoise pace enabled plaid Jon
Martin and his friend Marty to catch up.  Jon was the hare, bolting ahead
and stopping every now and then while I shuffled along ta the same steady
pace.  Hiking up was pleasant, but things were wild 'n wooly at HoJos.  It
was cold, man.  Nasty frigid downdrafts crashed down on us from above and
hardpack - measured at a 50"+ depth - was the surface of the day.  I also
noticed how few people were in the bowl and on Hillmans.
        After I pointed out some of the prominent ski routes visible from HoJos,
Jon and his friend took off for the bowl, while I remained, hoping that a
strong sun would soften things.  The sight of someone sliding at an
exponentially increasing rate in the Right Gully off in the distance while
I was talking to Jon certainly had an influence on my decision.  Jon was
game, though, as it was his first trip to "The Eastern Altar of Sacrifice"
and he was anxious to lose his Tucks virginity.
        I talked to a member of the Mt Washington Volunteer Patrol (John) and we
deducted that the best thing to do would be to ski down the Sherburne Trail
and get an afternoon ticket at Wildcat.  I didn't do that, but I had to do
something as I was getting progressively colder.  So, I opted to put on my
classic look crampons with the Scottish Binding strap system over my
raunchy classic look leather mountaineering boots and head off for the bowl
just to hike and practice self arrest with my ice axe.   A funny thing
happened on the way - I noticed softening snow underfoot.  So, I headed
back and suited up for skiing.  Right before I headed up Hillman's, I
observed a brutal fall just below the cruxes - more great inspiration -
huh?  The reports from skiers of hardpack and lousy skiing didn't help.
        Undaunted, I charged up the hill.  I overhead others also say "yeah, it
was great".  It's amazing when people earn turns how often they'll say it
great when it's lousy - a failure to acknowledge the fact that they sweated
for nothing .... or they're a better adventurer than I am!  On my ascent, I
heard the ominous sound of scraping snowboards and chattering skis.
 Conditions rapidly detiorated the higher I got - it was more like frozen
snowmaking sludge.  A little less than halfway up, I threw in the towel and
felt that it was better judgement to descend before getting in over my
head.
        The skiing sucked. Period.
        Disappointed and needing more mountain exploring, I put my leather boots
and crampons back on (ahhh, toys!) and headed for the bowl for ice axe
practice and picture taking.  I was disappointed, especially when I saw
others - though there were less than I had ever seen at this time of year -
skiing.  How can I possibly explain to others that I went all the way up
here and didn't even get a full descent?  Then it hit me - yeah ... I'll be
a snob about it and just say that the conditions weren't good enough for
me.  When I earned turns in the past, I tasted nothing but the best candy -
chest deep in the Selkirks, epic cold smoke at Bridger Bowl and luscious
corn on Left Gully.  I was too good for today's crap.  In fact, when I get
up in the bowl, I'll just laugh at the fools tumbling head over heels
towards the deadly rocks at the bottom.  Ha Ha HA!
        But it wasn't funny .....
        Cramponing my way into the frigid bowl past the rescue hut, a group
pulling a litter headed my way - with someone in it wrapped in what
S.O.L.O. terms as a "Mount Washington Burrito" - a wool blanket plastic
drop cloth combination that is wrapped around a victim well on his/her way
to hypothermia.  I immediately volunteered my services as I was equipped to
deal with treacherous terrain.  When the AMC/WMNF/Mt Washington Volunteer
Ski Patrol saw this, they accepted my offer.
        A fall the entire length of the Left Gully had left the victim - Timothy -
in rough shape.  The scene was surreal - his face had severe abrasions,
swollen lips, a messed up nose and blood splattered all over him.  He
barely murmured how very cold he was and he was not functioning well,
mentally.  It reminded me of reading Catch-22 when Seargent Yossarian had
to tend to a mortally wounded tailgunner who, as he died, complained of
being very cold.  I became nauseous and choked up and it was time for me to
put away the camera out of respect for the victim and the rescue team of
which I became a part of.  It was also time for me to regain my composure
and play hardball.
        We chosen ones grunted and strained and hauled the litter down to the
Little Headwall where Simon (MWVSP) had set up an anchor comprised of snow
pickets and a static line rope system which would greatly aid us in
lowering the litter down the steepest part of the headwall.  I assisted in
communications midway down, since I was to be also needed to physically
help with Round 2.  Yup, poor Timothy wasn't the only one - his friend also
biffed and was on another litter that was on its way.
        After Tim was lowered through the crux, I scampered back to the top,
joined John and we maneuvered victim #2 over bumps and rocks and around
holes above the stream that were forming.  The rope ran out and we then
used our ice axes to anchor the litter.  We then reorganized as a larger
group, gingerly carried him downhill crossed 2 small brooks and lugged #2
up to the Snow Ranger HQ just across from HoJos.
        We then loaded both victims onto the back of the Thiokol where a THIRD
victim who was somewhat ambulatory crawled into the front seat.  I was
amazed at the field medical skills that were being practiced by patroller
Karen (who I think is also known as Phoebe), who analyzed Timothy and his
quasi-brain dead state up above and as he was being loaded onto the meat
wagon.  I also ran into Christian, who is an MRG patroller (he confronted
Jane, Eric and I on last day of 1998 season when we were caught in the
woods) who apparently can't get enough of this scene as he is also a member
of the Mt Wash patrol.
        After all of this, it was time for me to reward myself.  First, a Snickers
bar.  Then, a fun-filled cruise down on one of my favorite classic New
England non-McTrails - The Sherburne Trail.  It was a bit crowded, but
other than that, it was a beaut - there was spring snow, bumps, frozen
granular, glare ice, brush, twists, sudden turns, bare spots.  By reading
the shadows on this narrow trail, I was able to pick out the edgeable stuff
and because of that, was always on my toes which contributed to my stellar
run.  Sadly, the trail ran out of snow just above those fabulous S-turns
(can you imagine being Toni Matt after just unloading on the Headwall at
85+ MPH and then being treated this roller coaster ride for dessert!).  I
then switched to hiking mode and headed back to my turck.  The Sherburne
run was as excellent as my experience on Hillmans was lousy.
        Yeah, maybe I'm a wuss by not bagging any of the big Tucks descents.  But,
I know one thing that I am NOT --- hospitalized.
        I'm looking forward to Jon Martin's report.  There's never a dull moment
on that hill.

Mount Washington rules .... and don't you forget that.
Mark

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