Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pilgrimage

[WARNING! This post contains descriptions and images of nude skiing, and may not be suitable for children.]

You may have thought snow season was over. You were wrong.

Late Friday night I made plans with my new friends, the Hardcore Kids, to head up to Tuckerman Ravine at the crack of dawn on Saturday. At the last minute Hardcore Boy decided he needed to go pick up his new jetski instead (leading me to have second thoughts about the nickname I’d already chosen for him) but Hardcore Girl and I went up anyway. She had gotten pretty beat up skiing there the previous weekend, and my energy level was lagging, so we decided to leave the skis at home and just go for the scenery and camaraderie of the place.

Tuckerman, if you’re not familiar, is a glacial cirque off the west side of Mount Washington. It’s a place of rock, ice, snow, and extremes. It doesn’t look like the rest of New England. It’s a three-mile uphill hike to the bottom of the bowl, but on a gorgeous spring day that doesn’t deter a thousand or so revelers from packing in. Once there, it was one big snow party. People sat on the rocks in the sun and cheered. A guy marched into the middle of the bowl and let loose on bagpipes. A fellow behind me was playing “Tequila” on the recorder. Happy dogs were everywhere, most with names taken from local topography (I heard Madison, Cutler, Zealand, Pemi…) Intrepid skiers slogged up the ravine to the headwall, and launched themselves off. To great applause from the crowd, one man hurtled down naked. At the bottom, he was given a $75 ticket by the snow rangers (for what, exactly, I don’t know—but I overheard him say “Totally worth it.”)




It’s not a tame place, though, as the orange sign makes clear. The avalanche danger was “low” yesterday, but the falling ice was a notable hazard. Even as a spectator, you have to keep your wits about you, and be prepared to fling yourself behind a boulder if an icefall starts. And the skiing is pretty hazardous. We saw one guy on the opposite side take a fall in a narrow gully, bounce off rocks three times, then tumble 500 feet or so before sliding to a stop. After considerable help, he finally managed to stand up and hobble away, but he left a big blood stain in the snow.

Later, for contrast, we hiked over to Huntington Ravine, with its seven ice gullies and rocky lip. It’s not good skiing, and there was no one there but some birds playing on the chaotic thermals of the gorge.


3 Comments:

Anonymous Johanna said...

Wow.

Taking all my clothes off seems like a good adaptation to deadly shrapnel to me too. That, and great big firecrackers in avalanche country.

4/30/06, 10:35 PM  
Anonymous girltuesday said...

envy, thy name is turboglacier.

5/1/06, 9:25 AM  
Blogger Karen's Vision... said...

Interesting....I backcountry ski but damn, nude....wouldn't want to fall on spring snow...ouch!!!!

Nice pictures btw...

5/2/06, 3:05 AM  

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