Snowpack status: ART, Oakes, NE Snowfield, Right Gully, Cog

April 23, 2022 at 8:00 AM
Name: Jonathan S Shefftz| Northeast Ski Mountaineering
Location: ART, Oakes, NE Snowfield, Right Gully, Cog

Tracklog and pictures here:
Week-long delay (sorry!) in submitting this observation (with distraction of Vermont powder skiing partly to blame), but at-treeline and above-treeline snowpack status is probably unchanged since then.
(Stability was exactly as forecast in the avy bulletin: fresh windslab everywhere, of varying hardness based on location and temperature, but nothing was reactive.)
Looking at the RMC Gray Knob hut snowpack depth records for my meager three Presidential outings so far this season (with more Vermont powder in April largely to blame!), on March 27 I was shocked at the low tide everywhere, and Gray Knob confirmed this with a paltry 60cm. For my next outing, on April 11, conditions seemed about the same, and therefore relatively better for the time of the season, and sure enough, Gray Knob had increased to 79cm. For my third outing, on April 23, Gray Knob shows a gap in measurements, but averaging four days earlier and four days later equals 73cm. As I write this observation now on the last day of April, only 2cm below the seasonal peak of 90cm, which was recorded … yesterday. Yes, that’s right, the maximum 2021-22 snow depth at treeline in the Northern Presidentials was recorded on the penultimate day of April! Obs summit measurements show 47.7” cumulative snowfall for April, almost exactly a third higher than the monthly average of 35.6”.
What never came in though was anything with a West aspect, so you can forget about Burt, AR (either of the three branches), MB, etc. This makes skiing Oakes somewhat discordant, since Double Barrel, Robinson’s Neighborhood, and Main Gully all have excellent cover, whereas on the other side of ravine, you’d never guess without experience in prior years that Airplane Bowl is a fairly reliable line.
Reaching Oakes on April 23 was very easy: started walking initially on the ART, but the trail had such nice smooth snow in between the rocks that it was like walking on pavement. Starting skinning just after the ART extension merged in on the ascender’s right, with only a few trivially short portages of a few strides. The Cog cam shows kids playing in the snow at the base station today on the last day of April, so the ART down low must have been refreshed since April 23, although that could burn out quickly.
NE Snowfield was absurdly fat, and could take any traverse route – low, medium, high – to cut across the East Snowfield and then into Right Gully or further across the SE Snowfield to the top of the Lip. (Slackfest should be excellent if Otto opens on a typical date w/o any catastrophic meltdowns until then!) Entrance into Right Gully was solid snow but with typical late-season pitch and width (with weekend traffic of skiers and hikers, so even less room to maneuver), hence I cautiously followed in the sidestep tracks of those who had come before me.
Eventually skied continuously along the Cog all the way to down below the Waumbek Tank, with only ~800’ vertical of casual down hiking to the Base Station … which was almost exactly the same as twelve days earlier on my prior outing! Today looks like you could ski all the way to the bridge, but that new snow probably doesn’t have much staying power, and many of the scoured sections are probably still scoured.