Late and somewhat slow start at 9:28 Friday a.m. was partially offset by excellent travel conditions on ART all the way to Monroe summit ridgeline. (Picture shows ART as we broke out of the trees and could follow our own route). Our party ended up deciding upon a mix of boot crampons vs ski crampons on the steeper ART sections above the Gem Pool, but either worked well. Skinning might not have worked though in colder temps with slicker snow, but surface is quite smooth, i.e., no monorail, minimal postholes.
Oakes from Monroe summit ridgeline all the way down to Dry River crossing had plenty of undisturbed fresh snow, but unfortunately by late morning already entirely saturated. Only the most minimal of sluffing though, even on steeper pitches. From my traverse across Airplane Bowl I saw that Double Barrell was still continuous. Skier’s left looked better with a crux ~2/3 of the way down. This was confirmed by the long time that an apparently highly skilled skier took to navigate the trickier-looking crux ~1/3 of the way down on skier’s right.
Only a trivial portage to gain GoS ridgeline from the snow ribbons SE of Airplane Bowl. Relatively minor traversing downhike into #3. Excellent skiing, with no signs of recent skier traffic, and less recent new snow loading compared to Oakes. Sluff management was not an issue at all. Lower half though of #3 about to get schwacky, plus some emerging undermining.
GoSST down to Graham was a mix of bare sections combined with pine-covered snow punctuated with postholes. Graham south of height-of-land was more of the same, although substitute deadfall for postholes. North of the height-of-land had solid cover that made for quick transportation skiing, with the notable exception of the perennial bog.
Sherb from Graham jct to #5 was a mix of delightful skiing and straightlining tenuous snow ribbons. FS is generous in letting us ski this far, so pls honor the closure rope – even aside from trail erosion, you can’t be doing yourself any good by continuing to [attempt to] ski past this point.
TRT skinning from #5 to a bit past Hermit Lake was quite good. After that, resign yourself to hiking.
Boot ladder up to [almost] the top Right Gully was very nice, although did not have time to check out the connection (if any) to the summit snowfields from the top of the reasonably skiable snow. Noticed some prior rockfall while cutting over on the descent to the main Bowl below Sluice, a valuable reminder that our ancient granite is not immune to this mountain hazard.
Left Gully ascent was facilitated by some snow contours at the top that seem to have moderated the steepest pitches from how extreme they can be in some years.
Snow ribbons quickly accessed from Left Gully top allowed traversing on skis almost all the way to Oakes Main Gully entrance, thereby avoiding a schwack to cross the Dry River down low. However, party members who skied Airplane Bowl earlier in the day reported good skiing conditions. By contrast, they reported manky Main Gully conditions around mid-day, which I confirmed late that afternoon: its massive fetch zone made for lots of new snow in this late-season line (first seen by Darby Field in June 1642!), but its south aspect doesn’t make the new snow fun. No signs of inability though.
After skinning back up the LOTC snowfields and a short portage near the hut, snow was continuous all the way to within a snowball’s throw of the Cog parking lot. MB is on the narrower side for this time of the season but holes are all avoided by taking the skier’s left ramp into the woods. Couldn’t discern the extent or quality of new snow in MB given that my two party members plus a few other people made for enough skier traffic in the narrow width to cut up everything.