Switching gears

Returning to the bowl today after the annual closure of the Lip began was another journey through the calculations of risk tolerance. As you may know, we have a pretty unique situation in Tuckerman Ravine where heavy skier traffic intersects with pretty intense though smaller scale mountain hazards. The high volume of visitors in terrain that is riddled with all the hazards you might encounter in higher elevation, glaciated western peak led to a decision long ago to close a section of trail that passes through the bullseye of these hazards. Helon and I hiked up through the bowl to photograph these hazards and to install the trail closure signs above treeline. Along the way I was able to gain enough elevation to look closely at the Lip and Headwall area and came to the conclusion that the closure is completely warranted. At first glance from Hermit Lake, it seems that a good skier could bob and weave between the slots, which frankly seemed pretty narrow. As I can elevation on the hike up Right Gully I was able to look into the slots and see that they were both wider and deeper than I thought. Also, as I climbed the sheer volume of ice still clinging to the Headwall and nooked into the corner in Sluice was surprising. From our perspective in Right Gully and later Lion Head you could see that the ice was crisscrossed with large cracks and grooves from meltwater flowing through. Sadly, the crevassed terrain which could serve as a fun climb, technical and risky ski descent or training ground for those venturing to glaciated peaks is directly in the fall line of these deadly blocks of ice. Please respect the closure and head over to Left Gully or Hillman’s Highway which are much less threatened by these objective hazards. I would still stay heads up about potential loose rocks tumbling down the slope. The receding snowline at the tops of all the gullys is exposing piles of rocks and boulders so watch your footing if you top out above the snow line.

The weather forecast is going to make for a challenging go-no go decision this weekend. Though unsettled weather and possibly some thunderstorms is on tap for Saturday, it doesn’t seem like a complete washout. I’d get an update on the forecast first thing in the morning before committing. Sunday looks like a much better weather day for spring corn harvesting. Speaking of which, the snow looked like a nice supportable peel away corn after all the recent melting and a couple of refreezing nights. Unfortunately, the number of slopes and gullies is disappearing rapidly. Helon and I posted a bunch of pictures on Flickr, click on the photo link in the menu above and check them out and we’ll see you on the hill if you decide to head up. Remember that the winter Lion Head trail is now closed as is, the Tuckerman Ravine trail through the Ravine.