Bad snow year + icy conditions + bad weather = fun?

Nope, not in my book. April Fool’s is no laughing matter this season. I wish I had some good jokes for you, but after a rainy afternoon and feeling gust after gust shake the cabin, I’d rather just give you an update on conditions for the weekend.

The short version of this post is simple. Winter is coming back for a visit. Temperatures have already started to fall, and we probably won’t see spring like conditions for the next few days. So if you are thinking of coming up to make some turns, I would recommend you start looking into local ski resorts, where at least they’ve got groomers out to make the snow carvable. Here is the weather forecast if you need a second opinion.

Starting out from Pinkham, you’ll be on foot. There is no snow to for climbing skins until you are about 3/4 mile uphill from the trail head. At the top of the switchbacks, you’ll hit water ice. There is very little snow for a long way up the trail. You can expect wall-to-wall water ice. With the amount of rain today and cold temperatures tonight, undoubtedly the ice floes are going to be growing overnight. Nobody that we’ve talked with, or any of us for that matter, can remember ever seeing the hiking trail in such condition. Do yourself a favor, bring crampons, microspikes, or some other form of traction devices. Getting down without this equipment is a dangerous proposition.

The Sherburne is skiable for a short distance, but I won’t call it “good”. We will be closing the trail at the uppermost crossover to the hiking trail Saturday morning. At the closure rope, you’ll see some snow and ice that might tempt you to duck the rope and continue…I assure you, it’s not worth it. You’ll quickly run out of any snow and will be sliding on a 4′ wide strip of water ice with lots of rocks and brush poking through, and even a layer of soil frozen on top of the ice, then before long you’ll need to take your skis off and walk down to the next crossover.

Ok, let’s assume you do make it up to Hermit Lake without breaking your elbow, what do you do from there? I know a lot of you reading this post are expert skiers, and I get it, you just want to go have a look…or go see what you can do…or whatever. Well, I won’t tell you what you can or can’t do, and I’m not your parent or spouse either. What I can tell you is what I think you’ll find for conditions and the hazards associated with it. If you want my recommendation, it would be to leave the skis in the car and come for a hike or ice climb (climbers, skip to the bottom for ice route info.)

In my expert opinion, I expect the skiing conditions to be horrible. The snowpack has received a lot of rain and warmth in the last several days, and temperatures are forecast to go below freezing overnight. This will turn the meager snowpack in to a sheet of ice. Long sliding falls are not something to take lightly. If you venture uphill of Hermit Lake, I highly recommend and ice axe and crampons. If you want to get into the steep terrain in the ravine, maybe you should consider bringing a rope and some snow pickets. Yes, the MWObs is forecasting 1-3″ of new snow for tomorrow, but I doubt this will be enough to make even a single turn a good one, even if we get 3″

Speaking of a meager snowpack, if you haven’t been paying attention, the idea that you might be skiing out of the bowl is laughable. We never really got there this year, so even for the start of April there is no way to ski out from the bowl. We are all stuck trying to stay upright on the icy hiking trail down to Hermit Lake.

So despite the ice, you still want to know how bad is the coverage? Here’s some pictures from earlier today. When you’re looking at these, remember that the ice might be covered with a veneer of snow, just to make it more slippery and harder to see what you’re trying to kick into. And Sunday’s winds look downright inhospitable with even colder temperatures (see forecast link above.)


Ice climbers, this is the last weekend for the Harvard Cabin to be open. They will close on Sunday morning. Conditions are pretty scrappy in the northern gullies, but Pinnacle and Odell still have some decent ice for climbing. With the coming cold weather, there may be some water pressure building up behind the ice. Ice dams are notorious for soaking climbers, and have done far worse damage than getting some people wet. We usually see them most active when a warm rain is followed by a cold snap, so be head’s up.

Whatever you do this weekend, we hope you stay warm and safe!