Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tuckerman Ravine as a recovery day

Arriving at the Bowl

Marathon season is over!  Time to get back to skiing while there's still snow. I'd been putting aside skiing for a while, only getting a few days in the last month before the marathon. This was my first chance to take advantage of good weather for anything but running.  I had a little apprehension, wondering if my legs were recovered enough for this but there was no time like the present to find out. Monica and I stayed up in Gorham, NH so we could get an early start for Saturday which promised to be a nice weather day. After an early morning breakfast at McDonalds we pulled into Pinkham right around 7:00 which was still early enough to get a spot on the right side of the main lot.  By 7:20 I was in my telemark boots with skis on my back; Monica was on alpine gear so she was carrying skis and boots and wearing hiking boots. There was less snow down low than I'd hoped for so I ended up attaching my skis to the pack for the first 1/3 of the trail before switching to skinning until we reached Hojos, which took around 1:25.  That was the fastest I'd ever made it up there with skis on so maybe there's something to all this running for getting into shape after all.  Along the way we encountered some rain which turned to snow, but there was clearly the promise of a bluebird day.
Monica on Tuckerman Ravine Trail

  Just a short break there as we wanted to beat the crowds and we climbed up to the Bowl, arriving by 9:15 or so. Left Gully was our objective so we headed up to some rocks below the Chute and started our change over.  There were some folks up in the Bowl but not that many, only a few people we skiing already.  The Crevasse below the Lip was nasty looking and I was amazed at the people climbing below and through the area. We spent some time rearranging packs and leaving unneeded gear before headed up the still empty boot ladder.  There were only a few folks above us, maybe a dozen at most.  The climb was as usual, steady, slow, and enjoyable.  Just below the top out was quite steep; we were using our hands in the foot holds above us.  By the time we reached the top there was nothing but sunshine; a completely blue bird day!  We watched a few folks who had arrived before us drop in while we rested and hydrated.  Eventually the top was clear so we put our skis on and got ready.  Monica skied the run without stopping so I have no pics of her.  I took my time with a few stops along the way.  Conditions were prime; soft corn on top of a pretty firm base.  The first couple of turns are on very steep terrain, requiring some jump turns and careful balance.  It's a stark contrast from running and hiking, which is basically putting one foot in front of the other.  I have to say I was enjoying the thrill.

The steep part of the Left Gully boot ladder
I met up with Monica at the bottom of the run and we marveled at how many people were now streaming into the Bowl.  The TRT looked like the line for Space Mountain and maybe it was.  We picked up our gear and dropped a bit lower so we could eat lunch out of the wind.  By then the boot ladders were filling up for Left Gully, Chute, and Right Gully.  Very few folks were attempting the Lip or Lobster Claw.  After lunch we headed down to Hillman's Highway which promised some great skiing and fewer people.  Ran into Marta on the hike down to Hojos (Little Headwall was not an option) who confirmed our decision.  Stopped only for a few seconds at Hojos before heading up to Hillman's - this would be my first run ever there.  Ran into a work buddy coming down after his run, small world.  At the base of Hillman's we stopped for a bit to rest, and to enjoy the relative solitude compared to the Bowl. We again reorganized our packs for the climb and started up.  The climb was further than either of us really expected, but there wasn't a huge amount of traffic on the boot ladder so it was OK when we wanted to rest. It reminded me a bit of a long run when you think you should be seeing the finish line but instead see a few extra miles of road spread out in front of you.  Turning around isn't an option but the top doesn't seem to get much closer.  Eventually we topped out in the beautiful sun and took a well deserved rest.  We both knew this was our last run so we enjoyed the beautiful weather.  It was so much more quiet here in Hillman’s.  We had taken the right fork, although the left fork also looked quite good.  Enough waiting around, time to ski!
Monica ripping it up on Hillman's
Hillman’s was also skiing fantastically, a little heavy up top but nothing to mess you up.  It is a nice long run, more enjoyable than Left Gully but without that pucker factor up top that is so alluring.  As I stopped to take photos of Monica I heard my name from the boot ladder, and chatted with Greg a friend from NET.  He was on his 4th run of the day (Hillmans, Duchesse, Dodges, and Hillmans) so I tipped my hat to the energy of youth and kept going.  We had a great time on the run, but the moguls at the bottom finished me off.  That was all I had in me that day.  Ran into Marcia and Rich (Harvard caretaker) at the bottom of the run and caught up a bit.  We drank more water, ate more chocolate, and started down.You could carefully pick a line down from Hillmans to the Sherby, and then cruise pretty well until the rope about halfway down.  Some folks took skis off at the two muddy patches but I did some careful grass skiing and kept them on until the rope.  Big crowd there taking off skis, very festive atmosphere.  The TRT was much softer than in the morning as we descended, first on snow and then dirt/rock for the last ½ mile.  A beer in the parking lot was extremely welcome, lots of tired bodies and smiles all around.  We finished around 4:45 under beautiful sunshine and minimal wind.  Couldn’t ask for a better way to end April.

It felt great to have a day back on skis after missing so many days this winter.  Going to Tucks is a lot of work but well worth it, sort of like running the marathon. There are times on the way up the boot ladder that you wonder if all this work is going to pay off in the end it always does.  It's hard to say if I'll ever run another spring marathon like Boston.  Training in the winter is just so difficult and it requires me to give up something that I also love.  I'm looking at a fall marathon right now, perhaps running one with my brother which would be a lot of fun.  In the meantime I'm recovering the best way I can.

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