AIARE 1 Avalanche Course and Mount Washington Climb

While Spring is in the air today (48 degrees in North Conway) we have snow on the way this weekend and I’m not quite ready to hang up the skis or ice axes! Last weekend I was stoked to be back to work with a full 12 person AIARE 1 Avalanche Course, followed by a Mount Washington attempt yesterday. Conditions during the avalanche course were quite ideal both for the field sessions and hands-on learning.

Heading out through Crawford Notch for our Observational Outing on Day 2
Heading out through Crawford Notch for our Observational Outing on Day 2
Practicing the quick & easy  "Hand Shear" stability test
Practicing the quick & easy “Hand Shear” stability test
Looking at some route options from Hermit Lake
Looking at some route options from Hermit Lake
Another round of Hand Shear tests next to the Little Headwall
Another round of Hand Shear tests next to the Little Headwall
One of our groups spreads out while crossing the run out of The Sluice & Lip on their way to The Chute
One of our groups spreads out while crossing the run out of The Sluice & Lip on their way to The Chute
A nearby group practices self-arrest in Lobster Claw Gully
A nearby group practices self-arrest in Lobster Claw Gully
Climbing up to Left Gully
Climbing up to Left Gully

We poked around in the snow between Left and the Chute before heading half-way up Left for a nice run back to the floor of the ravine. The Little Headwall was enjoyable but the best turns were made in the Cutler River just below Hermit Lake. I had never skied in there before and there was some really nice un-tracked powder all the way down to the bridge. The rest of the Sherbi was a bit scraped and fast but pockets of powder could be ferreted out in the woods.

The next day I had the pleasure of taking the Brooks School faculty Tim & Leo, and Leo’s daughter Stacey, up on Mount Washington. Over the last couple years I’ve been able to work with Tim & Leo when they bring a group of their kids up to experience some ice climbing with EMS Schools. It is always a fun day at the cliff, and now Tim & Leo wanted to get an idea of a Mount Washington winter climb experience for a potential future student trip. Mount Washington definitely served us up some classic rock-pile conditions!

Ready to go!
Ready to go!
Tackling the steeps of the Winter Lion's Head Trail
Tackling the steeps of the Winter Lion’s Head Trail
Re-fueling at tree-line
Re-fueling at tree-line
Winds picking up, visibility dropping...
Winds picking up, visibility dropping…

It was quite clear with the weather that reaching Lion’s Head would be a challenge. Bouts of white-outs would reduce visibility down to a dozen feet at best, and winds gusting over 70mph would start to challenge our balance as we got closer to Lion’s Head. Our tracks were filled in with blowing snow within minutes of us passing through an area… it was… typical awesome Mount Washington weather!

We reached Lion's Head!
We reached Lion’s Head!
Group shot before descending
Group shot before descending

We made our way down in good spirits reflecting on what a unique place we have here to experience, and I’m much looking forward to seeing these three again, along with a dozen or so eager High School students ready to experience the same type of challenge!

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