2001-05-03 Mansfield Spring Trek: Photos and story
How to beat the heat: when it's 88 degrees in town, go skiing.
mrrogers and I arrived at the gondola parking lot a little before
5:00 PM. Something is clearly amiss when you drive to the ski resort
with the AC on.
A visual examination of the mountain from this lowly vantage point
seemed to indicate good as expected snow up high, but some difficult
decisions for a return route to the car. My usual May assault route,
the Nosedive trail, was looking surprisingly bare below 2000 feet.
But Gondalier of all things had sufficient coverage to get us all the
way to Midway Lodge.
My pre-trip expectations were to skin up Nosedive to the nose, and
descend down through the Bypass Chutes into Slalom Glade and then on
down Nosedive proper. May skiing expectations being what they are,
mrrogers and I decided that an alternate route was in order.
At 5:00 PM, we headed straight on up Gondalier. Roger chose to
immediately employ skins, I opted to boot it up with skis attached to
my "miss kitty" backpack. After about a dozen whacks on the head from
my skis, I, too, resorted to skins.
Funny what you can learn hiking up a mountain. For instance, I never
knew that Gondalier was that steep. Images of Teardrop danced in my
head -- exaggerated images, to be sure. I had no idea that some 60+
days of lift service would render my legs so ill conditioned for lift
absence. Never occurred to me that the Waterfall trail would have
such an impressive waterfall cascading over the rocks, nor that the
Streambed would have such a raging river rushing down the hill.
The base of the waterfall seemed to be site of the Changing of the
Guard. As we were admiring the view, two other enthusiasts skied on
by, clearly enjoying the corn beneath their skis. We continued on up,
taking Switchback Number 2 up around to the top of Chin Clip. As we
neared the Cliff House, our eyes wandered up and above. Our feet
followed our eyes, and suddenly the slog turned into an adventure.
We wandered up a snow filled couloir into the high alpine. Man made
snow was replace by natures own. Cat tracks and lift towers gave way
to rocks and stubby pines. Either we grew taller or the trees grew
shorter. The chute went on and on -- just when it looked like we were
running out of mountain, we would turn a corner and scramble through
some trees just to find more delights above.
This really was Teardrop steep. I decided to abandon my plastic skins
and risk further head injury by returning to boot treads. Finally
snow, rocks, and trees all converged into a narrow throat and it was
time to drop the packs. We continued a bit further just to see where
we were -- the rocks on either side of us provided a confusing frame
of reference. I discovered that Nordica randonee boots are nowhere
near as confidence building as real hiking boots and called it quits.
I had already taken quite a tumble today, suffering multiple
abrasions checking out the wild flowers on the hill behind my house
in the morning. Roger continued up far enough to see the setting sun
and some trail blazes: it looked like our skis were just about a 100
feet of vertical shy of the Profanity Trail Canyon Trail
intersection, elevation around 4100'.
Roger stumbled back on down to the packs. We switched into downhill
mode. It was 7:30 PM, and we were frighteningly near the summit of
Vermont's tallest peak in a narrow gully filled with 6 feet of snow,
and we were wearing shorts and T shirts. Laughing out loud at the
incongruity of it all.
The next 8 minutes and 567 vertical feet were a blur, a rush, an
intense experience which shattered the mundane. The snow was good,
very good. The mountain was primitive and powerful and all around us.
We were drunk with power. And when it was over, it wasn't over at
all: we were just at the tourist summit of the Stowe gondola, with
another 1900 feet to go.
We skied and laughed and enjoyed ourselves immensely as we retraced
our climbing route back down the mountain. We ruled the mountain, and
it was all ours -- until we reached the base of the Waterfall, site
of the Changing of the Guard. Two more nut cases were on their way
up, with their eyes on the same prize as ours. I talked shop with the
one -- old guy from Barre just into triple digit ski days and also
Another 1500 feet to go. Corn snow, fading daylight, growing grins.
Eventually, the snow ran out, and we had to walk the last 100 feet or
so to the car. According to my watch, we had just skied 2484 feet of
vertical, and it was 8:00 PM. No wonder we were grinning
senselessly -- this made no sense, it defied all ski logic.
Defying logic is what this sport is all about. Summer sucks, winter
rules, and it's still out there, waiting for you. Go ski, now!