Yesterday I complained about the deterioration of backcountry-skiing conditions caused by last week’s rain and thaw. But what has happened to ice-climbing conditions?
I am a novice ice climber. In my mind, I figured a little rain and a little melting followed by subfreezing temperatures would improve conditions. More water means more ice, right?
Not necessarily, according to Don Mellor, author of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide.
Mellor has been climbing and studying ice for more than thirty-five years and has found that it is frustratingly unpredictable. Just because one route has good ice doesn’t mean another route will.
That said, Mellor thinks certain routes—particularly those in gullies, which hold a lot of ice—may have been helped by last week’s thaw. “Gullies have enough substance to weather a lot of abuse. I climbed Chouinard’s [above Chapel Pond] with my daughter on Saturday and found it fine. As I would have predicted,” Mellor told me yesterday.
Unfortunately, there are no sizable snowstorms in this week’s forecast. We got a dusting of snow last night, and we may get a total of an inch or so over the next few days. Small snow showers also are predicted later in the week.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council is recommending that skiers stick to groomed trails until we get more snow. “The only exception is that it never warmed up all that much at the elevation of Lake Colden, so skiing there is still pretty good—just not so good getting there,” the council says on its website.
I went skiing both Saturday and Sunday to check out the post-thaw conditions.
I came across numerous small slides, such as the one in this photograph, on N and NW aspects at slopes as low as 25 degrees.
Whooping and shooting cracks were prevalent. I was skiing the trees but any turns made near a convex roll produced a small slide. If you venture into avalanche terrain make sure you have the knowledge to assess the risk, know proper travel techniques, and are carrying a beacon, probe, shovel, and the knowledge to use them.
From Adirondak Loj Road, I started by skiing up South Meadow Road. On Saturday afternoon, I had skied the road and the Marcy Dam Truck Trail as far as Marcy Dam. The road had been in great shape for skiing, but the truck trail had a lot of exposed rocks.
What a difference a day makes. The extra snow was enough to bury virtually all the rocks. Also, Forest Ranger Jim Giglinto cut through the worst of a tree that had fallen across the trail. It’s now possible to slide over the tree with skis on. After a few more inches of snow, you probably won’t even notice it. » Continue Reading.
As usual this winter, I was worried about the amount of snow cover and so was glad to discover that the trail has been skied a lot in recent days. There were well-packed ski tracks all the way to the pond. Snowshoers also have been using the trail. I want to thank them for hiking to the side of the ski tracks. » Continue Reading.