All Things Tuckerman Ravine
@Bill Talbot photo
All Things Tuckerman Ravine
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For those who might not be that familiar with Tuckerman Ravine, may I direct you to the 'Time for Tuckerman' site @ http://timefortuckerman.com/
"Tuckerman Ravine is a glacial cirque sloping eastward on the southeast face of Mt. Washington, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Although it draws hikers throughout the year, and skiers throughout the winter, it is best known for the many "spring skiers" who ascend it on foot and ski down the steep slope from early April into July. In this period, the temperatures are relatively mild but the natural snowpack - which averages up to 55 feet (17 m) in a typical winter - is still adequate to ski most seasons. The record-setting high winds atop Mount Washington scour a massive amount of snow from the surrounding highlands and drop it here or in the adjacent Huntington Ravine.
Thousands of people have been known to ski Tuckerman in a single spring weekend. Skiing is not limited to this time, but the avalanche danger, peaking from late December to early March, requires special training and experience to assess and navigate the ravine safely during the winter. Avalanches have killed at least 10 people in the ravine since the 1960s. During a daring rescue in the winter of 1982, Albert Dow, a professional mountaineer, died near Tuckerman Ravine on Lion Head trail. An avalanche buried him, as he was looking for lost climbers. Albert Dow knowingly risked his life to search for the fellow climbers. Memorials can be found for Albert around the mountain. Plaques with his name can be found near trail signs, and more importantly on rescue caches. These rescue caches can be found in avalanche terrain on the east side of the mountain(Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine). These caches contain life saving equipment for mountain rescues.
The ravine is most easily accessed from the AMC lodge on Route 16 at Pinkham Notch, via the moderate 2.4-mile (3.9 km) lower section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. This trail is maintained in winter and spring as a "cat" trail, and parallels the Sherburne Trail used for ski and snowboard descents. It is a 1,850-foot (560 m) elevation drop from the foot of Tuckerman to the lodge.Welcome to the all encompassing guide and community for extreme skiing at Tuckerman Ravine, Mount Washington, New Hampshire ! "
During WWII. The Navy sent my father to MIT and Cal Tech, and he spent every leave skiing.
Then the war ended. He made out rather well.
Here is his account of skiing Tuckerman's on wooden skis, leather
boots, as a first year skier:
"A few days after the lift failed my normal skiing in the spring of '44
came to an end. The leave ran out and I went back to school. In the
course of the season I had met several experienced Eastern skiers and
about the middle of June one of them invited me to spend a weekend on
Mt. Washington and ski Tuckerman's. I accepted without knowing what I
We drove up to New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon and parked where
the snow started. It was a several mile hike into an Outing Club
shelter where we spent the night. It had been a late season on Mt.
Washington and skiing at Tuckerman's had not really been good until
May. By mid June the snow was deep and great for skiing.
Sunday we got up at daybreak had a quick breakfast and headed up the
trail (Shearborne Trail?). We had really lucked out─it was a
cloudless, warm spring day. The original plan was to just ski the
headwall but we reach the base by 8:00. Since the weather was so good
and we were so early, we soon decided to climb to the top of the
The first climb is up the headwall. A path had been cut on the right
side going between two outcroppings of rock. It was really a series
of steps cut in the snow─up a remarkably steep pitch. You carried
your skis across your back and used both poles to help keep your
balance. If you fell there was no way to prevent a slide hundreds of
feet to the bottom. We all made it but in my case it was just luck.
It was the sort of situation where you don't look up or down, just
Once out of the ravine we put our skis back on and started the main
climb. The top of Mt. Washington is a volcanic cone [sic] and the
climbing was easy. One long uphill traverse after another. As we got
higher the rest of the Presidential Range came in view. The air was
clear and warm, the sky blue─as perfect a day as you could picture.
There was little wind and you climbed in your shirt and used lots of
suntan lotion. As I remember it took until 12:30 to reach the top.
We were given coffee by the men in the weather station and shown
around. They had few visitors and made us most welcome.
We ate lunch at the top and started down about 2:00. The snow was too
soft for me to really enjoy myself, but in such a setting I couldn't
complain. It took about a half hour to get close to the top of the
headwall. I wasn't at all ready for what happened.
Suddenly we were standing at the top of a cliff of snow. It look
straight down but I knew it wasn't. The rim stretched about a mile in
either direction, and the wall was uniformly steep. This is normal
for a cirque. I have never been so frightened in my life. The
descriptions of people looking like ants applied to those at the
There was no easy way down─I might have stood in one spot for ½ an
hour looking for one but it was all steep. I finally decided that a
controlled sideslip might get me to a pitch I could ski on so I got
parallel to the hill and released the edge pressure a little. It was
like stepping off a waterfall. I instantly started moving downhill
much faster than I wanted to. When I tried to slow down the snow
around me started moving and I kept going just as fast. My last
resort was to lie against the hill which resulted in continued descent
of my patch of snow with me reclining in the middle. This lasted half
way down the headwall where we got to a pitch I could handle and I was
able to get back on my feet and ski down to the floor of the bowl.
When I left Stowe I felt that I was a fairly good skier. Tuckerman's
showed me how much I had to learn.
You know once you are standing on the edge of the Headwall with your skis on, almost every person I know has said virtually the same thing!
And that was my experience too @ 16 years old . Wish I had known about Hillmans Highway on that first trip, but then again, you gotta get that first run down the headwall out of the way!
My avatar is of Tucks. I took it several years ago.
If this forum allowed us to post photos from my computer, I would.
I did get to the top of Hillman's and ski down.
But I ran out of steam climbing up the headwall of Tucks.
I bailed from fatigue (old age, out of shape, or something like that) and skied down from about half way up.
I knew immediately that was a mistake; the fear factor was absent. It wasn't yet steep.
Maybe next time I'll get to the top, or at least closer to it.John Webb likes this.
Sorry to hear about all that rain back in the day.
The day I hauled myself half way up the bowl, the snow was odd. It was hard and lumpy, like frozen granola (see atavar). But still grippable, oddly.
The base was full of people, dogs, coolers and lawn chairs, kids on sleds, someone in a gorilla suit, so it must have been a Saturday in spring.
One skier heading down from the top tumbled, cartwheeled, and did not get up. A helicopter came and took him away. Lots of others tumbled and did get up to big cheers from the crowds. I bailed early in my climb up the wall because I simply got tired hauling my heavy skis
up the bootpack, and the path above my head was getting progressively steeper. One great part of that trip was that I was able to
ski all the way down the Sherburne to the parking lot, with full coverage and nice bumps along the way. It was a good day.
Since then I've acquired lighter-weight skis and put light weight bindings on them with that climb in mind. But injury one year, bad spring
snow another, and other diversions have kept me from making that return trip to the bowl. And now I'm older. As in, getting OLD. So
it may not be in my stars to get to the top and ski it.
Hillman's counts, right? I skied that whole thing one crowded 55º bluebird spring day, in my mid-50s. My friend and I were the slowest
climbers, but we made it up and skied it down.
Hey, Phil and Trish, can you get this platform to allow posting pictures from our computers instead of only from the internet?Last edited: Nov 2, 2016
Here you go. A bluebird Saturday in May at Tuckerman Ravine; notice the waterfall.
Tucks offers slightly more "interesting" conditions for this professional video:
This one gives you a sense of the party ambience up there on spring weekends.
The mountain across the street is Wildcat. From the summit over there, you can
just barely see the line of ants climbing up the bowl.
Last edited: Nov 2, 2016
A plan to transform Tuckerman Ravine from New Hampshire's "Appalachian Trail" into a right of passage for hardcore skiers.
1. Charge $20 per person.
2. Create 2 groomed XC trails 15 feet wide and 8 blocks long leading from a trailhead to the base of Tuckerman. 1 kick-and-glide, 1 skate. The only access to the base is via these trails on race-legal XC skis. You pack your alpine or Nordic-telemark skis and boots on your back.
3. Groom a path down Tuckerman 30 feet wide.
4. You get a laminated diploma that says "I skied Tuckerman" if you ski down ungroomed terrain. You get a laminated diploma that says "I skied Tuckerman groomed" if you ski the groomed path
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