MLK Weekend, Skiing at Moosilauke - 13-15/Jan/01

By David Metsky

Because my gang of friends is finding it more difficult to get together in a cabin for New Years with family responsibilities, we decided to get JR Cabin on Moosilauke for Martin Luther King weekend instead. Even so, people were going to arrive during the day on Saturday, so Brenda and I got a day of lift skiing at Cannon. It was partially overcast, but there were still some excellent views of Franconia Ridge and North Kinsman from the slopes. Using my new digital camera, I played around with it's features and took this panorama, looking north. After skiing, we headed into town to buy food for breakfast, which we had agreed to bring, then over to the trailhead, loaded up the packs, and started our ski into the cabin.

We both chose to ski in on our lift gear for the ski up and down Moosilauke the next day. Unfortunately, Brenda's boot really don't work well for touring and soon her feet were killing her. She had to take off her skis and walk, even so she ended up with blisters from the boots. The trip up under headlamps is pretty straightforward, and we arrived close to 8:00 PM, where we met another Dave, Ching and Andrew, and John. Dave in particular had been there since 2:00 PM, expecting people to arrive earlier. Oops. There was a big pot of food waiting so we settled in, ate our meal, and waited for Dave and Kathy to arrive. We went to bed around 11:00 without Dave and Kathy, confident that they'd arrive eventually.

The did finally arrive, during breakfast. Plans changed, but no bid deal, it was Saturday and there was a mountain to climb! Since Brenda couldn't ski in her painful boots, and Andrew was having the same problem with his, Brenda, Ching, and Andrew would bare boot up, while the rest of us would ski. We finally headed out after 9:00, meeting Ken and two of his friends on skis down by the bridge across the Baker River. And we were off. We put skins on from the start, making it to the first bridge in quick time, where the Snapper trail branches off. We had already decided to continue up the Gorge Brook trail. It was a pleasant ski, the snow cover was good, but not great, and we had great conversations about all sorts of issues of the day. At the second bridge we stopped briefly and then made a major stop at Last Sure Water. Here, one of Ken's friends decided to turn around and ski out, while the rest of us ate some snacks and drank water. Then we started to climb.

From here, the trails begins more serious climbing as we gained elevation on our way up the East Peak. I took some video with my new digital camera, but held the camera vertical, unaware that there's really no good way to convert the footage to horizontal in the computer. Oh well. We stopped for lunch at the view just before the big view into Jobildunc, which promised to be too windy. As we were getting ready to head out, Brenda, Ching, and Andrew caught up with us, having stopped for lunch just 3 minutes below. From here on we pretty much stayed together. It got much windier and nastier as we approached the Alpine Zone . There were a few stretches of trail just above the Balcony, right below East Peak, that were bare of snow, but we blindly kept our skis on. P-Tex is cheap.

Just below treeline we geared up for the summit assault. After a brief trip above treeline we reached the summit. Most folks, but not all, took our skis off for the final trip. It was blustery so we didn't stay too long, just long enough to get some video (1.3 meg) and then we headed down. Dave, Dave, Kathy, and John headed down the Beaver Brook trail to the Ridge trail, while Ken, his friend, Brenda, Ching, Andrew, and I headed back down Gorge Brook. We found our way back to our skis through the rime ice and began the descent. I again kept my skis on for the rocky sections near East Peak, and we all kept our skins on for a while. The Balcony was a little sketchy (video, 1.5 meg) but as we got lower the snow and skiing improved (video, 2.0 meg). It was great letting the skis run for a while, then pulling up for a well deserved rest where the snow and slope allowed. We had our share of spills but it didn't damper the mood. Eventually we took off our skins and had to use our expert backcountry skills, mainly the snowplow.

Ken, his friend, and I reached the bridge across the Baker without incident. They headed back out the access road while I put my skins back on for the trip up to the cabin. I got to the cabin about 3 minutes before the hikers arrived, and only 10 minutes before the Ridge trail skiers. Everyone had a great time and arrived without any injuries or pains. Dinner prep was soon underway and the rest of us played cards and chatted. I wanted to see what my new camera could do, so John and I took turns taking low light pictures. We were all pretty tired and after dinner we settled in for a quiet evening of lounging and playing with candle wax. We went to bed at various hours, pretty happy with our efforts for the day.

Monday we wanted to get some more skiing in, but still leave fairly early. Several folks took off after breakfast, Dave and Kathy, and Ching and Andrew all having plans for that afternoon. Brenda skied down to the car on her painful ski gear, to pick up her touring gear and ski back up to the cabin. John, Dave, and I headed out to ski the Al Merrill loop. The snow was good and except for a few interesting stream crossings we made it up to the view at the height of the loop in very short time and without skins. There was plenty of snow up there, so the descent (video, 1.9 meg) was lots of fun, running through 1 foot of fresh Eastern powder on steady slopes. It seemed like only 10 minutes until we hit the Ridge trail, where we stopped and snacked. From here, the trail was a bit more broken out from yesterdays ski, so we could play a little more. There were some more interesting stream crossings, but we made it to the cabin in maybe 15 more minutes. The whole loop took less than an hour. Brenda had arrived at the cabin by then, and she skied up to the height of land and back down solo. We packed up and headed out the access road to end a great weekend of snow, skiing, and good times.

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