The day was sunny and too warm for the time of year. These things have always happened in New England, but they seem more significant now that we know what the Industrial Age has been doing to our atmosphere for decades.
The warm day made the snow very clingy and slow. It supported a high climbing angle, but the weight of it made progress slow. What I might gain in direct approach I lost in the methodical pace I had to maintain to keep a reasonable heart rate. But the grippy snow made my one little stream crossing very easy.
Above the sapling zone, I climbed through the logged clearings.
The snow has filled in more and more of the tortured surface left by heavy equipment, with stumps and slash thrown in. The rise of pellet stoves has made much of the slash a marketable commodity, so less of it is left behind, but there are still exposed roots and plenty of limbs and tops left over.
Going up I scouted the descent. The logging operation cleared hundreds of acres, but the property does not go to the summit. As I worked my way up and over, I also had to keep an eye on the snow cover, vegetation, and steepness of the upper reaches. The ridge divides into three smaller ridges on the southern end. You can waste a lot of energy if you try to go too straight up too soon. You already have to surmount steeper steps. I've developed a route that minimizes wasted effort by traversing to the left and then coming onto the summit plateau from a more westerly direction. I avoid frontal assaults.
The summit itself is a little bump on the ridge.
The first bit off the summit is pretty mild.
Not far beyond that, the slope drops off significantly,
Once on the upper steep part, you get to see that it gets even steeper below you.
There's another dropoff. Deer tracks create the illusion of my own tracks, so I had to make sure I was shadowing my actual line, rather than following the herd.
I tried to capture the steepness in a picture, by sticking my ski pole down a couple of feet below me. You have to look at it a while, and have looked at similar prospects yourself, to begin to see it. Photos flatten everything out.
This tree was worth a small detour. I don't know which windstorm brought it down, but I bet it made a noise.
A few more careful turns brought me to the top of the open area again.
To the left of the boulder I could scan cleared areas that go higher. If shredding the clearings was the goal, it would make sense to go up over there. I did ascend through some of that to begin my traverse of the upper zone on the way to the summit. But the descent lines through the remaining forest above that were not good. Okay for climbing, gnarly to thread on the way down.
Looking the other way from the big boulder, even steeper possibilities beckon, in the face of a stunning panorama of the Ossipee Range, Ossipee Lake, and more mountains beyond.
From here I traversed left to pick up my ascent line again. I'd mentally flagged the most promising looking swaths to ski down as I passed them on the way up. The heavy snow required some experience to manage speed control and turns. Most of the time, I had to aim pretty straight down, with the skis already in a narrow telemark stance, and then start to angulate as soon as I reached a moderate speed. But it was easy to suddenly over-turn as the heavy snow pulled the leading ski tip around. If that didn't happen, I might just go railing straight ahead. Then I'd have to either torque harder on the old boots or jump out of the cement to plant the skis on a new heading.
Sometimes I got results like this:
The sun was definitely getting low, and I still had to negotiate the bushwhack through sapling hell to get back to my own old-growth woods. Depression has always sunk its hooks into me at the end of an outing, even if I want to get home. The setting sun imparts urgency to the need to get back to easy territory. Sure, I had a headlamp, but I really didn't want to be groping through a steep thicket in the dark. It wasn't a strong possibility, but it could happen.
One fall reminded me of how stupid little mishaps can really mess up your life. I skied over a fallen log, and it washed my skis out from under me. I fell hard on my right elbow. The jolt went straight up my humerus to my neck. The snow cushioned the elbow, so it didn't get a real crack, and the pain in my neck was momentary, but I could imagine it being worse, with me out alone. I don't mind the idea of dying from my own stupidity, alone in a beautiful setting, but not right now. Less dire than that, but more probable, I could see giving my neck such a tweak that I have to wear one of those collars for weeks. Indeed, it did stiffen up a bit in the evening, and hurt when I awoke this morning.
Alpenglow settled across the mountain as I entered the sapling bushwhack. A layer of cloud to the west created a false sunset a few minutes ahead of the actual sunset.
The sun disappeared into the cloud for a little while before emerging below it to set for real behind the Ossipee Range. I squinted gratefully into it as I followed my track to the house.