3.02.2008

Big suffering on a little mountain (the longest kilometer of my life): More experience with the Woodward Mountain backcountry ski trail

The view from the top of the ridge, looking E-NE, roughly towards Stowe.

It would be so much easier (it would save lots of climbing and trailbreaking) just to spot one car at the reservoir, and then drive to Bolton, and ski this trail like a normal person. Instead I persist in plotting these long slogging out and back ski trips in the Ricker Basin. After my previous exploit on the Woodward Mountain trail, I looked at the map and noticed a couple of things:
  1. Going in through the state park entrance added a lot of extra distance which took up time and added fatigue as the day went along.
  2. It appeared that by going further up the Stevenson Brook drainage one could skirt around the last prominent summit ("R1") on the SE end of the Woodward Mountain ridgeline, and then ascend to the ridge without having to go up and over this obstacle.
I am familiar with this area and I know how to read a topographic map, and I also harbored few illusions about how steep the climb to the ridge would be, but I rationalized this by saying "it's not that far" -- and objectively speaking, this proved to be the case.

The roughly one kilometer distance between waypoint "Y03" and waypoint "Y04A" on the map, however, must count as one of the toughest 1km of my life. I was clinging to the side of the mountain, shaking from the effort, forlornly traversing back and forth across the steep slope, cursing my stupidity in selecting this route. Only the fact that skiing out the way I had come in would have been tough as well kept me moving forward -- that and the fact that I knew that it was only a matter of some hundreds of meters to the ridgeline. How tough could that distance be? I thought -- as it turned out, very hard indeed.

Eventually I did get to the top of the ridge, found the trail, snow conditions were awesome, and I had a pretty easy ski back to the reservoir. Even after this experience I may plot out a trip that combines elements of both my recent experiences: Up and over the last Woodward summit from the east side, and then descending down the route I ascended yesterday -- it was 'steep and deep' -- an open birch glade with relatively few trees. Waypoint "10" on the map marks the end of a massive logging road (it just abruptly dead-ends) so that it would be realitively straightforward to get out of the woods after skiing down to that point.

Unlike the previous trip, I brought my camera -- though the batteries were failing -- which was fine, I've noticed that fiddling with camera sometimes really slows me down, and on these trips, forward progress is important -- daylight is fleeting (even as the days are now getting longer).

The trail goes straight up at the start. I knew this would be a long, boring climb up a snowmobile trail but it is the most direct route in.

The frozen frog pond. Now that 'spring' is less than three weeks away is life beginning to faintly stir in the frozen muck? The sun is rising higher in the sky with each passing day now.

The winter woods with many feet of snow on the ground. These trips would probably be much easier in a group because breaking trails alone is very hard work. From my own experience, I also find that there is a certain mental strain that comes from navigating solo in the woods, picking the right lines for hours on end is hard.

Taken at waypoint "Yo3" on the map -- getting the skis ready to climb: Skins on and riser bar popped up.

Finally, a well marked trail through the woods.

Grubbiness personified. Self-portrait at about 830 m elevation, caked with salt and snot from struggling to get to the top of the ridge.

2 comments:

david said...

I found this post while doing a little Ricker/Woodward research--grat write-up! We are skiing Woodward from Bolton again soon--can you contact me so that we can discuss? Thanks

david said...

I found this post while doing a little Ricker/Woodward research--grat write-up! We are skiing Woodward from Bolton again soon--can you contact me so that we can discuss? Thanks