Boys Weekend Winter 2001

March 2-4, 2001

Summary

By Bob Gifford

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I sit here freshly washed and HOT Tub-ed. It is 1:36 pm on Sunday afternoon. We (a few) have survived another weekend excursion into the backcountry in the name of mental balance. My adventure began Friday afternoon as I skinned up the Chilcoot ski trail in the waning twilight. My pack was about 40 pounds and it was 16 degrees when I left the car in the upper parking lot. Smuggs has changed a bit since I was a regular visitor. Many of the Woods shots, introduced to me by Gerry Petrie are now real trails with names. I skinned up to the pass where the long trial meets the ski trail in about and hour. I headed into the woods and found the trail sign to Beaver Meadow by the light of my headlamp. Conditions in the woods were awful. A thick crust on everything made skiing down a slight incline very exciting. I went in several hundred feet following the blue trail markers until at one point I tripped and fell downhill. I broke through the crust and lay there a bit. I got up and removed my skis and promptly lost the trail. I tromped around in circles attempting to find a marker but didn't. At this point I decided that further progress would probably be dangerous. The terrain in this area is very steep and once you're down it gets pretty hard to get back up.

I decided to continue up to the top of Madonna and check out the warming hut on top. At about 7:30 pm I slid up to the hut. The moon was out at this point and the view was pretty cool. You could see the lights on the Stowe ski trail. It was about 10 below zero on the summit with a little wind. I took off my pack and went into the Hut. I was surprised to find not one gas furnace, but two. Both were on low and the inner ski patrol room was about 75 degrees. I was wet with sweat from my climb so this was a very welcome find. The inner room had two long benches covered with 4" foam pads. I lit several candles and proceeded to eat a shrimp and noodle concoction with a few mugs of green tea. I could see lights over at the Stone Hut on Mansfield, at one point I signaled them with my headlamp. They signaled back several times. I turned in to the sounds of Cats grooming the lower mountain. I got up ate breakfast. I packed up all my perfectly dry stuff and got the first run on the Chilcoot trail. I left my pack on top. The plan was to meet Joe at about 8:30 at the base. I went down and schmoozed a free ticket from the Ski patrol. I ran in to Rick Hamlin in the Base (what a talkative guy-NOT.) I took another run on Madonna and then one on Sterling before finding Joe and Chick at the base. At this point I knew it was a Boy's Weekend and not a Boy Weekend. Chick hiked up toward the pass and Joe and I rode the Madonna lift to the top. There was no wind, and full Sun, a truly perfect day. We met Chick after spending some time on top at the trail to Beaver meadow. We proceeded to see if we could find the trail in the daylight. As we started down I realized my skins were still at the summit sitting on the picnic table.

I zoomed down the ski trail again and rode back up the lift snagged the skins and attempted to catch up to Joe and Chick. Can you say short-term memory loss? What an awful mess the snow was. The crust was to thin to support your weight and to thick to ski. You had to plunge step through the crust and every once and a while you would end up in to your waist. I dropped my skis once and they slid away until they both ran into a blow down. Chick slid out of control a couple of times, until he could grab at trees. We lost the trail again but just headed down hill until we hit the flats. We then followed a stream right to the cabin. There was little evidence of other recent inhabitance. The logbook showed that the place is just not used much. The cabin was in good repair for a building built in 1947. There was a relatively new wood stove and an abundant supply of firewood. We had the inside of the cabin very warm in short order. The cabin seemed to me to not have changed much. Joe thought that the stove and table were different. I realized that the last time I was there was close to 20 years ago so any memory of the place was suspect. We skied out on the meadow in the sun to collect more wood. We also went over to the Burling cabin, which is about .2 miles away. The Burling cabin also has a stove and would make a good place to stay. It was a bit messy and would have taken more wood to heat because it had a tall ceiling. The Burling cabin is insulated with white foam so it would reflect light and be pretty bright. The woods above both cabins would make for excellent spring skiing. The forest is open hard wood with tons of places to turn.

We pigged out for dinner in good Boysweekend style on steak, shrimp, ravioli and a couple six packs of beer. Chick had a radio and we listened to Garrison Keeler live from Berlin for desert. The night brought below zero temps with a clear moon light sky. You could hear the trees popping from the cold. We kept the stove cranking all night. If you stuffed the thing it sounded like a little jet motor. Chick didn't complain about the cold and reported that his faith in my trail information was now restored. The last time I lead him into the woods to a cabin with a wood stove, the wood stove was missing (sky light pond fall/96.) This time Chicks summer weight bag was fine. The next morning dawned clear for another windless sunny day. This valley is got to be one of the prettiest places in Vermont. It is just not touched much by civilization. You don't here any noise accept and occasional plane form the Stowe/Morrisville airport. We cleaned up the cabin and packed up our shit. We hit the trail at about 9:00 am for what we knew was going to be a strenuous .5 miles to the ski trail. Joe did not have skins for his skis so he walked, Chick had snowshoes and I skied with skins. We made it to the base of the steep part pretty quickly. I started walking at this point and joined Joe in the futile attempt to move up hill efficiently.

Chick's snowshoes were what you needed for this trail. He had to work but I think he moved up with half the effort Joe and I had to put in. We had opted to follow the trail this time so there were no tracks at all until right near the top. Most steps up were followed by one step back. You never knew if your weight would be supported of if you were going to sink in. It was a real crawling struggle to get up any distance. It took us about one and half hours to cover that half mile. I think we all passed our Cardiac stress test for this year. Some of you less active Boys would have expired on that climb. IT was hard but the scenery was so nice. It was hard to hate it, that much. We made the ski trail and Chick headed right down. Joe and I strapped on our skis and made the cars in about 15 minutes. Skiing with a big pack on with Tele gear is interesting, not an arrangement where you really want to fall down. Ski trail was pretty icy but we made it down with out incident. I left the base of Madonna at 11:47 and was home by 12:45. All and all a very good time. This area would be a great place to go in the fall. Having the two cabins you would have a good chance of taking one over. The beaver ponds used to have some fish in years past. The walk in from Morristown is 2.3 miles and it is pretty flat. It will be your loss if you don't visit this place if only for an afternoon walk. I hope this description was fuel for motivation for the next event.

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