There is so much for me to love about this photo: the Tuckerman Ravine sign behind us, my dad being fit enough to hike up to the Ravine, my then almost two year old niece Ella fiercely gripping 9 week old Carver’s fat little fist, my brother and sister- in- law who trekked in taking turns lugging Ella in a backpack, and the handsome husband down in front, who challenges us always to push our limits. In the photos below are some of the friends who make the Tuck’s Trip happen whenever the snow is good and avalanche danger low. Geoff would not be able to travel up Mt. Washington if not for solid, strong, loyal friends who attach harnesses and tethers to pull him along in his ski.
On my very first winter camping experience up to Tuckerman’s, I almost died. Or, I believed I would die if I allowed myself to sleep given the 40 below frigid temperatures and howling winds. I remember saying to myself, stay awake, Heather; this is how people die in the cold. They close their eyes and never wake up, as the 12 others sharing our lean-to, including Geoff, snored loudly. Cooking our dinner was virtually impossible given how difficult boiling water was and keeping our stove going long enough to cook our warmish food. And when I decided I could not wait until morning to pee, I donned my crampons and headed out to hike to the bathroom. Once inside, I almost decided to just lay down on the bathroom floor as there was no wind. But then I realized Geoff might panic if he woke up to find me missing. Although, he slept like a baby until morning, toasty in his 40 below bag while mine was just a 0 degree bag, clearly not warm enough for a 40 below kind of night. On this trip, I did not help to pull Geoff up; instead, I hauled up a gear sled with Harrison Jutras, the son of a friend, Bob, who was one of the ones pulling Geoff, and, who at the time was a scrawny tweenager, now a college graduate fresh from completing the Appalachian Trail.
But on this trip we took when Carver was just 9 weeks old, he slept for the better part of the experience, waking up a few times to squint at the bright blue world around us. Mt. Washington was his first mountain. We reveled in the sunshine and watched others hike up into the bowl for those memorable back country turns coupled with the thrill and exhilaration of being outside on the side of a giant mountain. There is so much snow on Mt. Wash that even when I hike with my Girls of Summer in July we find remnants of snow piles Mother Nature just hasn’t gotten around to melting yet. The walk down was brutal as my dad was struck with a stomach bug; Ella wanted to be anywhere but in her back pack; Carver did not like coming down nearly as much as he liked hiking up. Greg and Geoff skied out the Sherbourne trail leaving the women and children and the old folk to walk out on foot. When we made it down safely, Holly and I swore the kids would be much older when we went again.
So, when Greta was 3 and Carver newly 5, we decided they were good enough skiers to tackle the Sherbourne Trail. Our dear friends, the Nestors joined us, along with their daughter Olivia who was 7 at the time. Matt helped to pull Geoff with 8 other friends, while Michelle and I took turns dragging a gear sled, not nearly as well packed as a decade ago and heavily laden with 3 pairs of little skis and little ski boots and two pair of our adult boots. Kids were awesome hikers, and Greta carried herself all but the last third of a mile maybe when she passed out in the backpack. Yet upon arriving at HoJo’s, she hopped out, had lunch, and could not wait to ski, rested and ready to roll. The entire time I was worried about if this was too much for their little legs. They were rockstars, seasoned ski professionals yelling, “Whoo hoo, this is awesome” as I struggled in the backseat of my skis unprepared for the mogul field which lined the narrow trail down from the mountain. Momma was last. Michelle and I were beat to say the least again promising we would not do this again until the kids could carry their own gear or until we all had skinning gear.
This week when having dinner to celebrate our friend Roy’s 50th birthday, I heard Geoff ask him, “So, when are we doing Tuck’s again?” One question. All it takes.