Climbing Mt. Washington in New Hampshire's Presidential Range to ski or ride Tuckerman Ravine or the East Snowfields is a New England thing to do.
It's a regional rite of spring, when the season winds down at the downhill resorts, the days lengthen, the weather warms, and the winter's snows settle.
Right now the Mt. Washington Avalanche Center is warning of considerable avalanche danger. The Center's Web site offers up-to-date reports on conditions, weather forecasts, history, and excellent advice on planning a trip there.
It's still early season on Mt. Washington, when winter's snows have not yet settled into the firm and stable cover that affords safe surface for climbing and sliding. Over the course of the next few weeks that should happen, and the mountain should afford fabulous conditions well into May.
After that, thoughts turn to climbing in the alpine setting of Mt. Washington's above-treeline environment. The AMC huts open. Spring, summer, and fall programs begin.
Now, then, and indeed at all times weather on the region's highest peak must be the primary concern of all who travel there.
Tuckerman Ravine is 2.4 miles from the trailhead at the Appalachian Mountain Club lodge in Pinkham Notch, so just getting to the base of the ravine requires significant effort. It's another 800 or so feet up the steep sides of the ravine to where one steps into skis or board. The East Snowfields are another 1,000 feet or so uphill and northward.
Weather changes constantly in this setting, so visitors should be prepared for the worst, with layers of warm clothing, topped off by windproof parka and pants, hat, and goggles.
Why do people do it?
Dick Dorworth, a noted climber and skier who lives in Sun Valley, Idaho, said he asked that question of famous Austrian skier Pepi Stiegler, who ran the ski school at Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Stiegler replied, "Ah, it is as it used to be. It is as it used to be."
Each downhill run is earned by an uphill climb, fueled by food carried in packs.