Back to Loon.
A day trip mid-week meant the lifts would start spinning at 9:00. My alarm was set for 6:00. After exercising the snooze button twice I was out of bed at 6:18 and in the car with a travel mug filled with coffee at 6:50. As I crested Route 2 I caught the sun rising over Boston in the rear view mirror. Light traffic and clear weather got me to the mountain with time to spare.
First run of the day was Angel Street, followed by a trip up the North Peak Express, and then Walking Boss.
Angel Street skied alright, but Walking Boss was marginal. There’d been a thaw the previous day, and the overnight re-freeze had taken a serious toll.
The Run of the Day was Upper Picked Rock, thanks to a continuous pelting of fresh, man-made snow. The deep, soft bumps were a happy contrast to the crust, death-cookies, and boilerplate ice elsewhere on the mountain.
Lunch was a quick bowl of beef stew at the Summit Cafe.
In the afternoon, testing Lower Flume, I made my first fall of the season: a minor skis-out, butt-on-the-ground gaffe I blame completely on the icy conditions. The trail is steep enough that a quick push was all I needed to get upright and moving again.
This is an old-school New England mountain that skis bigger than it looks. While they had only one lift running, lines were no issue — the big perk of weekday skiing.
Conditions were excellent for early December: there was a decent amount of soft, powdery snow on the majority un-groomed runs.
After exploring most of the mountain over the course of the morning, we had left one major trail unexplored: Upper Wildcat. Since getting to it requires a bit of uphill travel, the Doctor (who rides a board) opted out of the trial run. We made tentative plans to meet mid-mountain if that proved possible, or, if not, at the lodge, for an early lunch. Upper Wildcat was worth the work getting to: tons of soft bumps and plenty of width to roam.
At what felt like halfway down the mountain, I spied a small trail cutting back towards the center and set out on it aiming to rendezvous with the Doctor. I’m pretty sure the trail was the unnamed transverse at the bottom of this picture:
On the mountain, it has a very official looking sign and a name (cat-themed, of course) that I can’t recall. It looked like just the ticket… But after the first few dozen yards, it got narrower. And narrower. And (yes) narrower. It narrowed to the width of a pair of skis. Then it called for some uphill effort. And then it came to a five-foot drop. I popped off the skis, slid down, and marched on. I then came to a three or four foot ledge that had to be climbed, beyond which Catapult could be seen. At this point, I was sweating.
The trail (what there was of it) split and, to avoid another climb, took what looked like the more direct path out, only to find a brook babbling over a granite slab between me and Catapult.
So, uphill after all, to get above the stream. After a final push through the trees I made it out, got the skis back on, and, winded, headed down to meet the Doctor for lunch. “In lodge” said his text, which got to my phone ten minutes after we reunited. That much I’d guessed.