Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mount Washington - New Hampshire

I had the privilege of going to New Hampshire to meet up with my folks for a moose hunt last week.  Wayne and I hunted hard for a few days, even turned down an easy shot at a cow moose, with the hopes of getting a bull.  Though we saw several bulls, we didn't get an opportunity for a shot. Oh well, that's hunting.

Since I was in the vicinity on New England's highest peak, I decided a climb of Mount Washington was in order.  I talked to Tom Martin, who I climbed Mt. Rainier with back in August, the night before to see about heading up with me, but he had obligations that afternoon.  He did point out that the wind was blowing 70mph on the summit, gusting to over 100mph.  This may have factored into his decision for not joining me. The forecast was for diminishing winds the next day, so I figured I'd head over and at least take a look.  This is the view I had on the approach (ignore the splotches - I need a new camera and Christmas will be here soon!).
Mount Washington from North Conway
Per Tom's beta, I stopped at the Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center to obtain the latest weather information.

Weather info posted at the visitor's center (notice yesterday's weather)
The winds had diminished somewhat, the sun was shining, and the weather prognosticators said it was going to be a nice day, so I started up the Tuckerman Ravine trail.  Unlike our trails out west, these trails seem to really be just old stream beds.

I quickly made great progress up the "trail", doing my best to not twist an ankle. In a little over an hour I traveled the 2.3 miles to the Hermit Lake Shelters where I stopped for a quick bite to eat.  Also, unlike out west, these trails have resting areas interspersed along the trail, like these shelters. I was a little surprised that there wasn't a food vendor serving hikers.  From the shelter I had a great view of "The Headwall".

The trail became steeper as I approached The Headwall and a portion of the trail was climbing rock steps.

The trail stepping up
The headwall was a gorgeous sight.  Water was cascading down the right side, and per the map, the trail was supposed to go up this right side.  Huh?
Approaching The Headwall
Once at the base of The Headwall, the "trail" disappeared.  However, I did see some yellow arrows conspicuously pointing upward so I followed them.

Scrambling straight up the rocks following the arrows, I quickly gained the saddle.  I should point out that I had barley noticed a breath of wind until I crested The Headwall.  At this point the wind was blowing pretty good from the left to right, but I had no idea on the speed.  There was also some ice on top, but with the temperatures above freezing, it was quickly melting.

Looking back down

A bit of ice
Once above the treeline, the "trail" became nonexistent, but there were these 6 foot cairns leading the way upward.  I followed them the best I could but deviated from the path to stay out of the ice.  Just when the ice started to get thick, I looked off to my right and there was a parking lot!  Parking lot?  I should mention that there is a road to the summit as well as a cog railway.  I did a bit of down climbing to gain the parking lot and then cruised up a set of stairs to the summit area.
Stairs?? up

Sign up top
The wind was really howling as I winded through several buildings on the summit.  I saw a couple of people near one building, so headed over and entered.  To my surprise, there must have been 40 to 50 people standing around inside.  Turns out they had taken the cog railway up and were waiting for the train to take them back down.  While warming up, I had another bite to eat, then suited back up and started my way down.
Summit self portrait
Rather than down climb "The Headwall", I decided to take a different route down on the Lion Head Trail.  I followed some cairns down, hoping that this trail would be more trail-like.
Lion Head Trail cairns
I'm not too sure if I made the right call or not.  The Lion Head "Trail" was steeper, rougher, and rockier than the Tuckerman Ravine trail.  In some places this "trail" resembled a rock quarry more than a trail. To top it off, the wind was blowing directly at my back, almost pushing me down the trail.  After several sections of class 3 down climbing, I met back up with the Tuckerman Ravine trail and cruised back to the visitor's center.

While at the visitor's center, I verified from the ranger that the wind speed, while I was on the summit, was blowing between 40-50mph.  We discussed the differences between trail out west and those on Mount Washington, with her laughing at my description of the so-called trail.  I must say that even though this peak's summit was below our typical starting point here in Idaho, this was one tough climb.

Distance: 8.2 miles
Time to summit: 2:45
Car to Car time: 5:15
Vertical feet: Approximately 4200.

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen