It is amazing how different the weather can be from one place to another. Spring is setting in Pinkham Notch but Washington is certainly a different story. Last week on our summit of Washington I mentioned we were covered in Rime Ice when we reached the summit. I was just reading a blog post from the day before we arrived that has a great picture of Rime Ice on Washington.
Looking at this picture I’m struck by how something can look so cold and so warm at the same time.
Although spring will be here soon I think there are still a few days of winter in the mountains.
My cousin didn’t have to work Tuesday so we decided to make another attempt at Washington. Our last attempt was cut short .3 miles from the summit due to weather so we were excited to give it another try (http://chrisdiannefamily.com/2013/02/18/winter-camping-trip-with-travis/). We took off from Boston at the end of the day Monday and arrived in the cog parking lot about an hour before dark. We hiked to Lake in the Clouds Monday night and tented on a snow cover ice flow near the AMC hut. We were tucked away and eating dinner 10:30pm and in our sleeping bag by 11:30pm. The start of our trip was a learning opportunity as we unfortunately started the Ammonoosuc from the summer lot, which meant we ended up packing out just over a mile of unpacked wet snow.
At 11pm Monday the weather was just amazing and from our tent we had an amazing view of Washington (Go-Pro pictures did not come out). I couldn’t’t wait to get up the next day and see the sun rise over Washington. The weather report for Tuesday was rain starting mid-day so I was positive we would see the sun rise. When I poked my head out of the tent in the morning you couldn’t only see 50-100 feet due to fog. By the time we finished breakfast we had mix of rain and sleet and a 40mph wind.
We were determined to make the summit so we packed up camp and set off. We started off bear boot but switched to crampons when we came across an ice flow where the trail cuts across the fall line and I looked down and said boy if you fall you are not going to stop… We stayed in crampons but snow shoes would have been OK as well once past the ice flow. We made the summit after being pelted by freezing rain and 60-70 mph winds. Fortunately the air temp was right around freezing so I cannot say it was cold for Washington. When we got to the summit we had a quick celebration and a good laugh because we both looked like ice cubes as we were totally iced over and our bags looked like snowballs. I think rime ice was actually forming on our bags. We had hoped to explore but it was miserable up there so we made a glove change had a clif bar and started down.
One row and three columns:
The trail along the ridge over to the top of Jewell was treacherous. The wind was blowing hard enough to blow you over and I felt if you fell it the wind would blow you along the ground and over the edge. As we walked we looked like that TV commercial that has people walking leaned to one side. The wind was coming from our left and we had to lean against the wind in order to not get blown. The right side of the trail drops off and we were walking on mostly blue ice so we stayed with crampons. As we got closer to Jewell there was no perfect foot wear selection. The ground changed from blue ice, slush, water, wet sticky snow or rocks. At one point I stepped on what looked like ice but it turned out to be about 2 feet of slush. Needless to say I ended up getting wet. The top of Jewell was rocky so we went back to bear boots and switched to snow shoes near the tree line. We probably should have switched sooner as we did spend some time post holing between hard and soft snow.
It rained all day and by the time we got back to the parking lot it was a full downpour so we decided to go via North Conway and stop for a burger and beer.
I’ve never used a GPS on a hike but our last attempt to Washington convinced me it was a great investment and I recently purchased a Garmin Etrex 30. The size and weight are perfect and the fact you can use it with your gloves on made it even better. It is really amazing the data you can collect now. I’ve been using a Spot GPS locator which is great to let people know where you are and if you are OK or not. But the amount of data tracked by the GP is really cool. I saved a few images from the GPS. I did not spring for the Garmin temperature sensor but I imagine the elevation and speed plots would also then have temperature, which would been even cooler. I imagine it won’t be long before they have a wind sensor so you will then have windy speed and windchill.
9:00PM Tuesday: My cousin Travis and I headed up to the Mount Washington valley for three nights of hiking. We were not sure what we would as the current weather conditions were pretty bad. For the last two days or so it has been blowing over 100MPH on the top of Mount Washington which puts the windchill at well colder than fifty below zero. We plan to crash someplace near Pinkham Notch visitor center. We arrived in the notch about 12:00 and decided to sleep in the car as there was about three inches of new snow and a little bit of rain. RTE 16 had not been plowed and we almost didn’t make it up.
6:30AM Wednesday: Up early after a pretty poor nights sleep for me, but what sounded like a pretty good nights sleep for Travis. We checked in at the visitor center for breakfast and a weather report. The weather had turned for better and it looked like Washington was on the agenda (weather report and web cams for the summit of Mount Washington). We decided we would summit via the Lion Heads Winter route and tent at Lake in the Clouds and the following day go along the ridge and camp on Madison and head back to Pinkham of Friday. The first day was not significant mileage wise but it was certainly significant vertical. The Lions Head route requires crampons and mountaineering ax and although just under a mile it is a difficult and slow climb.
After breakfast we repacked based on our plans and set off. The two miles up Tuckermans Ravine trail to Lions Head is a stead grade but well packed out and wide from all the traffic it gets. We say many people going up and down. At the base of Lions Head we ran into a group from EMS that were also heading for the summit and once on the head wall we ran into another large group of students from Canada. Although the trail get well used there was about six inches of new snow that needed to be packed out. We were both carrying about fifty pounds so it was slow going. All three groups reached the treeline (where the summer route joins) together. After a short break and additional clothing, goggles and face masks the Canadian team took off and we wouldn’t see them till much latter in the day. Travis and I climbed along with the EMS group and when we reached the traverse the wind was blowing a steady 75MPH and the temp was just above zero putting the windchill at about 36 below.The EMS team decided to turn back. We met up with the Canadian group just past the intersection of the Lions Head and Alpine Garden trail. We found them practicing self arrest. It was funny as it seemed like a bunch of kids playing in the snow in the backyard. It was impossible to find any trailer markers as everything was buried in snow. The Canadian leader gave us a compass bearing and we headed off for our mark. They planned to continue on to the Boot Spur and head down via the Boot Spur Link to Tuckermans. This seemed like an odd route to me as they had no real gear and that is not a well traveled route and they were only in crampons. Travis and I headed for our mark (a small boulder split in two). We were bear booting but found you could not stay on the surface and when you post holed you were up to your thigh. At the rock we switched into snow shoes and worked to find some sign of the trail. Visibility was getting worse, it started to snow hard and it was blowing about 80MPH and about ten below so the windchill was around 60 below. After looking up and down and not seeing anything we decided we should not attempt the summit.
We had seen the Canadian group below us so we decided to drop down and pick up their track as we felt that we might camp along the Boot Spur and summit Washington in the morning. We could not find their tracks so we head back in the direction we came and decided to at least get back to the treeline. Heading down with a stiff wind at your back makes for a fast decent. Once we reached the trees we hung out, ate and had some water as we discussed our next move. We decided to head back down Lions Head and stay at the lean-to’s in Tuckermans. Descending Lions Head with fifty pounds on your back is certainly nerve racking. At some points I was amazed we had climbed up. One of my two falls came on this decent and both were embarrassing (more about the second one latter). I slipped and dug one of my heels in before getting my ax in the snow. My momentum carried my butt up and over my foot and I stuck a heel spike of my crampon right in my ass. Of course my foot was now stuck there. I rolled over and stopped my slide with my ax and began to laugh. When Travis figured out what happen we both broke out in full out laughter. After a few jokes we were off to Tucks. We arrived about 6:00, checked in and set off to make dinner. It was long before we were off to sleep.
7:00AM Thursday: Getting up is a trip. Everything is frozen, your boots are frozen solid but so are things like your down jacket. Over breakfast discussed what to do now that our plans had been blown away the day before. We decided Washington could wait as the weather looked like more of the same, so we decided to head over to Carter. During breakfast we boiled snow to make enough water for the trip back to Pinkham. Our plan was to head down to Pinkham and repack based on our new plan. It is 2.4 miles downhill to Pinkham so it wasn’t long before hit the hikers area, dropped things like our tent and extra cloths in the car and headed up RTE 16 for the Nineteen Mile trail. We had decided to stay at Carter hut and then come out via Carter Dome on Friday. We passed about fifteen people on Nineteen Mile and made the hut just after 2:00PM. We hung out that afternoon chatting with the care taker, an organic farming lady from RI and a school teacher from the Lake Region. You meet great people hiking. Dinner was not a special as it could be given we had access to the huts stove, but since we only carried dehydrated food this is what was on the menu. We all turned in at about 8:00PM. The temperature that night wasn’t bad as it hovered between ten below and ten above.
6:45AM Friday: After a great nights sleep we were up and ready for what the weather man said would be the best of all three days (now that his original report turned out to be wrong). After a quick breakfast we packed and headed out the Door. The school teacher, John, was headed in the same direction so we grouped up for the day. The plan was Carter Dome, Mount Height and Nineteen Mile. The trail up to Carter Dome was not packed out and had six plus inches onto of hard pack. The pitch is steep so Travis and I opted for crampons and John followed in micro spikes. As we ascended the the day got nicer and nicer. When we reached Carter Dome the thermometer read thirty two and we could see Washington. After some food, water and pictures we were standing around talking and of the woods ran a mountain man of sorts. He was out for a fourteen mile snow show over the Carters and out via the Imp trail. He was gone as fast as he appeared. I would say he was moving at more of a slow joking pass than a hiking pass. Fortunately for us he broke the trail to Mount Height and back down to Nineteen mile. Was set off and before long we were on the summit of Height. After more pictures and water we headed for RTE 16 which was three or four miles away, downhill. We arrived at the highway at 2:30PM, packed the car, traded contact details with John and set off for Boston.
We had a great time and cannot wait to give Washington another shot.
In the middle of February my cousin Travis and I are headed up to Franconia notch for a two night three day winter hike on Lafayette and Haystack. Needless to say I need to get a little more in shape before heading out. I also figured I better spend some time with my pack before heading out on a multi day hike at over 5,000 feet. So last Sunday I was up at 5am and off to Jaffrey NH to hike Monadnock. Yup I went with a full pack and made breakfast/lunch (10am) on the top with of course some fresh brewed Starbucks coffee. The single server instance packs are really pretty good. Maybe the coffee and dehydrated beef stew tasted good due to the 27 degree temp and 30MPH wind.