The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Climbing Mt. Washington, NH in June

I’m just back from climbing Mt Washington up in the Whites with a couple of friends. That’s the place to go if you live out East, and it is beautiful up there. Mt Washington can teach a person a lot about respecting any size mountain. Afterall, it is only 6200 feet or so, and it’s Summer. Nothin’ special, right? Well, we learned differently. We left about 8:45 AM from the Joe Dodge Lodge (run by AMC, at the lodge absolutely the nicest people around) up Tuckerman’s ravine trail. Pretty standard route, but it is not a nice flat groomed trail. It is rocky from the beginning, and has some serious pitches up. We were alone on the trail, and got into a good rhythm, passing just one group of three near the beginning and that was it all day. Nice. Well……or it was a sign? We continued up, turning  right onto the Lion Head trail after a brief stop to change into warmer gear. After about an hour we reached tree line and the rest of the climb was more vertical than horizontal. Increasingly. And then we hit the intersection of Tuckerman’s and Lion Head. And it hit. 100 mph or so winds that knocked us back. It was really howling, hurricane force, and we had rain and sleet to boot. And fog. It was not always easy to see the cairns marking the trail up. And by the way, the trail is basically a suggestion either side of the markers. If you go either side of about 20 foot band or so, you can get yourself into serious climbing. Not a problem on a clear day. But that’s not what we had. Fortunately one of us has done a lot of climbing in NH and we were pretty secure. We struggled up some pretty serious wet slippery pitches, and hit the road, and the summit in about 3 hrs 45 mins. It was so windy at the top, we could not even stand for photos, other than inside the rest house, which they were closing down, along with the road and the cog rail up because of conditions. The rangers (awesome by the way) were a little surprised to see us that day. 10 climbers total all day. Far below zero wind chill, high wind, fog and sleet. We started at about 60 F at the base. Lessons learned: climb with experienced people, over prepare on clothing. I can see how people can get in trouble here who under-prepare and who don’t respect little ol’ Mt Washington, which looked so gentle the night before as we drove in.. Fortunately for us a great driver and a van agreed to head up to take us and a couple with a dog (!) down. Down climbing in that wind and fog and ice would have been an even more serious adventure. Maybe next time. We headed into North Conway for pizza and beer, and a toast to Alan Arnette for his Everest summit.

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