Mount Washington is one surly mofo. It is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 ft and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. He dominates the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The mountain is famous for dangerously erratic weather. There is a pretty nifty traverse that covers every peak in the range boasting the kind of stats I love (23 miles with 10k of climbing). Next summers visit to the moms cabin and I will attempt the iconic Presidential Traverse.
I decided the day before that I would climb Mount Washington. I was right there, I had to try. This is not a mountain you F around with and I knew I did not have the proper attire (all cotton, all day). I have no issue turning away from a summit and I feel I am good at accessing danger. The issue is the weather turns rapidly and without warning on Mount Washington. There is NO coverage once you hit tree line at 4,500 feet. I studied the weather, talked to a ranger, and determined if I was fast I could do it.
9.5 miles RT
4,500 feet of gain
~Tuckerman Ravine trail to Lion Head trail to summit for the win and back down the same way I came
~Out and back to Hermit Lake, the emergency medical aid cache and the rangers cabin
~Glen Ellis waterfall
Tuckerman Ravine trail starts from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center. It is a very rocky but wide trail until the turn off for Lion Head. The actual ravine was closed because of massive crevasses in a large snow field. The first two miles went by quickly as I was able to mostly run them. The next two miles (Lion Head) were very steep, slippery, and required some hands and feet scrambling.
Tree line came and the climbing continued. I was very impressed with the gains. After running up and down one hill twenty times in New York to squeeze out 1,000 feet of climbing I loved every single step up Mount Washington.
I was perplexed that the terrain above 4,500 looked exactly, to a T, like the terrain above 11,500 feet in Colorado. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. Some of these photos I would argue look just like a 14er! The only difference is I did not get altitude sickness and was able to keep a strong steady pace to the summit. My ascent time was 1:37, the unofficial record is 1:04, and the average is 4 hours, so I was pretty stoked.
I hit the split for the Alpine Garden and Tuckerman Ravine and continued straight up the rocky trail running with water and into a giant cloud. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped but it was warmer than the previous day.
I can totally understand how people become disoriented and lost on this mountain. The last three quarters of a mile is strictly cairns and they can be very hard to see in a thick cloud.
The summit was anticlimactic.
The rest of these photos were taken the previous day when I drove to the summit with my mother and step father. It was sunnier then.
I went in to the upper shelter and signed the register, ate a pb&j and laughed with a ranger about how terrible my outfit choice was. I also learned that they will kick you out of the shelter and make you hike back down even in the winter because people get the mentality that there is a ride waiting at the top and will continue on above tree line in a raging ice storm. Not gonna lie, I thought about a ride down.
The trot down was not as bad as I thought it would be and the clouds started to burn off which was great because I was pretty wet.
After I maneuvered my way around dozens of people who looked like they were dying I reached the Lion Head/Tuckerman Ravine intersect and did a quick up and back to Hermit Lake where I got a nice bottom view of Tuckerman Ravine.
I angrily picked up trash around the cabin before jogging out.
About .4 miles from the trailhead I heard the loud roar of water and went to investigate. What I saw blew my mind. I ran back down to the car, grabbed my real camera gear, and hiked back up to the gloriously beautiful Crystal Cascade.
About a mile down the road I had noticed signs for Glen Ellis waterfall. On my way out I decided to investigate. It was worth it, it’s always worth it.
I took the Kankamangus Highway back to my fathers house. It gave me a million more ideas for places I want to camp and things I want to do.
New Hampshire is so freaking rad.
”Imagining what it might be like is a poor substitute for actually knowing.”