Video from this trip can be viewed at this web site:
I don't really recall how my cousin and I came about picking Mt Washington as our destination, but some how we picked it and decided to make a three-day operation out of the whole thing. Day one would be a 13-hour drive through Canada, into Vermont, and finally arriving at North Conway, New Hampshire. Day two would be climbing to the summit and day three would be a reverse of Day 1.
After reviewing some online trip reports we decided to take the Boot Spur trail, thinking that there would be fewer people on this less traveled route. After reviewing the topo map I ordered from topozone.com we decided to tag the summit and then head to the Lake of the Clouds and tag Mt Monroe and then descend back to Pinkham Notch via Tuckerman Ravine. This was my cousin's first real climbing/hiking trip so we decided to plan on the summit as a minimum and then assess the situation from then on.
Day 1: July 6th, 2002
In Michigan, I woke up at 4:00am and picked up Jim at 5:00am. At 5:05am we were on the road. The road trip was entirely uneventful, besides getting through a couple of speed traps. Our movement took us through Canada, up to Montreal and then dropping down into Vermont. We rolled into Pinkham Notch visitor center at about 6:00pm. There is a complete lodge, cafeteria, and gift store at the visitor center and this was all a bit new to me as I haven't climbed in areas were tourists busses were parked at the trail head. The original plan was to either set up a tent nearby the trailhead or car camp in the parking lot. Well, after 13 hours in the car, car camping was NOT an option. The skies looked cloudy and dark so we totally whimped out and headed for the nearest roadside motor lodge. That evening we ate at the Red Parka Pub (RPP). Absolutely hands down the best ribs I have ever had, I swear by them!
Day 2: July 6th, 2002
Starting from Pinkham Notch (2022') at 6:00am we moved up the Tuckerman Ravine trail. The Boot Spur trail picks up off Tuckerman after just a few minutes and is well marked by a sign posted to a tree. The trail itself is quite interesting and after a short while we came to our first navigation obstacle. The trail appears to deteriate at the base of a vertical granite wall, which is about 20 feet tall. Actually, there appears to be a path going up and to the right and one going up and to the left; however, both are so scarce that it is hard to tell if either one is the correct way. I scouted up to the right, this required doing some scrambling and use of hands to assist in the climb. As it turns out, after going up about 20 feet, there is a flat landing and that?s about it. Down I went to the base of the granite wall and my cousin started scouting up to the left. After he crested the top he yelled down that he saw a trail marker so I worked my way up and we were off and moving again.
For the most part, the trail stays in a pretty wooded area and there are not many BIG views of the valleys and mountains (until you reach the top of the ridge and clear the tree line). We did come across two small lookouts. These were little branches off the main trail that were about 30 feet in length and led to nice views, including Tuckerman's Ravine in all of it's glory. Don't expect to be traveling on a well-traveled dirt path trail; the Boot Spur trail was 90% rock. The rocks very in size but most of them are large (bigger than 1 or 2 feet in diameter).
We passed Split Rock (4337') at about 8:30am, which meant we had climbed 2300' in 2 ½ hours. Our plan was to move one hour and then rest for 10 minutes; we also would pause here and there for filming with the video camera.
After passing Split Rock, the trail leaves behind the timberline and there was a pretty steady breeze going up the spur, we took a reading with the wind tool and recorded 25 knot average winds up to 30 knots gusts - no drama here. We picked up Davis trail heading toward the summit 10:00am. This led to Lawn Cutoff trail and then on to Tuckerman Ravine trail for the main summit push. Going up the main mass of the summit mound is a bit tricky as you pick your way up huge rocks and boulders. Nothing to difficult but one slip could end in a head smashing fall or injured leg quite easily. All of these trails were well marked with cairns.
We hit the top of the trail, just below the parking lot, at about 10:50am. Since the wind had picked up a bit we huddled down behind some rocks and threw on our jackets (shell). As we had come up the main summit mound we had passed numerous people with wind pants and jackets and wool hats etc. I was just wearing shorts, long sleeve shirt, and now my jacket and I felt pretty good as long as we didn't stop for long.
Anyway, at 11:00am we stood on top of the summit. Tourists were scrambling all over the place, especially crowding the summit sign for pictures. Of course my cousin and I ran up for our commemorative summit shot and even though there were about 6 people circled around us none of them got in the photo. Bonus! Our original plan was to cook our own food, so I had humped up the stove and chow, but once on the summit we submitted to the commercialization and had a plate of lasagna in the cafeteria.
We stayed up for about 1 ½ hours and then left the summit via Crawford Path heading toward Lake of the Clouds. Heading down Crawford Path we could see clouds were rolling in down below, looking really cool. Most of the day the summit was covered in clouds and they seemed to be thickening and lowering. We left the summit at 12:30pm and got to the AMC hut at Lake of the Clouds at 1:30pm. We both shuffled inside where we dropped our gear. Jim decided to rest a bit and I took off to zip up Mt Monroe, only 350 vertical feet from the hut. After returning to the hut we relaxed a while, chatting with a couple hikers and the staff at the hut.
At 2:45pm we left via Tuckerman Crossover and hit Tuckerman Junction a short while later. This stretch of the hike was pretty flat and we just followed the well-placed cairns while attempting not to sprain an ankle (or worse) while rock hopping. From the Headwall to the base of Tuck's is a bit trickier with a little scrambling here and there. There were still some snow patches left on the Western most ravine wall and there were plenty of water chutes coming down the vertical granite rocks. We passed through Hermit Lake uneventfully.
The rest of the hike down Tuck's was a real bastard on the knees. We rock hopped all the way down and limped our aching knees back to the car at Pinkham Notch at 6:00pm.
Day 3: July 8th, 2002
Reverse of day 1, just add rush hour traffic coming through Toronto!
Our packs were really light, mine weighed about 28lbs and I think my cousins was the same or less. We each carried about the same equipment: Gor jacket, Gor pants, fleece, pants, light gloves, three liters of water, stove and food, small wind shelter (GI poncho), hat, sunscreen, first aid kit, compass, radios, and two cameras (1 video and 1 still).
Can you say ROCKS? Yes, there were many. What there were not many of were hikers. Up the Boot Spur trail we didn't see a single sole until we picked up the Lawn Cutoff, the solitude was nice. The weather cooperated nicely, 55-60 degrees F during the day, low winds, and no rain! I'll definitely be back this year for a try at the Presidential Traverse that I have read so much about, and a winter trip is not out of the question either!
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe