Welcome to SP!  -
Areas & RangesMountains & RocksRoutesImagesArticlesTrip ReportsGearOtherPeoplePlans & PartnersWhat's NewForum

Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Regional discussion and conditions reports for the Eastern US. Please post partners requests and trip plans in the Eastern US Climbing Partners section.
 

Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby kozman18 » Fri Dec 09, 2011 12:27 am

Heading to Huntington Ravine for some ice climbing at the end of January. For part of the trip, we are planning to climb up one of the gullies and continue past the Alpine Garden and descend into the Great Gulf. Overnight in the Gulf – then climb the headwall of the Gulf to the summit of Washington.

Anyone climbed the Gulf headwall in the winter? I’ve been up it in the fall (wet/ice/but no snow). Obviously, the conditions (weather and snow) are key. Just wondering what to expect in general. We will have our climbing gear with us if needed (since we ascended one of the Huntington ice climbs).

Any info is appreciated. Thanks.
User Avatar
kozman18

 
Posts: 355
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:14 am
Location: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Thanked: 23 times in 17 posts

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby nartreb » Sat Dec 10, 2011 1:16 am

Been up the ravines in winter but not climbed the Gulf headwall.

As you probably know, it's not the climb, it's the commitment. It's a very long walk to the road if conditions keep you from climbing out of the Gulf. (Some significant water crossings too - might be unfrozen even in January?)

The climb itself looked quite feasible, most lines easier than Huntington, obviously you can choose your own variations. However there is a tendency for the lip of the gulf to form cornices. Note that the avvy forecasts for Huntingtons don't directly apply in the Gulf, which faces a different direction.
User Avatar
nartreb

 
Posts: 1993
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2004 10:45 pm
Location: online or in boston, Massachusetts, United States
Thanked: 111 times in 90 posts

The following user would like to thank nartreb for this post
kozman18

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby kozman18 » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:21 am

Thanks -- you are right, it's a long slog out of the Gulf if we can't climb out, and water is definitely an issue. We are going to assess as we descend. Depending on snow depths, we'll either commit or bail.

I also agree on the climb out -- shouldn't be technical, but we can always get the rope out if the conditions warrant. I am guessing/hoping
the prevailing wind direction won't cause a lot of snow loading because of the direction that the headwall faces -- but, again, we'll try to assess that before we commit. If we have clear skies (notice I said "if") we should get a good look at the headwall before we commit.

Thanks for the input -- it helps.
User Avatar
kozman18

 
Posts: 355
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:14 am
Location: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Thanked: 23 times in 17 posts

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby AlexeyD » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:12 pm

kozman18 wrote:Heading to Huntington Ravine for some ice climbing at the end of January. For part of the trip, we are planning to climb up one of the gullies and continue past the Alpine Garden and descend into the Great Gulf. Overnight in the Gulf – then climb the headwall of the Gulf to the summit of Washington.

Anyone climbed the Gulf headwall in the winter? I’ve been up it in the fall (wet/ice/but no snow). Obviously, the conditions (weather and snow) are key. Just wondering what to expect in general. We will have our climbing gear with us if needed (since we ascended one of the Huntington ice climbs).

Any info is appreciated. Thanks.


My overall sense is that going down something potentially questionable, especially in winter conditions and in a rather remote location that usually sees little traffic that time of year, without having first gone up it to assess the situation, is a bit of a risky proposition. As Natreb correctly points out, avy forecasts for Huntington may not always apply for the Great Gulf. Having never done the Great Gulf in the winter either, I will say that if I were to do it - which, by the way, is definitely on my list of possible objectives for this season - I would do it as an overnight trip via the Great Gulf trail, camping near Spaulding Lake. Admittedly, in my case my this has partly to do with the fact that I've already been to Huntington quite a few times, and would prefer making the winter Gulf its own adventure - which, from everything I've heard, it deserves. Anyway, just some food for thought...either way, good luck and enjoy!
User Avatar
AlexeyD

 
Posts: 2059
Joined: Thu Jun 06, 2002 11:13 am
Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States
Thanked: 56 times in 44 posts

The following user would like to thank AlexeyD for this post
kozman18

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby kozman18 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:47 am

I have lot of respect for the remoteness of the Gulf that time of year, so I appreciate your point. Our plan is to cross the auto road somewhere south of the Wamsutta trail, and descend into the Gulf. We won't descend if the avy danger is high, or if the snow in the Gulf is too deep. We should be able to get a read on snow depths by monitoring the weather for the weeks leading up to the trip. We'll also try to get a look at the headwall before we commit. But we will have to make decisions as we go.

I've been up the Gulf Trail in late fall, just want to try it a different way. But I take your comments to heart -- not a place to get stuck, that's for sure.

Thanks.
User Avatar
kozman18

 
Posts: 355
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:14 am
Location: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Thanked: 23 times in 17 posts

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby nartreb » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:55 am

To refresh your memory: here's a photo taken in spring from Mt Madison, with snow highlighting the gullies. You can clearly see the bowl containing Spaulding lake.

The challenging climbing is concentrated on the west (Mt Clay) side of the bowl; the south headwall also gets steep at the top (cornices often form here). The east (Nelson Crag) side is more like 45 degrees - should just be a snow slog, but that kind of slope is prime danger zone for avalanche.

Search youtube and you'll find spring skiers going straight down the headwall. Most don't show how they get back up, but one seemed to show them kick-stepping a line pretty similar to the normal hiking trail.
User Avatar
nartreb

 
Posts: 1993
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2004 10:45 pm
Location: online or in boston, Massachusetts, United States
Thanked: 111 times in 90 posts

The following user would like to thank nartreb for this post
kozman18

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby kozman18 » Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:06 am

Thanks for the photo and the info. When I climbed the headwall a few years back, I wasn't thinking about a winter ascent so didn't scout out the lines. Your description really helps.

Do you think the west/Clay side of the bowl (facing east) would be more prone to snow loading from the wind (as it blows over the ridge) than the east side? That's how the Huntington ravines tend to load (but they have a pretty big snow source from the Alpine Garden). I am more worried about avalanche danger than the difficulty of the climb.

I appreciate your opinions.
User Avatar
kozman18

 
Posts: 355
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:14 am
Location: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Thanked: 23 times in 17 posts

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby nartreb » Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:12 am

I'm really not qualified to answer that question, but hey, this is the Internet. As I recall, different aspects of Huntington load up differently depending on recent winds (also sun); the same is surely true for the Gulf. Prevailing winds are probably less important than winds during and after a heavy snowfall. The dangerous part is that a wind from the east would load up the east side of the bowl, and the Huntington/Tuckerman forecasts wouldn't mention that. I would expect the Mt Clay side to load similarly to O'Dell's or Pinnacle, and the southwest headwall to load somewhat like the left side of Tuckerman, but you're right, without the Alpine Garden or Boott Spur to provide a reservoir of snow, the buildup should be less dramatic. But I haven't put boots on the snow in there, so this is just speculation.

Can't see it in my photos, but my topo map tells me there's tree cover on the east (Nelson Crag) side of the Gulf, starting just north of the lake. I expect that would reduce the avvy danger - worth considering as a descent route even though it has drawbacks (spruce traps!).
User Avatar
nartreb

 
Posts: 1993
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2004 10:45 pm
Location: online or in boston, Massachusetts, United States
Thanked: 111 times in 90 posts

The following user would like to thank nartreb for this post
kozman18

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby kozman18 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:30 am

All good points. I am going to track the weather for the few weeks in advance of the trip (so far, it's been a slow snow year). Should be able to get a decent read on snow depths just by monitoring daily reports. There's a chance that the snow rangers will have some info (maybe via the observatory -- I don't think the rangers get over to the Gulf very often). Otherwise, just going to wing it -- and put my tail between my legs if the conditions/weather look dicey.

Gone for week in late January/early February. If I have any good info to share, I'll post it. Thanks.
User Avatar
kozman18

 
Posts: 355
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:14 am
Location: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Thanked: 23 times in 17 posts

Re: Great Gulf -- Mt. Washington

Postby Bark Eater » Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:49 pm

We did a January trip in the Great Gulf years ago. Hiked in via the AT from PInkham and then up the Great Gulf Trail. Base camp mid-Gulf. Day trips up Jefferson, Washington, (Adams and Madison). Stuck to the trails more or less and did not attempt the headwall. I think we took the Wamsutta (sp?) trail up Washington and then followed the auto road. One firm memory being that the temperature was freeze-ass cold :-) Have fun.
User Avatar
Bark Eater

 
Posts: 366
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:04 pm
Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Thanked: 65 times in 56 posts

The following user would like to thank Bark Eater for this post
kozman18


Return to Eastern US (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast)

 


  • Related topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

© 2006-2013 SummitPost.org. All Rights Reserved.