Winter on this Mt. WashingtonMount Washington (I-90 Corridor)
3300 feet elevation gain
Note: I wrote a similiar overview of this hike on NWHikers.net but since most of you knew me from my times in New Hampshire I decided to add that detail in this draft.
I have been hearing about ferocious winters on Mount Washington for many years. Constant 60-150 mph winds, -60 degree wind chill and constant wind blizzards often were on the news. Oh yeah that was New Hampshire, this is the SMALLER Mt. Washington in Washington State (not to be confused with the Olympics Mt. Washington). And this mountain probably received the same amount of snow (500 inches this year) as the other but the winter on this peak is not quite as brutal. This peak is full of logging road and not very attractive because of all the logging compared to neighboring mountains. Still though caution must be used on this peak in winter just like the New Hampshire one and the Mt. Washington in the Olympics, because snowstorms are very frequent and this year snow (2008) will be around until at least mid June (despite being below timberline).
This particular Mt. Washington is actually a very good winter snowshoe and it has very little in the way of hazards that the New Hampshire one does. Hopefully I can summit the Olympics one so I can give a you trip report comparing those two Mt. Washingtons. There is one minor harder section but overall this peak is relatively easy to do in winter.
I went on the trail with my friends Megellan and Curt (the one with the kid who burned both his father ant I on the mountain). We hit the trailhead around 8:00 AM to drizzly and cold weatther but no big deal. The day did not start off so hot when we spotted something strange. We saw someone just sitting in the parking lot which raised some suspicion. Magellan went over to guy while Curt and I kept a close eye. He talked to guy and after talking to him, Magellan deemed the guy save. He drove off as we were hitting the trail, probably suspecting that we were watching him.
There was some snow the night before but just a dusting at the trailhead. As we got higher up the mountain the snow became much more of a factor and by the time we hit the first significant lookout (Owl's Lookout) it had completely covered the trail. About a quarter mile past the lookout there was an interesting stream crossing. We ran into another hiker there named Jen who we also saw at the trailhead After taking a small break we decided to press on. This part of the trail was very packed down so there was not much need for snowshoes. The trail continued and then about a half mile later went over another interesting crossing of a stream. There is a snow bridge there now but by next week it would be gone.
After going over the creek we kept going up just bare boot. The snow was still very well packed now. We crossed over a steep hillside that was slightly exposed (nothing to fear because the deep snow would have caught any slip) and then ascended the north ridge. Part of way up Magellan I decided to ditch our snowshoes. To be honest from that point up snowshoes might have been useful but not necessary. At around this point the lady, Jen had enough and decided to head back. Then we kicked up the steeper north ridge and after hitting a couple small open areas on the ridge we entered back into the forest and ran into a snow-covered old road.
We went took the path on the right to the summit. Here was the only place where there was no trench and the only place where there was any ice or slight exposure. Still this area was easy to bare boot and no time did we ever enter any struggling areas. We hit the summit around 11:00, all with our bare boots. What no observation deck and major weather station!! There are still some trees on top! The wind chill on the mountain is ABOVE 10 degrees! Heah I didn't run into 300 hikers trying to climb this mountain in tennis shoes and cotton clothing in winter with a large lodge down below!! Oh yeah, I am on this Mt. Washington. Though snowshoes would have helped in places and might have made the trip a little easier, they were not absolutely necessary After making the cloudy and foggy summit, we decided to take a break on top and enjoy the view of the snotel and some of neighboring trees for 40 minutes.
We made a little quicker time on the way back. On the way now we encounter great views high along the north ridge. Great shots can be seen here from the north ridge of Washington. There were a couple of openings down to North Bend and Rattlesnake Ridge and along many of the other summits around Mt. Washington.
Once we got back down to that one steeper hillside where you could see the trail roughly two hundred feet above, I decided to try to glissade down to the trail below. I found out that this was not a good idea at least for the glissade breaker. The deep powdery snow was much to soft for a glissade and all I really did was kick up some snow. That being said Magellan had some moderate runs on my track and Curtis got a good glissade at the spot.
The rest of the way back was very uneventful. Yes we went back to the car not frozen to death with only a couple encounter with other hikers and no nice AMC lodge to change at before we got back. All in all still not a bad day on this Mount Washington. During summer months this mountain becomes more of an evening hike because though the mountain is 9 miles there are very few challanging areas on the trail. The trail on this mountain is much more gradual than the many trails up Mount Washington back east (Though the Mount Washington in the Olympics is a VERY different story). Sunset shots over the Puget Sound and the Olympics here are said to be true classics.