Climbing Mt. Washington had always been on my list of things to do. Ever since I started into outdoor adventures It's been a goal and on March 7th 2007 a friend and I achieved it but it was not without misadventure.
First off, we had to drive from NC to NH just to get to the mountain which was an adventure in and of itself. As it turns out, hitting NY City at 5:00 PM is not good, thanks Mapquest. Then as we reach NH we find out that they are experiencing some of the coldest weather in many years but this is okay because this is why we came to Mt. Washington, to be in extreme conditions.
So on Tuesday due to a long list of mishaps we hit the mountain at about 4:00 PM with the idea of going to Harvard Cabin and spending the night. Well the weather really was bad. It seemed clear except that there was a wicked nasty wind blowing off the mountain and apparently down the Tuckerman Ravine area. We weren't making good time at all and everything was freezing, including my fingers. So after a while and with darkness encroaching we decided to turn back and enjoy another night at the Comfort Inn and some Chinese take out. We found out the next day from the Harvard Cabin caretaker that it was -20 and we all agreed that we had made the right decision.
In the end we had underestimated a mountain that by most standards is small and "easy." The mountain let us know that it was in control and we would climb it on it's terms, but all was not lost.
The morning of March 7th dawned clear, cold and still. As I looked out my window all seemed right with the world. We didn't rush from the hotel, I think there was some degree of disappointment over the last evenings events , none the less, we got to Pinkham Notch at 9:30 and there was not a cloud in the sky and the summit was clearly visible, not shrouded in blowing snow like the previous day.
Let me just say, for a person from NC who doesn't see a whole lot of snow, the NH mountains in winter are spectacular. Both of us felt strong and well rested and made good time up the Tux trail to the Lion Head Winter Route. The trail was well packed and even after getting off of the snow cat trail it wasn't too bad. Zack post-holed one time up to his crotch but other than that it wasn't bad. What really helped was that a group of 3 had gone up earlier and broken trail, so if you three are reading this, thank you!
The so called "steep part" was fabulous. That section of a few hundred yards was probably our favorite part of the climb both on the way up and on the way down. There was plenty of snow so our crampons and piolet's had lots to bite into.
Above the tree line the snow was windblown and hard packed below the Lion's Head and through the Alpine Garden. It did get deep and less consolidated on the first bit of the summit cone before you get into the rocky area but again the previous group had made steps that we took advantage of. We passed the other group just at the bottom of the rocky area as they were on their way down and informed us that it was -15 at the top and low winds, by Mt Washington standards.
The summit was everything I'd hoped it would be but by that time we were pretty worn out and it was really cold, remember we're from NC, so we snapped a couple of hero shots and hauled tail back to the truck and on to Friendly's for steak and shrimp.
Over all this was a spectacular trip! We had perfect weather to climb in, we achieved a goal, and learned alot in the process. There a many who may not classify Mount Washington as anything major but judging by our experience in March 2007, it's the real deal. No it's not the highest mountain around and it may not be the snowiest or coldest but it is a worthy adventure. The views from the top are unbelievable. As a matter of fact, ALL the views are wonderful. So, patience will be rewarded and if you get good weather Mount Washington is an experience that is unparalleled in the east.
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