The route info has "under two hours" given as an approximate time for completion. My estimate would be 6-8 hours.
The Lion Head Winter Route itself is very short - I've done it in under an hour.......it's merely a connector between the Huntington Ravine Fire Road and the Lion Head Trail, which is more avalanche-prone in the winter time.
I guess I should've clarified that the trailhead to summit takes 4-6 hours....but the actual Lion Head Winter Route takes less than 2. Sorry 'bout that.
This description seems to incorrectly imply a 1,000-foot snow and ice climb of 60-70 degrees - a far different proposition than the Lion Head trail.
An ice axe may be warranted on this route assuming one knows how to use it, but there is almost no "exposure" in a mountaineering sense.
There are a few ledges or steps that might briefly approach 60-70 degrees, but these bits are of almost trivial length.
I agree with Sewardj with particular regard to the 60-70 degree comment. This is a very misleading. I would estimate a sustained slope of around 30 degrees or so on the route in snow where crampon work and step-kicking is rather easy for an intermediate - advanced mountaineer.
In full-winter conditions, I would say that a classic ice axe is mandatory. Anything more aggressive is overkill and to impress the ladies.
In planning for a climb this winter, I have trouble justifying bringing an ice axe unless there is freezing rain. Can someone point me wrong?
If this is the technical crux, I would rather strap my axe on my pack and get handholds on rocks and trees than hooking on roots (LNT!) and rocks. Or use hiking poles if I want a cane.
If this is representative of the slopes higher up, and I would believe so since on my GPS track the slope never goes beyond 50% above tree line, it would be hard to fall and arresting would be easy with poles.
I will probably still bring an axe since I have one and everyone seems to bring it, but what if someone has never practiced self-arrest and has to shed money to rent one? Are we only bringing the axe for mountain cred, with guides overselling the route? Again, barring freezing rain.
I will update this post after my climb.
On another note, I'm considering using touring skis above tree line. Anyone know if there is usually enough snow for this?
Probably crampons and hiking poles make the most sense and would offer the most benefit over all. Seems to be the preferred set-up of most winter hikers on this trail.There are MAYBE a couple of places where a properly executed self-arrest could be useful in event of a fall, but maybe not. LACKING crampons, one could, with an axe, cut a few useful steps...... There is no viable skiing on the route.The southeast snowfields (to the right, above "alpine gardens") offer limited skiing when filled in, but there isn't necessarily much point to lugging skis over there.
It's funny I was actually on the mountain when you replied. But thanks still! I now agree with what you said.
For the others who may read this, the ice axe was in the "nice to have but not essential" side. It did help climb in the winter route itself, but I could have done it without. Above tree line, I found poles to be way more useful and no need for self-arrest. I saw many people not bring an ice axe.
The mountaineering crampons was more useful and definitely made progress easier on the winter route itself and more secure higher up. However, I think I saw more people with hiking traction devices than crampons, and at least some of them has made it to the top.
I had bulletproof crust for most part above tree line, so the ski was interesting, but not fun! And dropping down Tuckerman ravine was a definite no when your edges don't bite, even if the avalanche risk was low. At least the skis did make the approach and exit quite faster.
If I was to go there again, I would still bring the axe and crampons, but cache the axe once above tree line.
About glissading down below tree line. You destroy the steps that are so useful for the people going up without crampons. So think twice about it.