Mount Washington to Mt. Ellinor Traverse
We camped at the Mt. Ellinor trailhead, and seeing as the 4 of us arrived in 2 cars, we left one there in the morning and drove to the Mount Washington route 1 trailhead. At the upper Ellinor trailhead, we woke to look down upon a blanket of clouds a few hundred feet below us (became a concern later).
After a brief breakfast and some leg stretches, we jumped onto the trail at 8am. The trail is in good condition, we only had one or two brief moments of uncertainty regarding which way to go, but made it to the ridge in just under three hours.
About 10 minutes into the hike, we passed two people returning, and they were quite upset...apparently there was a hornets nest on the trail, and they had been stung and one of them had dislocated a shoulder...we were told it was close to where we were, so we prepared to encounter swarms of hornets around any corner. We found the nest when the leader was stung, I was next in the line, and I just simply ran through the area, getting a couple stings on my calves, and one on my hand. The other two hikers were far enough behind us to navigate through the woods around the nest, and I believe they marked it on the GPS, but it was about 15 minutes in, just after passing an enormous rock/cliff on the left side of the trail (which looked like it would be fun climbing), and the nest was in some rocks on left side of the trail just past that big rock. There were lots of bees on this trail throughout the entire hike, and I received two more stings later on, one on the trail, and one on the Washington summit...not really so hyped on bees now.
Once we got to the meadows and scree slopes below the ridge, routefinding became a little more difficult, but cairns and other trail markers were around, and we obtained the summit relatively easily. Note that when you get to the base of the summit block, the trail goes to the right onto a precarious looking cliff, not to the left as it appears.
We talked to 8 other climbers at this point, and they were also attempting the traverse. We listened to their ideas, but had our own ideas once we gained the Washington summit.
The traverse is made difficult because of the interpretive nature of the meadows surrounding the ridge, but I will do my best to describe where we went. Lot's of people look for routes of passage and tend to follow other peoples mistakes, so there are a lot of false positives in terms of beaten paths.
We returned all the way down to 5200' in the meadow below the ridge, before you start climbing the ramps up towards Washington's summit. Here we found an old beaten path going towards Ellinor, followed that for a bit, where it climbed straight up to a rock face. We scrambled the rocks, I hung to the left on the face, my friend on the right in the chimney, both were easy and got us to the top were we could access a new meadow area. We set a line straight across, to the left side to what appeared to be a way around a rock, getting us closer to Ellinor. Upon arriving, we realized that the route around didn't actually yield a route, but rather ascending up through a steep treeline directly behind us did. We got to the top of this, and were in yet another meadow, but this time we were facing the end of the ridge, Ellinor straight ahead. The group of 8 could be seen here trad climbing a long scramble section, which they referred to as a 6-1 oclock line, based on its shape. We waited for them to finish and intended to follow their line, however as were approached the base, we noticed a shorter but similar route directly to the left of theirs. We chose this. The three others in my party ascended the right side of it where a long line of vegetation is growing the entire way up. I stayed left on the rock section, and think I had more fun scrambling then they did. 25 minutes later we were walking around a and b peaks on Ellinor, and 10 minutes after that we were on top of Ellinor herself.
This ended up being a really easy task, routefinding being the most challenging part, and we were a little nervous because as the temperature increased, that floor of clouds we saw at 7am was rising towards us. I got a photo of Ellinor from Washington, but couldn't see Washington from Ellinor by the time we got there. We pushed on despite the potential loss of visibility because of the bees on the Washington trail, and the ease of descent on the Ellinor trail.
Took about 9 hours in all, that included breaks on both summits and a long break in between as we watched the clouds for a 20 minute stretch to determine the rate at which they were rising.
I highly recommend this traverse, it is quite beautiful, and the interpretive nature allows groups of three to each take separate routes and compare notes afterwards.
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