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Mount Washington Hike

Rhea

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I haven’t posted n this forum in a while. A nice hike up Mount Washington seems like a good reason to dip back in.

I’ve hiked the mountain a few times, the last two in September (2020 and 2021) when the weather has been just perfect.

I only went one way, because I was worried about some recent knee pain. So I had a ticket on the cog railway for my return trip. You buy a round trip ticket so your seat is guaranteed because the one-way trip is only standby. But worth the insurance at my age.

So Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in Northeastern America, at 6,288 feet [1,917 metres]. What makes it unique is that it has a high prmominance - the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River, where the “dip” around the mountain goes all the way down by 6,148 (1874m). This is not a foothills kind of place. Straight from valley floor to mountain slope. And the significance of that is that is juts right up into the jet stream, causing it to host “the worst weather in America” including the highest recorded wind speed of 231mph (372kph).

This year we took the Ammoosonuc trail to Crawford Path to the peak. It’s about 4.5 miles (7.2km) one way. A lot of it is stepping up stones like stairs, but there are some areas where you need to scramble up some rock faces. Good hiking shoes or boots are a must. The trails goes along the river/creek which is so beautiful to enjoy. Tall waterfalls, pools, water flowing aound mossy rocks. Really pretty. The trail is decent by eastern US standards, but a western US hiker would find it rough and difficult. There’s so much water in the east that we can’t maintain a walking path, it’s all jumbled exposed rocks that you have to step on unevenly, with large steps and with balance.

The weather was clear and calm, about 65F (18C) which is wonderful for hiking and staying cool. We enjoyed the first few hours with our group of 8 breaking into two pods. Didn’t see anyone for several hours. Stopping for snacks and water. As we got to the top of the treeline there were some scattered clouds (expected from the weather) that were nice to keep us cool. Temps dropped a little, but it was still tee-shirt weather.

The views were fabulous! The upper air was full of moisture, so the far mountains had that beautiful surreal shades of blue thing going on, while a heavy grey sponge hugged the summit, but swirled with what were forecast to be 30-40mph (48-64 kph) winds, and sunshine peeking through in between.

When we got to Lake-in-the-Clouds, the wind picked up, but it was still a very comfortable 55*F (12C). Hiking took enough energy that I was still in my tee shirt and shorts, welcoming the cooling wind. Most of the crew decided to go on ahead, and there were three of us left who planned to take the railway down, so we took the time we wanted/needed.


The final 1.6 miles (2.6km) to the peak were in a swirling moist but oddly warm cloud, buffeted by the 30+ mph (48+kph) winds, only those with knit hats could keep them on; baseball caps and straw hats had to be carried. I finally cooled off enough in the last 0.2 miles (0.3km) to put on my sweater and hat, and we forced our tired, old, and out-of-shape limbs to the summit.

It was a beautiful day. No views from the summit, but those on the way were lovely. We took the train down and emerged from the cloud in only a few minutes, seeing the other trail and lovely valley on the way.

Back at our rental house, the gang had a huge meal and fun for the evening. My knees never did hurt, but I had fun with the train ride and glad I did that for the first time.

Mountains are beautiful places.
 

crazyfingers

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I hiked up Mt Washington 3 times and down twice.

This was in the 1970's. Dad, my uncle cousins. Up Tuckerman's Ravine, down Lion Head was one route i recall.

I didn't hike down the 3rd time because even though it was August, a blizzard arrived and parents with kids were allowed to take the last ride down on the cog railway. I think adults without kids waited out the storm on top. I've forgotten the name of the summit facility. At lease it was a sizable indoor facility.

Back then my parents dragged me all up and down the presidentials.

Later I decided I like the coast of Maine and Acadia National park better.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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I was near there at a hike trail back in '02ish. I was visiting waterfalls in the area, definitely recommend, but forget about Thoreau Falls, that is a flume with good flow, but almost no real ability to capture on camera, being a flume and all. I wanted to hike it, but it was 2:00 PM I think, and I really didn't have much with me but a tremendous amount of stamina, and you don't screw with Mt. Washington. Being an afterthought, I decided to not do it.
 

crazyfingers

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Yup I've hiked the Flume. It was another that as a teenager I regarded as a forced march. Now of course I'm glad I did it.

Found these. It looks like at least one of my hikes up Washington - 1974. We stayed at the Pinkham Notch lodge. The bottom photo is looking down at Tuckerman's Ravine from above.

Mt Washington.jpg
 

Loren Pechtel

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The numbers you give wouldn't be a deterrent to me but the conditions are another matter--I turn back for anything beyond the easiest of class 3 terrain, especially if at all slippery.
 

Rhea

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What is the definition of class 3 terrain?

This is some of what we climbed (photos from the internet)

New%20Hampshire%20261.jpg

early-trail-2.jpg

gem-pool.jpg

ladder.jpg

bouldering.jpg
 

Jimmy Higgins

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When we visited family in Arizona, I was quickly struck by the difference in scale used for hike difficulty between rugged Arizona and the Northeast. In Arizona, a hard hike involves 100 ft tall sheer face climbs. In the NE, a moderate rocky slope. :D Generally, a "difficult" hike in the NE is "easy" out west.

If nothing else, the trouble with Mt. Washington is the weather. Typically weather is problematic atop mountains, but Mt. Washingston is particularly tricky, for such an accessible climb.
 

crazyfingers

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If nothing else, the trouble with Mt. Washington is the weather. Typically weather is problematic atop mountains, but Mt. Washingston is particularly tricky, for such an accessible climb.

Yup. It's all about the weather which can change rapidly. All kinds of into on that on the web.

One take here: https://mt-washington.com/hikinginfo

THE WEATHER

Weather is a very important factor affecting a hike on Mt. Washington. For up to the minute weather information, the Mount Washington Observatory posts real time weather conditions, including temperatures at various elevations, wind speed, wind chill factor, visibility and whether it’s raining, snowing, freezing fog or any other weather event in progress, as well as a 48 hour forecast.

Weather conditions change incredibly fast on this mountain and it’s not unusual to find that the temperature is 30 degrees cooler on the summit than at the base. Calm air at the trailhead could increase (and frequently does) to hurricane force on the summit. Hurricane force winds occur, on average, every 4th day on Mt. Washington. One hundred mile an hour winds occur in every month of the year. This little mountain has recorded the highest windspeed ever observed at any land based, manned weather observatory, with a record of 231 miles per hour.

Clear skies in the valley frequently yield to a summit enshrouded in fog with visibility reduced to mere feet -- the summit is in the clouds ⅔ of the time. June, July and August have average daily temperatures in the 40’s. Therefore, it’s absolutely possible that on any day in August you might find yourself on the summit with a temperature below freezing, 75 mph winds, 20 foot visibility and snow, sleet and freezing rain -- this actually happened to a group (who needed a very expensive rescue) in August of 2017.

My dad had probably done Mt Washington about a dozen times in his lifetime.

My short description above when we had to take the cog railway down, I know that when we started out the trailhead was close to 80 degrees, calm and sunny and my dad was always concerned about the weather. We listed to the radio forecast before going up. (Mid-1970's there was no internet) Checked the forecast at the Pinkham Notch Lodge, etc. The forecast was good to go.

I recall all was fine until we had already made it to the top of Tuckerman's Ravine. IIFC, once up Tuckerman's it's still a while yet to the summit but easy going. But soon it started to rain, then sleet, then snow and the wind was crazy. As a young teenager to me and my cousins it was a grand adventure. But as I now think back on it, I'm sure my dad and uncle were shitting bricks whether to turn back or continue to the summit where the Observatory provided total safety. We continued to the summit. Ultimately we got really lucky to catch the last trip down on the cog railway. The cog railway had cancelled all trips up and down for the rest of the day due to the weather.

The people left at the top would be unhappy but safe inside the observatory visitor center.

Cog railway photo (not the blizzard trip)
Scan_Pic0017 (2).jpg
 

Loren Pechtel

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What is the definition of class 3 terrain?

View attachment 35334

This is class 3 but the presence of the ladder makes it very easy. I've seen various definitions of the classes:

1. Everyone agrees on this--it's terrain where you simply walk, your hands are never used.

2. Likewise, this is pretty clear. Terrain where you might use your hands on occasion.

3. Hands required at times, falls generally only mean bumps and bruises.

4. Hands required, falls might be serious. I have never seen a decent definition of the dividing line between 3 and 4.

5. Mountaineering. This is subdivided into 15 levels of difficulty, and some of the higher levels of difficulty have further subdivisions.

6. (Rarely listed, but it does exist) Impossible without tools.
 

Loren Pechtel

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When we visited family in Arizona, I was quickly struck by the difference in scale used for hike difficulty between rugged Arizona and the Northeast. In Arizona, a hard hike involves 100 ft tall sheer face climbs. In the NE, a moderate rocky slope. :D Generally, a "difficult" hike in the NE is "easy" out west.

If nothing else, the trouble with Mt. Washington is the weather. Typically weather is problematic atop mountains, but Mt. Washingston is particularly tricky, for such an accessible climb.

A 100' sheer climb is mountaineering, not hiking.

We are far more used to elevation changes, though. Consider the most recent hike I have been on rated "hard". 5 miles one way, the summit is about 3,500' above the trailhead and 11,000' above sea level--enough to be a problem for some people not used to it. There are places where you have something like a 1' rock to step up, but nothing that would make me take my hands off my poles.
 

Rhea

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When we visited family in Arizona, I was quickly struck by the difference in scale used for hike difficulty between rugged Arizona and the Northeast. In Arizona, a hard hike involves 100 ft tall sheer face climbs. In the NE, a moderate rocky slope. :D Generally, a "difficult" hike in the NE is "easy" out west.

See, I find the opposite in my experience. When I was prepping for Mt Whitney I kept asking questions to understand the difficulty. And people were all, “It’s a tough hike, you gotta be prepared. The rocks are really tough on your legs.” But to me it was significantly easier than Katahdin because the trails were so well defined and switch-backed whereas the eastern ones have giant thigh-burning (on the way up) or knee-jarring (on the way down) steps to take, with multiple scramble areas requiring hands and the risk of slipping down, by having the trail just heading straight up the fall line, plus moss and water crossings.


I find western hikes are reliably easier than eastern ones.



This is class 3 but the presence of the ladder makes it very easy. I've seen various definitions of the classes:

Well, that was the only ladder in the whole climb. You can see it continues steep above it and no more ladder.
In general, it was totally doable without any hint of ropes, but the sharpness of the rocks means a fall could be injurious.

Not that I’m saying it was a “rugged” hike or anything, it was still mostly walking. Just describing the fun.
 

crazyfingers

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It's the tree roots vs rocks vs flat ground that tires me out. Every step requires a decision.

I alway like to look into the woods, particularly for wildlife but trails like this photo require constant watching my feet.

2020 08 09 12 19 37_resized.JPG
 

Loren Pechtel

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When we visited family in Arizona, I was quickly struck by the difference in scale used for hike difficulty between rugged Arizona and the Northeast. In Arizona, a hard hike involves 100 ft tall sheer face climbs. In the NE, a moderate rocky slope. :D Generally, a "difficult" hike in the NE is "easy" out west.

See, I find the opposite in my experience. When I was prepping for Mt Whitney I kept asking questions to understand the difficulty. And people were all, “It’s a tough hike, you gotta be prepared. The rocks are really tough on your legs.” But to me it was significantly easier than Katahdin because the trails were so well defined and switch-backed whereas the eastern ones have giant thigh-burning (on the way up) or knee-jarring (on the way down) steps to take, with multiple scramble areas requiring hands and the risk of slipping down, by having the trail just heading straight up the fall line, plus moss and water crossings.


I find western hikes are reliably easier than eastern ones.



This is class 3 but the presence of the ladder makes it very easy. I've seen various definitions of the classes:

Well, that was the only ladder in the whole climb. You can see it continues steep above it and no more ladder.
In general, it was totally doable without any hint of ropes, but the sharpness of the rocks means a fall could be injurious.

Not that I’m saying it was a “rugged” hike or anything, it was still mostly walking. Just describing the fun.

Requires hands = class 3 or higher. Ladders are technically class 3 or at times 4 (I'm thinking of the local hot spring. A cliff something like 20' high with a small waterfall pouring down it. Falling from the top of that would be serious, but it's a ladder, you can grip it very well.)

Knee-jarring steps are absolutely not my thing at this point--at this point I use my poles to carefully lower myself over the few I encounter. If that were not an option I would not do the trail.

I haven't done Whitney yet but I'm hoping to one of these days.

Around here water crossings only happen in snowmelt time and are very shallow even then.
 

Loren Pechtel

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It's the tree roots vs rocks vs flat ground that tires me out. Every step requires a decision.

I alway like to look into the woods, particularly for wildlife but trails like this photo require constant watching my feet.

View attachment 35355

Not that many roots here but you always have to watch your feet because of the rocks.
 
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