To get to Mt. Washington State Park one must have a knowledge of the terrain, hiking experience, and an incredibly stubborn desire to spite gravity. This was the first time Don, Jamie, and myself had hiked Washington in the winter and it was a eye-opening experience.
It was an amazingly warm and clear day on Monday. The summit forecast in the morning was a couple degrees higher than in the valley!
We took Boots Spur around the left side of Tuckerman’s Ravine, choosing a more round-about way to ascend without snowshoes or crampons. It wasn’t until we had passed the tree line did we really get hit with the wind and cold.
Boots Spur curls up what looks like the low spine of Washingtons back, although relatively easy-going in the summer, it tested the stamina of out legs forcing us to a constant and steady trudge. The trail was non-existent so we linked our pathway up the ridge using the cairns.
As we intersected Lawn-Cutoff, where our eyes focused on the immense white monster of the summit cone.
The last push was the most intense mentally and physically, all three of us feeling the cold scratch our lungs and legs overwork as if we were climbing a giant sand-dune. Every dozen steps or so you had to catch your breath and gaze up at the distant structures of the summit observatory.
The summit of Washington is an ice palace, rime ice encases every linear angle-melting it towards the wind. Mike Pelchat just did an awesome blog on the functions of the equipment atop Mt.Washington.
Growing up I had a poster in my room of a dump-truck covered in ice on Washington that I used to stare at wondering how it was ever possible for that kind of weather to rally about New England. It was a surreal experience to see this kind of extreme weather with my own eyes after so many years inspecting that poster.
The visibility was phenomenal, barely a cloud in the sky and clear miles around.
By the time we started down, the sun was starting to set and the wind was picking up rapidly. We chose Lion Head trail as the most manageable and direct descent with not an hour to spare.
“Why do we do the things we do?”, we asked ourselves as the sun was setting behind the cone of Washington, the wind picking up, and less than 3/4’s of the descent established. I began to think about a quote I had heard Yvon Chouinard say describing his peers and himself as, “conquerors of the useless.” He was speaking parallel to his travels in Patagonia and close-calls both climbing and surfing where he achieved these liberating experiences outside of normal day-to-day life that couldn’t transpire with any kind of safe or stable future.
When you really get down to it, hikers never really have anything physically tangible to show for their achievements besides scars and pictures. It isn’t a profitable lifestyle yet there is a culture of nuts that will work through sweat and discomfort for that universal feeling of serenity that comes with distancing yourself from the everyday routine. When we pulled into Pinkham Notch I wasn’t surprised to see a full parking lot and when we drove away later that day I wasn’t surprised to see it still half full.
Does anyone have any hairy experiences hiking Mt. Washington in the winter?
Or experiences skiing Tuckerman’s Ravine?