Mt Washington State Park, April 16, 2012

The White Mountains of NH

Looking at the above photograph it’s easy to see how our “White Mountains” have received this name. The mountains are white with snow most of the year but also when free from snow in the summer months the high peaks above the 4,000′ timberline still have a whitish appearance when viewed from a distance. Legend tells us it was the early mariners off the coast of Maine who coined the name of “The White Hills” for New Hampshire’s interior mountain range.

Yankee Building side-by-side comparison

This week we continue our roller coaster spring weather pattern with 2′ new snow the last week. We have parked the trucks and returned to snow tractor for travel over the auto roads upper 4 miles.

The new snow, clouds and wind gave us a pretty neat sunrise on Friday morning.

As a climber I couldn’t resist this return to winter in spring for one last ice climb in Huntington Ravine on Saturday with Geoff Wilson.

Huntington Ravine

Huntington Ravine on the east side of the mountain and a mile north of Tuckerman Ravine, is famous for some of the East Coasts’ best rock and ice climbing. With the recent heavy snowfall my partner Geoff, an avid backcountry skier, couldn’t stop musing that some of Huntington’s the normal ice routes like Odell and Central gullies could possibly be skied this week.

Central & Yale Gullies
Odell Gully

Most of the long gullies in Huntington Ravine have been skied but only a handful of times.  Our objective today is to ice climb Pinnacle Gully. Ice climbing can be very easy, or a very difficult, extreme competition sport. Pinnacle Gully is in the easy-to-moderate range. To the best of my knowledge Pinnacle has never been skied as the bottom 150′ is a +65 degree, Grade 3 ice wall. Pinnacle Gully is kind of hidden away in a north east facing narrow cleft between an overhanging Pinnacle buttress to the south and Central rock buttress on the north.

Pinnacle & Central Buttresses
Pinnacle Gully

The climbing on 1st pitch was fantastic, soft yet secure ice that held our ice axe and crampon points perfectly. These ice conditions are also know as “Hero” ice because it makes you look and climb like a hero! The upper two pitches were a mixture of ice and steep snow climbing. Great fun! Here’s a short video clip of the top of the 1st pitch.

We stopped off onto the Alpine Gardens and had a good view of some beautiful ski tracks recently laid down in the Eastern Snow Fields that morning

East Snow Field

We descended the mountain via the Lion Head hiking trail and had a good view into Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman Ravine

Here’s a much better video of “the scene” in Tucks:

The recent snow will help prolong the ski season of “Tucks” and will make for some good conditions for the Sons of Inferno ski race next weekend.


Mike Pelchat, Manager of Mt. Washington State Park

I've been working atop Mt Washington for past 30 years so you can guess I like it above the tree line! After all these years I still never tire of the beauty of our NH White Mtns and consider my employment an extreme honor and privilege to work for the State Of NH and serve its visitors. When not on the summit you can find me enjoying the rock & ice climbing one of the many beautiful granite cliffs we have in Franconia, Crawford or Echo Lake State Parks. I have taken these climbing skills learned at our NH State Parks to climb in Alaska, Andes, Canadian Arctic and Himalayas. I live in Gorham NH with my wife Diane Holmes.

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