While Terry and I are in the west managing the sun and 85 degree temps Steve and Dave are getting it done on Mt Washington. This past weekend was definitely a winter type experience on Mt Washington complete with howling winds and 3 inches of new snow. Steve and Dave ventured into the Gulf of Slides area and skied 5 runs in the south bowl and a few numbered gullys. The skiing was very good and from the smiles on there faces it looks tike a very fun time.
MMG guide Steve enjoying the spring skiing!!!
Views out of the gulf area.
Dave getting ready for some turns!!!
Skinning, climbing and switchbacks all lead to the perfect run.
Thanks to Dave and Steve.
The team just after setting out.
This weekend Mooney Mountain Guides, along with five guests, had the opportunity to spend a night in the Mt. Washington Observatory (OBS) on the summit of Mt. Washington. Growing up as a New England kid in love with his local mountains, Mt. Washington represented the pinnacle of mountain terrain. As I stared at its windy white summit, it was completely wild to think that people actually lived and worked up there. It seemed as cold and remote as the moon. My curiosity and imagination running wild of what it must be like.
It seems that this feeling I experienced since my childhood is not uncommon among others who go to the mountains. After all, year round weather observatory that has been manually taking weather observations every hour on the our, 365, since the 1930’s is quite unique. Why wouldn’t a mountaineer want to spend a night up there? Spending the night is only half the fun. MMG’s five guests and I had to climb the mountain to get there.
The trip begins with a leisurely meeting time of 8:00am. Followed by a discussion on gear, and itinerary. Typically we are hitting the trail by 9:30, prepared to spend the next 36 hours on the mountain.
Ascending the technical Lions Head trail.
After relatively laid back hike up the wide Tuckerman’s ravine trail providing us with lots of room to talk and get to know one another we reached the Lion’s head winter route. At this point on the trail, ice axes and crampons are used to ascend the steep semi technical terrain on our way to tree-line. Once above the trees on the exposed “Lion’s Head” our group began to feel the wind Mt. Washington is famous for; however, it was relatively light and the temperatures were warm with bright sun.
Ascending the summit cone.
We continued our traverse across the southern end of the Alpine Garden, our sights fixed on the summit cone ahead. The team was making such good time in the favorable conditions that we had time to ditch the crampons for some self arrest practice on the snow fields of the summit cone. Following some fine tuning of our technique, the team continued up the snow and rock towards the summit. The bright sun, mild temperatures, and moderate winds made our time on the upper mountain very enjoyable.
Taking a moment to enjoy the upper mountain.
We reached the summit and took our time taking photos and exploring the alpine terrain. On this particular day we enjoyed 130+ miles of un-OBS-structed visibility. Seeing summits in New York’s Adirondack State Park! For those of you who know Mt. Washington, you know how special this opportunity was.
Finally inside we were greater with warm soup and freshly baked bread. A magical sunset was followed by a delicious dinner. With some good conversation we called it a night with hopes of catching the sunrise the following morning.
Weather instrument tour.
Sunrise, breakfast, and a tour of the weather instruments left us prepared for the journey down the hill. The team made a slight detour to experience the stronger winds, spend more time in the beautiful sunshine, and explore more of the mountain. The team enjoyed a picture perfect descent. We all found it difficult not to smile following such a wonderful trip to the OBS.
Descending the upper mountain
Special thanks to Mooney Mountain Guides and our guests, Mammut for the gear the makes alpine exploration possible, and the Mt. Washington Observatory for being such gracious hosts.
I hope to see you all in the Mountains
The Northern Presidential’s from the Summit
Kevin is a mountaineer. Africa, Europe, Mexico, North America. He has climbed around the world. Even though living in New York, Kevin hadn’t made it to Mt. Washington. It seems from the pictures that he was having a great time. All climbers of the North East are lucky to have such an awesome mountain within driving distance. As a training venue or objective itself. Mt. Washington is a real mountain and climbing it will make you a better climber. If mountaineering is something you may be interested in, come check out Mt. Washington.
We are in the Mountains Now
Cloud cover changing as a front moves through
At Mooney Mountain Guides we joke frequently that our company acronym (MMG) stands for Mountain’s, Mentorship, Guidance. In all seriousness, though, this is exactly what we provide. A day with MMG can simply be a day in the mountains pursuing a technical objective or experience, or it can be a day or days of learning and guidance. Our sport, mountain sports, have many intricacies to learn before one can safely pursue them on their own. A day in the mountains alone is fraught with potentially life threatening challenges that only experience and knowledge can help one navigate. Add the technical skills needed to climb in the mountains and there is a lifetime worth of learning.
A climber frequently navigates through this educational experience with the help of a mentor, some one older and more experienced who imparts their experiences, and helps the newer climber gain experience of their own, under a watchful eye. This is rewarding to both climbers, as the inexperienced get to safely learn how to navigate the challenges of the mountains and climbing, and the mentor gets to share their love of the mountains and climbing. At MMG, we are passionate about our sport, and love to share that passion and enable others to pursue it safely.
I consider my self blessed to have been able to do this over the past two winters with a student at Holderness School, where I coach rock climbing. Chance Wright was determined enough to get into the world of winter climbing that he successfully lobbied the school to allow him to pursue the sport as his winter sports option, and I was lucky enough to be able to coach him. Holderness, located in the same area as MMG operates, is ideally suited for such a sports option. In the winter, classes end around noon, giving us half the day to get out to a local ice crag or mountain and practice skills. Our weeks generally consisted of 3 days of climbing on ice, all over central and northern NH. These days often involved practicing technical skills as well, such as building anchors or setting up rappels. The remainder of the days were usually spent on a brisk hike on the surrounding mountains, building endurance for an end of season objective. Last year, that objective was Pinnacle Gully on Mt Washington. This year, we did the 9 mile Franconia Ridge Traverse in full on winter conditions. Additionally, Chance was able to wrap up this season by leading his first ice climb.
Progression: Chances second day on ice (Apocalypse Gulley), Pulling the roof on his first WI5 (Geographic Factor), and his first ice lead (Bloodline)
Taking skills on the road: A christmas vacation trip to Ouray CO
Last Season’s Objective: Pinnacle Gulley on Mt. Washington
This years original objective was Lincoln’s Throat on the Franconia Ridge. An unstable snow pack, and violent winds forced us to amend this plan to traversing the ridge. Having to change our plans was perhaps the most valuable lesson Chance learned in 2 years. Always listen to the mountains.
Chance is incredibly lucky to be going off to college with the skills and experience he already has in the mountains. I’m sure one of the biggest lessons he learned, as we all have, is that these mountain sports offer a lifetime of learning, and his education has just begun. Chance, I wish you the best in this journey, and am eager to see where it takes you! Thanks, for letting me be a part of that process.
Nick. Doing what he is supposed to be doing. On a frozen alpine lake in the White Mountains
This week, Nick, a long time guest came back to New Hampshire for his annual Mt. Washington week. Each February for some time now Nick returns to Mt. Washington. Nick has climbed around the world and continues to set lofty climbing goals at home and abroad. Yet the one mountain he keeps coming back to is New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. There must be something special about this place.
Taking a moment to enjoy the sun.
Nick does not spend the entire week on the mountain. In fact during the week, he only spends one day on the mountain. Instead Nick and I have set smaller goals to help prepare our bodies and minds for the challenges of Mt. Washington and mountains abroad.
Preparing for bigger summits, Nick climbing the steep water ice of New Hampshire.
“Its about the process” Nick often states. Each day out helps me prepare for what lies ahead. “The mountains provide us a unique perspective”. “You are where your supposed to be, doing what your supposed to be doing” are other sayings Nick seems to live by. One thing I am certain of, Nick loves the mountains, he loves the people he goes there with, and the summit is secondary to the process.
The big picture.
It is inspiring to spend time with a climber who’s ego does not interfere with the enjoyment of each moment. To spend time with a climber who elation for simply being where he is matches the elation reaching the summit. Every climber could learn from Nick. What is it that keeps us coming back to the hills anyhow? Is it the summit? Or is it the process of getting there?
Documenting one of the views his process affords him.
Thank you Nick for an amazing week in the hills. Good luck this weekend on Mt. Washington.
Each week is so different in the guiding I do. I move around NH and Vermont climbing on the ice climbs, different peaks and all over the rock faces. It is a very challenging and exciting line of work that I love. This past weekend after a week on the ice I met up with a great group of new climbers and headed to the peaks to learn and practice skills for a couple of winter ascents. Our prep led us to climb NH’s big one – Mt Washington.
Ten of us summited the mountain in whiteout conditions. Being on top with this group was a fantastic experience for sure. We were able to climb efficiently and safely up and down – and all came home with great memories of a weekend adventure that will last a while.
Enjoy the trip photos of our Mt Washington climb.
The group on the way up.
For many reasons, Mt. Washington is a sought after summit for many climbers and hikers. Its no surprise why; the tallest summit in the North East, the largest Alpine area in the east, and during winter it is home to “the worlds worst weather.” Our guides are no strangers to the mountain and its moods; it is this knowledge that helped a group of eight experience the mountain at full value.
Let the training begin.
We approached the mountain in the morning is relatively warm temperatures, and began hiking in our base layers. It seemed warm, with no wind to speak of, and a fresh coating of snow on the trees, it seemed like a winter wonderland. As our group moved higher, eventually breaking treelike, the mountain remained quiet. With temperatures around fifteen degrees F, we could comfortably adjust layers and eat our snacks.
The group now prepared to make a bid for the summit, we departed out resting spot and launched towards the top. The experience of the guides telling them the weather was not going to get any better, and in fact it would only get worse. The pace quickened. Once on the summit cone, the snow was waist deep and the westerly wind was a steady 45mph.
Proof of the top.
Elation was felt as we stepped on the summit. The hard work and training the day before had payed off. A few quick photos for proof, and we were headed down. The forecasts were correct. Within fifteen minutes the mountain showed us what its famous for. The 45mph winds, were now 55+mph blowing snow into without conditions. Needless to say we were no longer in our base layers. Our forms now looked more like medieval knights ready for battle. These layers kept us comfortable and warm as the group worked its way down. The experience of the MMG guides keeping everyone together, covered, and on track.
Once back a treelike, the summit group was buzzing with excitement over reaching the top and experiencing the mountains extreme weather. They learned that with the proper gear and guidance, together they achieved a lofty goal.
Congratulations to the summiteers on your achievement.
We hope to see you again.
Alex, Bob, and Phil
Carolina and David are on a brisk climbing adventure to NH. They left the West Palm Beach area, the 84 degree temps and had to shut down the air conditioning for this trip. The goal to seek out a different type of air conditioning – the type Mt Washington has to offer. Yesterdays weather on the mountain was actually quite pleasant, the Polar Vortex is long gone and we enjoyed above seasonable temperatures with light winds.
Trail conditions were another story – we were greeted with icy trails all the way to the parking lot, wash outs were common from the recent deluge and then above tree line the snow was deep – drifted into all the low spots on the route. Knee deep trail breaking was lots of fun (work) and a good challenge to keep us focused on the goal -Sea to Summit.
Stop here or else!!!
Dave and Carolina fresh, excited and ready for the climb.
Lower mountain trails – like November conditions.
Above treeline travel in the fog and deep snow.
Shot blocks give the needed boost – time to recharge for the summit push.
On the summit – congrats to all!!!
Its was a long day for us – Carolina seeing the light at the end of the path.
Beautiful evening glow as we reached Marshfield Station.
Thank you – Carolina and David for this awesome day on the mountain.
Brothers Nick and Zack joined me last week for an intro to winter travel. We had three days over the weekend to get them into the mountains and experience and array of their offerings. On day 1 we sampled some low angle ice climbing in Kinsman Notch. Nick and Zack got to learn the power of front pointing in crampons and pulling on ice axes, as well as experience the beauty of the White Mountains in winter. On day 2 we did an intro to mountaineering on Welch and Dickey Mountains, learning various techniques for ascending snow slopes of differing angles. The brothers got to dial in their layers and get practice in keeping their hydration and calorie stores where we wanted them. Day 3 was the main event, an ascent of Mt Washington. The boys where apprehensive of this plan at first, but gained excitement throughout the weekend. We were greeted with rather favorable conditions on our summit day. Wind chills in the teens and winds in the 40’s allowed us to get to the summit with minimal suffering!
Thanks for joining us Nick and Zack. Best to both of you in the New year!
Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year – the weather forecast was grim.
I met three Maryland climbers early in Lincoln. Everyone was fired up to go, to learn, to experience, the Mt Washington climb and effect.
Personally I was very anxious – the weather forecasted rain, freezing rain, and high winds – some of the worst conditions to handle on the mountain – it had hypothermia written all over it.
Ice coated the roads, warm moist air and clouds whipped overhead towards the ridge line. We prepped and entered the forested Ammo trail which was covered in deep sloppy snow. One party of youthful men were ahead doing a great job breaking for us. So thankful after memories of last weekends tough trail break on the Lafayette climb.
Steve, Will and Allen kept right on my tail – I was setting a brisk pace to be ahead of the incoming rain. We arrive at Lakes of the Clouds at 10:30 and on the Mt Washington summit by 12:15. This climb was shaping up nicely – to be a fast ascent of the peak. We were over half way.
After quick break on top with layer changes, food – drinks and photos we put on our gortex – goggles and tighten down our kit. We headed into the 60+ winds down the Crawford path. Our descent was slow and steady, the rains hit us as we reched lakes so we kept the move on. By 3:30 we we back at the cars in a soggy but warm state.
This day was a another great adventure on the mountain – thanks to Steve, Will,and Allen for making the long journey for a weekend in NH.
Steve cruising up the Ammo Trail
Today had this type of weather
The team up high on the Crawford Path
Summit has been reached with no view at all.
Time to refuel and replenish!!!
Back at it – time to descend.
We made it to Happy Hour at Woodstock Station and landed these fine seats right next to the fire. Awesome ending to our climb.
Thanks to all – hope to see you soon.