David, an endurance athlete and mountaineer has had years of experience climbing in mountain ranges around the world. Coming from Great Britten, David cut his teeth in the Scottish Highlands and with frequent trips to the Swiss and French Alps he has built an impressive resume. Imagine my excitement when David called looking for a guide.
Recently relocating to the U.S. David was left missing his easy access to the Alps, and craving the alpine. Although our little White Mountains don’t quite size up to the Alps, they do offer many adventures that are well worthwhile. David and I had the perfect day to experience one of these great adventures “Pinnacle Gully”.
Mt. Washington and the Presidential range is the East Coast’s largest alpine expanse. Traversing the ridge from north to south or south no north can immerse the mountaineer in a world unlike the surrounding valleys and hills of the northeast. The crags, ravines, cirqus, and wind whipped landscape let you know you are in the mountains, and the 4,000 feet of elevation gain make you earn it. Our trip into this landscape didn’t disappoint.
This past weekend in the Whites felt more like late April than early March. An epidemic of warm temperatures, rain, and lack of snow has plagued the region all winter season. Despite this, many of our ice climbs remained in great shape, including Pinnacle Gully. In fact the first pitch was in the best shape I have ever seen. Warm hands and light layers, were just another added benefit to our climbing adventure.
David and I started up the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail at 7:15am; the first day of Daylight savings time, the sun was much lower in the sky than the previous day. The ground still frozen from the overnight temperatures’, we used micro spikes right from the start. We motored up the trail reaching the base of Pinnacle just before 9:00am ready to send. Did I mention David was a marathon runner?
Winds were still whipping up high, funneling down the gully with a vengeance. Fast enough that all climbing had to stop during the gusts. Somehow the Blue Bird skies and mild temperatures made the wind, not so bad… only adding to the joy of the experience.
The climbing brought us 4 pitches of perfect ice and neve’, only passing a few open holes in the ice. The final pitch, perfect 40 degree snow slope put us back in the sun. From there a fast paced traversing ascent of the east snowfields deposited us on the summit at noontime, just in time to meet another MMG team.
The weather was so perfect, David and I decided to head down the other side of the mountain with the other MMG team. Once down we would get a ride back over to the other side of the mountain. Down we went passing the great gulf, and down the ridge with beautiful views of the southern presi’s and Burt’s Ravine. Taking our time to enjoy with alpine, we were down by 3pm, and back to our cars by 4pm.
Thinking back, David’s training as an endurance athlete helped us experience the mountain in its entirety. I get tremendous joy out of covering a lot of mountain terrain quickly. There is something about the freedom of movement that provides this joy. Maybe it’s the alignment of so many factors; fitness, skill, weather, gear, conditions, partners. I think trying to describe it will never do it justice. I am glad to have shard this day with such a willing partner, and I look forward to next time.
Thank you David for a great day in the hills.