We all met in Pinkham Notch at the base of Mt. Washington’s northeast side. Members of the trip from all aver; DC, to Campton, NH and places in-between. Even after our quick introductions and gear review, I knew this was going to be a fun trip.
With warm temperatures we started up the Tuckermans Ravine Trail, towards our destination of the weather observatory on the summit of Mt. Washington. The wide groomed trail allowed for good conversation, pictures and movement techniques. At the start of the Tuckermans winter trail we dawned our crampons, retrieved our ice axes and stowed our trekking poles. Now prepared for the steep trail ahead we climbed together towards tree line.
On a trip like this one it’s always interesting when our large group passes other climbers on the mountain. Due to the fact that we are only going half way and staying at the top, we were climbing late in the day. Other climbers on the mountain approached us with concern, but when they learned of our intentions to stay overnight on the summit they passed us – jealous.
The team kept a casual pace from Lion’s Head to the summit. Wind gusts neared 50 mph, and light precipitation fell, while fog moved in. Even though this we a brief dose of what Mt. Washington has in store for climbers, it was nice for our guests to see how quickly the weather can turn. At sun set we were around 200 feet from the summit, finishing the climb in the low light of dusk. After a few photos on the summit we headed inside.
It was a long day on the mountain and when we walked inside the weather observatory (OBS for short) we were thankful for the homemade corn chowder that was waiting for us. Warm and dry we got settled and waited for dinner. The two very welcoming volunteers served dinner. The OBS weather staff and our group of climbers were thankful for the family style dinner. After dinner we were treated to a tour of the weather instrumentation of the OBS, a real treat! Cheesecake with strawberries and tea rounded off our evening and we retired to our warm bunks.
Due to the fog we couldn’t see the sunrise, but it allowed us to sleep in. Again the volunteers whipped up a great breakfast. We ate then geared up for a climb of the OBS tower, where the weather instrumentation is held. In order for a weather station to be considered legitimate the instrumentation must be held 30 feet off the ground. This is so the ground will not influence the readings.
We came down off the tower, dawned our crampons and headed down. We took a little detour to experience more of the mountain. Walking down the auto road for a bit before cutting over to Ball Crag. Named after an early survivor of misadventure on the mountain. From there we cut across the Alpine Garden; an area in the summer known for its rare plant life. Upon reaching this area the fog began to clear and we were treated with an undercast of clouds blanketing the valley. Many pictures were taken and high fives were passed around.
We continued down, passed Lions Head, and used a rope to aid our decent down the steep sections we cruised up the day before. With smiles from ear to ear we walked down the remainder of the Tuck’s trail proud of our accomplishment. After some goodbyes we went our separate ways.
Temps: Record warmth hovering around +40F. Winds: 25 – 35 with gusts to 50.
In reflection, I am always blow away at the people I meet. As a guide I go into the mountains with people from all over. There are many vacation options out there to choose from; however, few are as rewarding as a winter ascent of Mt. Washington.
Thank you to all who made this trip possible – Alex
Guides Jim Gagne, Alex Teixeira and Bob Blais.