NEIce: “Let the Games Begin”

I could not say it any better than our friends at NEIce: The ice has arrived in Huntington Ravine on the eastern flank of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  For northeasterner ice climbers, the season is beginning in earnest.  Check out the photos on their site and their reports throughout the season!

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Mount Washington: Avoid the Crowds and Take-in Two Consolation Peaks

Last week I covered an ambitious hiking route to the summit of Mount Washington (6,288 ft./1,917 m.) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire from the eastern flank and south along the Presidential massif.  It was not the common way up, but it gave the hiker a lot of terrain above treeline and the potential for an epic adventure.

Another way to get up to the summit is by using the Caps Ridge Trail from the west and bagging two other peaks via the Gulfside Trail.  These paths avoid the two more commonly traversed hiking ways to the weather observatory (and the gift shop), the Jewell Trail and Ammonoosuc Trail.

While the Ammonoosuc Trail is a nice route and brings hikers to within spitting distance of Mount Monroe, and even offers some light scrambling, so does the Caps Ridge Trail.  Plus it is steeper and exposed longer.  This is because the trailhead for the Caps Ridge Trail is the highest trailhead off of a public road.  The trail is steep and portions are made up of narrow ledges for excellent scrambling (if I sounded excited, I could not help it).

This trail is not suitable as an escape route in degrading weather, however.  The warnings I provided last week apply here too.  Bring the Ten Essentials plus a full rain suit, gloves and a wool hat.  If things get dicey (or just breezy) you won’t regret the extra weight in your pack.

In good conditions, and before the ice and snow make it a traditional mountaineering “problem,” the way up is an exciting jaunt up the slope.  Just two-and-a-half-miles distance from the trailhead and a mere 3,000 feet higher, the summit of Mount Jefferson (5,716 ft./1,742 m.) is reached.  In good weather this will provide good views to Mount Clay (5,533 ft./1,686 m.) and Mount Washington to the south, as well as the Great Gulf, the east’s largest glacial cirque to the east.  From Jefferson, travel south on the Gulfside Trail, over Clay, and on to the summit, a total of 5.2 mi./8.4 km. from the elevated trailhead.

  • Roundtrip to Mount Washington: 10.4 mi./16.8 km.
  • Total elevation gained: 3,700 ft./1,128 m.
  • Roundtrip to trip to Mount Jefferson alone: 5 mi./8 km.
  • Total elevation gained: 2,700 ft./823 m.
  • Best Map: AMC White Mountains Map 1 of the Presidential Range

Of course, this route can always be cut back if the gift shop and Niagara-Falls tourists on the summit of Mount Washington are what you are seeking to avoid.  The summit of Jefferson is still a great objective, but if some other peak-goals are in order, then head north on the Gulfside Trail and take a quick detour to Mount Adams (5,799 ft./1,768 m.) and perhaps even Mount Madison (5,366 ft./1,636 m,).  Both peaks and the routes between them are also exposed above treeline.  Happy scrambling!

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Mount Washington: Take the Ambitious Way and Avoid Crowds

Despite some down-sides, Mount Washington (6,288 ft./1,917 m.) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is well worth the visit.  While the crowds can be a bit overwhelming – and the summit itself underwhelming – for we hikers seeking wilderness scenery, the alpine ridges of the Presidential Range are among the longest exposed ridges in the region.  But to avoid the crowds taking the direct trails, rail or the auto road to the summit take the long way up via the Glen Boulder and Lawn Cutoff Trails and take-in an extended tour of the alpine zone.

It has to be noted that the majority of this route is above treeline and will expose a hiker to the threats of the mountain.  Mount Washington has been called the most dangerous small mountain in the world and for good reason: Here the highest recorded wind speed was recorded and many have fallen or suffered from hypothermia in all seasons.  It is recommended that hikers on the mountain know the safest, quickest route to get below treeline if harsh weather comes through.  Bring the Ten Essentials plus a full rain suite, gloves and a wool cap.  The first time I climbed in the range was during the month of August and I used the gloves and the cap against the wind; I was grateful I packed them.

This long route from the east avoids the popular Tuckerman Ravine Trail as well as the auto road well to the north.  The trailhead is located on Route 16 less than a mile south of the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  The Trailhead starts at 1,829 ft./557 m. and within two mi./3.2 km. and an ascent of about 2,800 ft./853 m. the trees give way to the alpine zone.  The trail takes you over Slide Peak (4,806 ft./1,465 m.), a moderately prominent high point along the ridge.  Shortly thereafter, the trail comes to a tee at the Davis Path; going right takes you north toward the summit.  Continue walking along the field or “lawn” of boulders the size of love seats for 1 mi./1.6 km. to the Lawn Cutoff Trail junction.  If the weather is clear you’ll clearly the see the summit and know to continue north for just under 1 mi./1.6 km.  Returning by the same paths makes a round trip distance of 11.1 mi./17.9 km.

Alternatively, if you wish to avoid Mount Washington, its gift shop and antennae altogether, from the Lawn Cutoff junction you can take the Camel Trail to the Crawford Path heading south and bag Mount Monroe’s summit (5,372 ft./1,637 m.).  It is also a reasonably satisfying hike.  The total trip is roughly equidistant.

  • Roundtrip to Mount Washington: 11.1 mi./ 17.9 km.
  • Total elevation gained: 4,459 ft./1,359 m.
  • Roundtrip to trip to Mount Monroe alone: 10.2 mi./17.3 km.
  • Total elevation gained: 3,543 ft./1,080 m.
  • Best Map: AMC White Mountains Map 1 of the Presidential Range

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