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Acrophobe
11-04-2007, 03:30 PM
My apologies if they've been asked a million times before.:)

Anyway, ever since my dad took me on a climb of Mount Chocorua at the age of seven, I've harbored an affection for the White Mountains. Since then, I've climbed (mostly with my dad) Chocorua a few more times, Katahdin in Maine, Whiteface, Passaconaway, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington itself a few times, including the best climb of my life up Huntington Ravine.

For years, I've been developing a hobby of photography, and it seems to me that I could get some lovely photos from Washington in winter. It's a view that I imagine few people get to see. However, I've a few questions.

One, my dad is, to be blunt, not quite as young as he used to be. He had difficulty in our last ascent of Washington up Huntington. Consequently, I don't believe I should go with him - I don't think he could do it, and I'm not sure I want the responsibility of tending to him. Unfortunately, he's the one with the car. :)

I'm an avid cyclist, but I doubt I could ride the hundred miles or so to Washington (I live in the Rochester, NH area), climb New England's highest peak, and ride back all in one day. This leaves me in need of transportation. I've done some research online, looking for bus routes or train lines that go from here to there, but to no avail so far. Do any of you know of public transportation for that route?

Secondly, I've just read the book 'Not Without Peril', a book describing many deaths and injuries that have occurred on those famed slopes in winter. The narrative mentions mind-bogglingly low temperatures and triple-digits winds. Clearly, that's a bit more then I want to tackle on my first real winter climb. So, what's a good time to make the attempt; not so early as to be unimpressive, but not so late as to be excessively brutal? I was contemplating mid-December as a good time?

Lastly, I was reading about new liability laws, laws that forbid reckless behavior that endangers others. Would a solo ascent in early winter be considered that reckless? Would it be reasonable to expect to be able to make the summit, considering my inexperience in winter climbing? As I've said, I've done it a few times in the past, in better weather.

I thank you in advance for your patience and advice. :)

climbabout
11-04-2007, 09:25 PM
I believe Trailways runs bus service between Boston and North Conway - I think they also stop in Pinkham Notch - you might check them out. Sounds like reading Not without Peril gave you a healthy respect for the mountain - so you should know that brutal winter-like conditions can occur anytime. If it's within your means you would probably be better off looking into one of the guide services in the North Conway area - most of them lead one day winter ascents of Mount Washington throughout the winter. Both EMS and IME are well respected. That may be your best altenative if you don't have an experienced partner. For your first winter attempt - don't gauge your success solely on whether or not you summit, but instead focus on acquiring the winter skills you need for safe mountain travel. There's lots to learn about clothing, nutrition, hydration and self arrest to name a few.
Good Luck.
Tim
p.s. heres a good thread that may be of help to you:
http://mountwashington.org/forums/showthread.php?t=228

Acrophobe
11-06-2007, 08:51 AM
I suppose I'll try Trailways, then. It's a bit far to walk. :)

And I was reading about guides in that book, but I didn't know there still were services like that. Unfortunately, I'm a college lad who rides his bike everywhere because gas is too expensive. :)

Do you think it's reasonable to make the attempt alone, as long as I'm prepared to turn back if things are excessively brutal? Have you ever done it?

Charlie
11-06-2007, 05:28 PM
Do you think it's reasonable to make the attempt alone, as long as I'm prepared to turn back if things are excessively brutal? Have you ever done it?


i would not do this in the winter but thats me

if you post what the date that you are doing this maybe some one will go with you or there are other sites you can post when you are going and you may find a partner

Bill O
11-06-2007, 06:13 PM
If you're looking for a winter ascent you need to climb the mountain in the winter, 12/21 to 3/21. If you want a winter-like ascent those conditions can be found anytime between October and June, plus or minus a few months.

I wouldn't worry too much about the reckless law. It's poorly defined, probably unenforceable and I'm guessing you'll do enough research to bring yourself above the level of a reckless hiker.

A solo winter ascent of Mount Washington is a big deal. True, you can get lucky and cruise up to the summit on a calm, 40F degree day in February with bright sunshine, but that is the exception to the rule.

At this point I'd keep doing research, learn more about mountaineering. Maybe join a hiking club at school. Climb Mount Washington in the summer. Take a trip up to Tuckerman Ravine on a sunny weekend in the spring.

You can get a real winter type experience in April. Snow all the way to the base, steep snow climb up Lion's Head with crampons and ice axe. With slightly less risk than the middle of winter. Longer days and a good forecast can make the difference.

Brad
11-06-2007, 06:24 PM
I do Mt Washington alone in the summer. I pick my days and watch the weather. I have gone into the base of Tuckermans Headwall in the winter (Feb) - but I picked my weather right. I would not even think about going up above there alone in the winter. Even on a great weather day. The weather can turn on you so fast. Getting out there and staying safe builds your experiences and you learn more about what it takes to be out there in minus 35 degree wind chill - on a very good day - when you are out of the wind. It is a fun thing to do and I am hoping on getting back into Tucks this winter.

Keep us posted on what you decide to do.

KD Talbot
11-06-2007, 08:21 PM
I always suggest climbing something less challenging and getting some experience first. You mentioned Chocorua, a good place to start. Some of the Southern Presidentials are good starting hikes, Jackson, Pierce, and Eisenhower would all be good learning trips. You need to become familiar with your equipment and your abilities. December can be brutal anywhere in the Whites, let alone Washington. I like Bill's suggestion about going up in April and getting a feel for the area around Tucks when it's covered in ice and snow. I do most of my winter climbing in February and March, you can catch some real nice days then. If you can't afford to go on a guided climb, you might want to check here:

http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/index-vftt.html

Check the trips and events threads. You may be able to hook up with some of these people to make the climb, you can probably even catch a ride up. You need to be a member to participate over there, and you need a sponsor to become a member. There are people here, including myself, who will sponsor you if you promise to be a good member and obey the rules of posting, which I feel you would do. Learn all you can about winter hiking and don't let "Not Without Peril" spook you too much. Most of those people were woefully unprepared or made foolish decisions to push on when they should have turned back, although, every now and then the mountain claims someone who did everything right. It's just the nature of the sport. Winter hiking has its risks, but if you are mentally and physically prepared and well equipped it can be extremely rewarding. There is no shame in failing to reach the summit for any number of reasons. The mountain will always be there another day.

KDT

climbabout
11-06-2007, 09:24 PM
The greatest risk I see with a solo attempt in winter is sustaining some type of debillitating injury such as a blown out knee, broken ankle etc above treeline. Being alone you have no one to go for help or to help you down the mountain. An injury like that could easily occur and spending a night above treeline in winter alone usually does not end well. On top of that, cell service is erratic at best - so calling for help is not a reliable option. As a novice winter hiker I would strongly discourage a solo winter attempt. You can see why it's also a good idea to carry a sleeping bag and some type of emergency bivy sack - it could well save you or a friend's life. Winter experience is best gained in the safety of a group or in the company of an experienced partner or guide - your life is worth that patience. Although I have never travelled alone in the winter - after gaining years of exerience I probably would venture out alone only if the conditions were perfect and if I knew there would be other climbers on the route that day, should I need assistance. But again you need to be prepared for the possibility of spending a night out and being able to take care of yourself.
Good luck and have patience.
Tim

mk10
11-06-2007, 10:12 PM
Do you think it's reasonable to make the attempt alone...That's a question that only you can answer. You've done some climbing, are physically fit, and assuming that you have all the proper winter gear, you should be able to make the attempt safely.


...as long as I'm prepared to turn back if things are excessively brutal?Irregardless of whether or not you are alone, you should ALWAYS be prepared to turn around if things get really bad.


Have you ever done it?
Yes, I've summited during the wintertime solo and I'm sure others here have done so as well. I knew beforehand that this feat was well within my capabilities and I prepared for it accordingly. If I had any doubts about being able to do it safely I wouldn't have even tried.

Unfortunately I will probably not be climbing Mt. Washington this winter. I'll be doing Mt. Adams in January though, if you want to tag along for that climb you're more than welcome.

Mark

Acrophobe
11-09-2007, 09:37 AM
Yes, I've summited during the wintertime solo and I'm sure others here have done so as well.


That must have been great. What trail did you go up? I was planning to try the easier Nelson Craig trail if I go. And was that nice summit building up there open in winter? Last time I went, the visibility was about three and a half feet, reduced even further by mist buildup on my glasses. So, instead of enjoying the view, we just went in and had coffee... :)


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v310/Geeeeeeek/100_0581.jpg


I'll be doing Mt. Adams in January though, if you want to tag along for that climb you're more than welcome.


You'd really invite someone you don't even know to come with you? I'm flattered. :)

And if that's a serious offer, I might well be interested - though my school schedule's a bit fuzzy for that month.



I always suggest climbing something less challenging and getting some experience first. You mentioned Chocorua, a good place to start. Some of the Southern Presidentials are good starting hikes, Jackson, Pierce, and Eisenhower would all be good learning trips.



You're probably right - it doesn't really make sense to try to biggest and baddest-tempered mountain in the area without a little experience on smaller climbs first. My dad and I were thinking about Carrigain - anyone ever done that? Or maybe I'll just go to the Bowl of Tuckerman for a first time.

Also, what kind of equipment does one reasonably need? A good coat with a couple extra sweaters, a hat, gloves, boots with a few pairs of socks? I'm reading another book about an group who stayed on the summit during the winter of 1870 -71 and it describes wading up the mountain in waist deep snow. It's been a while since I was short enough for the snow around here to be waist deep, but even now I can remember how hard it was. I assume snowshoes are prerequisite as well? My dad has an employee's discount at an outdoor sports outfitter, and he got some snowshoes that claim to be good for climbing.

Thank you all for your advice.

EricJ
11-09-2007, 01:21 PM
If I were you, wait until March. You can go it alone, but you will have plenty if company.
Sign the register at the AMC store at Joe Dodge lodge. Then sign again at HoJo’s at Hermit Lake. Now people close by, know you are up there. They also have up to the minute weather reports and advice as to whether it’s safe to go. Bring a pair of walkie talkies and leave one at HoJo’s.
You will find skiers on Hillmans Highway, in the Bowl and up on the upper snowfields. Hillmans is a good way to ascend. From the top of the Bowl follow the rock piles past Lake in the Clouds.
For gear, dress in breathable layers. You’ll be pealing them off as you go and you don’t want any of them soaked in sweat. I’m not a big fan of a heavy coat. Polarfleece layers and Gortex outers are the way to go. Extra sox and T-shirt are a must. I strongly suggest a survival fanny pack; Solar blankets, trash bags, tin cup, long burning short candles, lighter, first aid, tea, hot chocolat, energy bars, LED flashlight and compass. Add to it, as you feel fit. Don’t forget water. As far as snow shoes, the small ones with ice cleats built in should do fine.
You can always stay at Joe Dodge if you miss transportation back. Dinner and breakfast are included. It’s a hike you’ll always feel proud of and the memory of the stark white vastness won’t go away. Excellent adventures don’t come any better. Hike safe

Bill O
11-09-2007, 01:39 PM
You won't need snowshoes on this hike. But you will need crampons and an ice axe. As for trails you'll want to take the Lion's Head winter route. Its the safest, most direct route to the summit in winter.

Also, leave your sweaters at home. Gore-Tex, down, fleece and long underwear is what you need.

Honestly, I've never heard of leaving a two-way radio at Hermit Lake. That's not something people generally do. In fact, if you are taking he normal winter route you wont come close to Hermit Lake Shelter. The cut off for Lion's Head is a significant distance down the trail. Going to Hermit Lake is way out of the way in the winter.

Have you considered renting a car? I know its not as cheap as a bus but the convenience factor is infinitely greater than a bus. The rural areas of New England aren't exactly known for excellent public transportation.

Sorry to be so blunt but reality is what it is, and you're not going on a tour of a Tootsie Roll factory. This is the real deal.

climbabout
11-09-2007, 02:16 PM
Ditto Bill O's advice regarding the Lion Head winter route. This route was cut in years ago to roughly follow a spine of the mountain from partway up the tuckerman ravine trail to a rock outcropping known as lion head. Since it largely follows the height of land it is the safest route from an avalanche standpoint. Other routes in tuckermans can be safe, but it largely depends on the recent weather and snow and wind activity, most routes in Huntington ravine are highly technical. Nelson Crag is above treeline for quite a distance and it is quite a bit longer than the lion head route - I descended it years ago in the summer and I recall thinking at the time it would make a poor route in the winter. Long, exposed, lots of big boulders - it would probably very unpleasant in the snow.
For clothing here's a great resource:

http://emsclimb.com/equipment_lists/mountaineering_washington.htm

This is a physically demanding climb - often the biggest challenge down low is not overheating and sweating - you'll be surprised how little clothing you need when actually climbing.
Good Luck
Tim

EricJ
11-09-2007, 03:13 PM
I agree with you both, Bill and Tim. I felt though, as he is young and going it alone, the Tuckerman’s route would be more populated all the way through the upper snowfields. Also, being a skier, I selfishly chose that route. I’ve enjoyed it a few times. The ride down can’t be beat.
I must say though, I’ve never done it alone. It would be prudent and easy to find someone at Joe Dodge to go with.

Acrophobe
11-09-2007, 05:07 PM
Haha, I've heard about people doing that - skiing down Tuckerman's. I tip my hat to you, sir. Seems like borderline suicide to me, but whatever floats yer boat. :)

Speaking of which, how much traffic is there usually that time of year?

And now that you mention it, Lion's Head would probably be better - I came down it a month or two ago because my dad didn't want to try to descend on the Huntington Ravine trial and I remember it being quite a bit tamer.



Have you considered renting a car? I know its not as cheap as a bus but the convenience factor is infinitely greater than a bus. The rural areas of New England aren't exactly known for excellent public transportation.


As a matter of fact, I have considered that. I was looking for bus routes first, but there seems to be precious little that heads up that way. I found a Greyhound route, but it takes twelve hours to get from Rochester to Pinkham Notch. I could bike it in half that time. :)

So that's probably what I'll do. Like you say, the convenience factor is far greater then a bus. With my luck, I'd probably arrive at the parking lot just in time to see the bus leaving. :)

Also, what's Joe Dodge? I read about him in that book I mentioned earlier - is the base house at Pinkham Notch called that?

Bill O
11-09-2007, 05:08 PM
I agree with you both, Bill and Tim. I felt though, as he is young and going it alone, the Tuckerman’s route would be more populated all the way through the upper snowfields. Also, being a skier, I selfishly chose that route. I’ve enjoyed it a few times. The ride down can’t be beat.
I must say though, I’ve never done it alone. It would be prudent and easy to find someone at Joe Dodge to go with.

I guess Tuck's is an option later in the season, but avalanches are always a possibility. Lion's Head pretty much takes that threat out of the equation. You may be able to stomp down Tuck's on a warm spring day, but if it doesn't soften up I would not want to walk down.

To the original poster. Not only do you need crampons and ice axe, you actually need to know how to use them. Seems silly, but crampons actually have a learning curve, it takes times to get used to them.

Breeze
11-09-2007, 07:46 PM
Acrophobe..

Look at these sites for some important stuff.... what you need to mountaineer above treeline.

http://www.winterschool.org/WMS%20Student%20Handbook.pdf

http://www.chauvinguides.com/eguip.htm

When you ask < what is Joe Dodge Lodge, and if there will be hot coffee at summit of Mt Washington in November>, you give yourself away as needing to do some more research into what you are contemplating.

Please take some more time to think about tackling the Northern Presi's in winter.

Breeze

KD Talbot
11-09-2007, 09:00 PM
I'm sorry for the repitition, but I just saw this thread and thought these highlights were worth repeating:

Acrophobe:: You're probably right - it doesn't really make sense to try to biggest and baddest-tempered mountain in the area without a little experience on smaller climbs first.

Climbabout: As a novice winter hiker I would strongly discourage a solo winter attempt.

Eric J: For gear, dress in breathable layers. You’ll be peeling them off as you go and you don’t want any of them soaked in sweat. I’m not a big fan of a heavy coat. Polarfleece layers and Gortex outers are the way to go. Extra sox and T-shirt are a must. I strongly suggest a survival fanny pack; Solar blankets, trash bags, tin cup, long burning short candles, lighter, first aid, tea, hot chocolat, energy bars, LED flashlight and compass. Add to it, as you feel fit. Don’t forget water.

Bill O: You won't need snowshoes on this hike. But you will need crampons and an ice axe. As for trails you'll want to take the Lion's Head winter route. Its the safest, most direct route to the summit in winter.

Also, leave your sweaters at home. Gore-Tex, down, fleece and long underwear is what you need. (polypro long underwear)

Climbabout: Nelson Crag is above treeline for quite a distance and it is quite a bit longer than the lion head route - I descended it years ago in the summer and I recall thinking at the time it would make a poor route in the winter. Long, exposed, lots of big boulders - it would probably very unpleasant in the snow.

Acrophobe: And now that you mention it, Lion's Head would probably be better - I came down it a month or two ago because my dad didn't want to try to descend on the Huntington Ravine trial and I remember it being quite a bit tamer.

Me: For future reference, Huntington Ravine should never be considered for the descent in any conditions.

Breeze: When you ask < what is Joe Dodge Lodge, and if there will be hot coffee at summit of Mt Washington in November>, you give yourself away as needing to do some more research into what you are contemplating.

Please take some more time to think about tackling the Northern Presi's in winter.


Check here for more:

http://www.mountwashington.org/education/edutrips/equipment.php

and here:

http://www.mountwashington.org/about/visitor/winter.php

and here:

http://www.mountwashington.org/about/visitor/surviving.php

KDT

Acrophobe
11-09-2007, 09:54 PM
Well, after thinking about it, and listening to a lot of the advice posted here, I think I'll forego the Washington ascent this winter and instead try Chocorua via Piper trail and maybe Carrigain instead. No need to add to an already long list of incidents because of inexperience. Perhaps next year when I've got a few winter climbs under my belt...

Anyways, thank you all for your patience and advice. I know rank amatuers like me must be kinda annoying. :)

mk10
11-10-2007, 12:15 AM
Well, after thinking about it, and listening to a lot of the advice posted here, I think I'll forego the Washington ascent this winter...

Reaching the summit shouldn't be thought of as the be all and end all of an ascent. Why not just go up from Pinkhams and end at the Hermit Lake shelters as was previously mentioned? Or do some of the other trails below treeline? This should keep you out of trouble until you have the experience/equipment to venture up further. In addition to getting a bit of a feel for wintertime hiking, you will also get the chance to meet other hikers--many of whom will graciously offer you valuable face to face advice to further assist you in advancing your climbing skills.

Let us know how everything works out and keep us up to date with a trip report.

KD Talbot
11-10-2007, 08:49 AM
Chocorua is an excellent way to get some winter climbing experience. I've done the Piper Trail in winter and it is a great hike. You are below treeline and protected from the west until the last few hundred yards. If you're there in the wind it will give you some idea of what being on Washington can be like, and you can get down out of the wind easily whereas on Washington you can't. The craggy summit cone is usually scoured of ice and snow, but there may be patches you have to cross to summit, so you may or may not get a chance to use crampons.

If considering Carrigain keep in mind you will have to hike in on Sawyer Road adding considerable distance and time to the hike. I still think if you are interested in getting some winter, above-treeline experience the Southern Presidentials are the best place to learn. The Pierce-Eisenhower Loop will give you a feel for most things you will encounter in a less harsh environment than Washington.

KDT

climbabout
11-10-2007, 08:52 AM
Well, after thinking about it, and listening to a lot of the advice posted here, I think I'll forego the Washington ascent this winter and instead try Chocorua via Piper trail and maybe Carrigain instead. No need to add to an already long list of incidents because of inexperience. Perhaps next year when I've got a few winter climbs under my belt...

Anyways, thank you all for your patience and advice. I know rank amatuers like me must be kinda annoying. :)

I don't think you're annoying at all. You just need some experienced company for your first time up Mt Washington in the winter.

If everyone approached winter mountaineering with caution, research, and the seeking of advice that you are doing here, there would be far fewer incidents in the mountains needing rescue or worse yet recovery. We were all in your shoes at some point in time. KD sums up all our thoughts nicely in his post. I think all of us share the same love of the mountains and the desire to help others enjoy them safely and responsibly.

Also MK10 makes a great point - about reaching the summit should not be the be all end all goal - I've turned back many times at treeline or at Lion Head beacuase of poor conditions - but still had a great experience. Climbing a mountain is like a multi-course meal - there's much to be enjoyed along the way. Returning safely though is always the most important goal.

As a footnote:

I usually make a trip north with my family during the winter to do some Mt Washington climbing with my son(who's not much older than you). If I do so this winter I'll pm you - perhaps we can hook up.
Tim

Charlie
11-10-2007, 09:01 AM
I don't think you're annoying at all. You just need some experienced company for your first time up Mt Washington in the winter.

If everyone approached winter mountaineering with caution, research, and the seeking of advice that you are doing here, there would be far fewer incidents in the mountains needing rescue or worse yet recovery. We were all in your shoes at some point in time. KD sums up all our thoughts nicely in his post. I think all of us share the same love of the mountains and the desire to help others enjoy them safely and responsibly.

Also MK10 makes a great point - about reaching the summit should not be the be all end all goal - I've turned back many times at treeline or at Lion Head beacuase of poor conditions - but still had a great experience. Climbing a mountain is like a multi-course meal - there's much to be enjoyed along the way. Returning safely though is always the most important goal.

As a footnote:

I usually make a trip north with my family during the winter to do some Mt Washington climbing with my son(who's not much older than you). If I do so this winter I'll pm you - perhaps we can hook up.
Tim


very good advice and to all be safe up there so you can enjoy it another day .

and also so you can make it back to post your pictures :D

Brad
11-10-2007, 05:36 PM
Here are pictures from a great day in February when I hiked back into Tuckermans Ravine. I was solo but I knew with the excellent weather there would be others out there. Pick your day right and that hike can be loads of fun.

http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet/hikes/2005_hikes/02_tuckermans/

Steve M
11-10-2007, 06:36 PM
Here are pictures from a great day in February when I hiked back into Tuckermans Ravine. I was solo but I knew with the excellent weather there would be others out there. Pick your day right and that hike can be loads of fun.

http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet/hikes/2005_hikes/02_tuckermans/
Nice pics. Maybe I should plan a late winter or early spring trip to enjoy that.;)

Acrophobe
11-11-2007, 10:01 AM
Spectacular photographs, Brad. Looking at that headwall, I can't imagine skiing down that. Must be an awful lot of snow there, though - I remember Tuckerman's as being a field of car sized boulders - not exactly a comfortable ride down. :)

This is about the closest to winter mountain pictures I have. :)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v310/Geeeeeeek/MonolithIII.jpg

Also, that would be great, climbabout. Like I said, I'd go with my dad, but, well, he took four hours to climb it in summer. :)

donnellyvj
11-12-2007, 04:40 PM
Yes, great pics. Looks like a prefect day. We summited yesterday. The perfect weather as well. Nice and windy coming over Lionshead. :D

rockin rex
11-14-2007, 11:27 AM
Anyone that is looking to do a winter ascent of Washington, this thread has covered ALL bases. The info here is amazing and it goes to show how the more experienced climbers are always willing to share what they know. I myself having done a few solo winter climbs up Washington would not recommend it. As Tim says one thing goes wrong and you are on your own. Washington in winter is brutal and it is not forgiving. The best way to climb the rock pile in the winter is with a group of friends or a guided group. Eastern Mountain Sports climbing school has some incredible guides that take people up all winter. Let them teach you and then as has been done with this thread pass on the knowledge. Good luck in your winter climbs.