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rockin rex
10-12-2006, 12:20 PM
:eek: Seems there are many threads in reference to finding out info on climbing Washington in Fall and Winter. Maybe if we can put all the info in one place it would be easier. What lodging is open in fall and winter. Harvard Cabin open?? Grey Knob the Perch? What is the best Fall / winter route. What equipment is needed? ( Crampons, ice ax, snow shoes, googles) What are the best clothes to wear? Maybe if we can get some imput of those who have hiked Washington in Fall and Winter it will help others. The one problem I had was above tree being able to know where I was in blowing snow. What is the best way to orient yourself above tree when all makers are covered?? Hopefully we can get some answers to those who are wondering about hiking in fall and winter. Thanks all, for your imput and enjoy your hike.

davidhowland14
10-22-2006, 10:59 PM
I would definetaly like to have some information on this winter hiking thing. Thanks to whoever posts any.

afmrintern
10-24-2006, 11:49 AM
Probably a good idea to start with the info that already exists...

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

Advice and stories can now safely proceed!

davidhowland14
10-24-2006, 12:45 PM
yeah, I'v already seen that info. It didn't really help much. All it says is that you should be prepared for everything, sudden weather changes, blaa, blaa, blaa.

nevis_highwire
10-24-2006, 01:04 PM
I'm not sure you are going to find any one source that is going to hold your hand all the way to the summit. Winter mountaineering skills aren't gained on a single webpage, they are accumulated over time.

My first suggestion is to read "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills." This book is a bible for mountaineers. It is huge, but its a great read. Next, search all over the internet. Google works remarkably well. You can find the best routes, trip reports, photos, lodging information, weather conditions, etc.

Then you need to get out and go hiking. If climbing Mount Washington in the winter seems overwhelming than it probably is. Do a guided trip to the summit...you could even throw in an overnight at the Observatory. If you are lucky maybe an experienced friend could hike with you to the top. Another plan might be to hike to Tuckerman's on a nice day in the spring. If the weather is good you might be able to sneak to the summit and gain some valuable snow climbing experience.

Finally, start asking questions here.

rockin rex
10-24-2006, 02:49 PM
Nevis seems like you are quite negetive. I really don't think asking questions about climbing Washington in winter is asking someone to hold your hand. We all started some where did we not?? I don't think anyone one day just decided to climb washington in the winter and head up the mountain. Sometimes first hand info from people that have climbed is worthwhile!! I am sorry if you think it is hand holding. Maybe some people aren't as skilled as you in hiking and skiing. I value the info that was given to me that helped me accomplish what I have.

nevis_highwire
10-24-2006, 03:09 PM
Nevis seems like you are quite negetive. I really don't think asking questions about climbing Washington in winter is asking someone to hold your hand. We all started some where did we not?? I don't think anyone one day just decided to climb washington in the winter and head up the mountain. Sometimes first hand info from people that have climbed is worthwhile!! I am sorry if you think it is hand holding. Maybe some people aren't as skilled as you in hiking and skiing. I value the info that was given to me that helped me accomplish what I have.

I don't think my post was negative at all, it just depends on how you read it. That's a big problem with written word, you can't assume a tone.

I thought the link posted on the MWO website was very helpful for winter mountaineering. I meant what I said, there is no single source that is going to tell you everything you need to know about climbing Mount Washington in winter.

So please, ask away. I'd love to answer any questions about climbing Mount Washingont in the winter...to the best of my knowledge.

Brad
10-24-2006, 03:23 PM
Nevis seems like you are quite negetive. I really don't think asking questions about climbing Washington in winter is asking someone to hold your hand. We all started some where did we not?? I don't think anyone one day just decided to climb washington in the winter and head up the mountain. Sometimes first hand info from people that have climbed is worthwhile!! I am sorry if you think it is hand holding. Maybe some people aren't as skilled as you in hiking and skiing. I value the info that was given to me that helped me accomplish what I have.
The idea of climbing Mt Washington in the winter has been interesting to me for years. I owuld not take the comments i have seen so far as being "negative". Realistic maybe. Climbing Mt Washington in the summer on a nice day is something to think about and plan carefully. Study the weather and pick your day. Even in July and August I go with gloves, extra socks, wind gear, rain gear, cold weather layers, knit hat, etc. Having been caught on the ridge in the open when the clouds roll in - wind picks up - it gets wet - and it all turns to snow and your breath freezes on your face as it is blown back at oyu - all in the first week of August --- I have a lot of respect for this mountain. And I have seen way too many people on the mt in the summer who should not be there.

I have graduated to winter hiking back into Tuckermans to take pictures. I would love to go to the summit in the winter but I am realistic - that is a bigger deal than I have ever done and I know I am not ready. It would be interesting to know how some folks got themselves ready to do it. It is not something one should decide to just go do without the proper equipment, planning and preparation - and in my view that takes time.

fluffy
10-24-2006, 03:42 PM
Nevis_highwire pointed out that winter climbing skills take time to accumulate. It can also take a while to aquire the gear. Some salesman would be willing to sell you a couple thousand dollars worth of goretex and such, but it takes time to become familiar with the items.

Start little. Go walk around a local state and freeze your water bottles. Break in your snowshoes in the town forest. If you are an experienced hiker, push your season a little later or hike a little higher. I am heading to the Whites this weekend and will be carrying my snowshoes.

nevis_highwire
10-24-2006, 03:44 PM
I have graduated to winter hiking back into Tuckermans to take pictures. I would love to go to the summit in the winter but I am realistic - that is a bigger deal than I have ever done and I know I am not ready. It would be interesting to know how some folks got themselves ready to do it. It is not something one should decide to just go do without the proper equipment, planning and preparation - and in my view that takes time.

I am very confident that anyone who is in good condition with the proper equipment and training can climb Mount Washington in the winter. They may get turned around by the weather a few times, but you will eventually make it.

If you are completely in the dark about winter climbing and you wouldn't know your crampons from your ice axe I'd suggest a guided climb. It is relatively safe and you will get expert instruction from a patient teacher.

skituxnoob
10-25-2006, 12:23 PM
I spent a month in wyoming rockies, summited washington 6 times in summer, skiid 3 times in april.

THIS is the worst time of year and it doesnt get better until theres a snow base to WALK on, period

I don't think he was negative at all, this is serious stuff.

davidhowland14
10-25-2006, 09:43 PM
I am very confident that anyone who is in good condition with the proper equipment and training can climb Mount Washington in the winter. They may get turned around by the weather a few times, but you will eventually make it.

If you are completely in the dark about winter climbing and you wouldn't know your crampons from your ice axe I'd suggest a guided climb. It is relatively safe and you will get expert instruction from a patient teacher.

And they'll empty your wallet of about $500.

nevis_highwire
10-25-2006, 10:17 PM
And they'll empty your wallet of about $500.

Nobody said this sport was cheap. A small price to pay considering all the equipment you are going to be buying.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Brad
10-26-2006, 05:50 AM
Nobody said this sport was cheap. A small price to pay considering all the equipment you are going to be buying.

Do you have any other suggestions?
A few years ago I went into the REI store in Durham, NC in the winter and said, "I will be doing some hiking in a few weeks and I need layers". They took me to see inner shell, mid-layer, outer layer stuff. When I asked about how cold it could go and still be comfortable with these clothes, they asked how cold would it be when hiking. I said, "about 35 degrees below zero wind chill". They put the stuff back and said, "lets go to this other aisle".

There they had the Patagonia items and I was all set. I have not been cold using this selection. But, my pocketbook was hit a bit harder. Good quality equipment is critical - and I only go into Tuckermans in the winter. It is a long walk out if you are cold.

rockin rex
10-26-2006, 01:24 PM
Brad is 100% correct. I worked at both eastern mountain and campmor in Paramus. You need to buy the exact gear for what you will be doing. I equiped many people and first question I asked was always what would they be using the gear or clothing for. In the summer gortex or other water proof fabric might not be real important but in the winter it could be the difference between life and death. When buying equipment or clothing deal with a good outdoor store and speak up. Let them know what you are going to be up to.
They will steer you where you need to go. Nothing worse than being 10 miles from the nearest road and realizing your gear or clothing is not up to snuff. Getting properly equiped does not have to cost alot. Buying the name brands is what cost and they are not always the best anyway. Buy for what works not the name tag.

climbabout
10-27-2006, 09:53 AM
I would definetaly like to have some information on this winter hiking thing. Thanks to whoever posts any.
David - I may be in a position to offer you some advice about climbing Mount Washington in the winter. I hiked there in the summer many times in my 20's and 30's and began enjoying winter climbing about 15 years ago. I've done many winter climbs on mt washington in the winter - some guided, some unguided. There are plenty of places on the web to get all the info you need regarding gear and clothing, so I won't go into that here. The best advice I can give you is to join a 1 day guided climb with one of the North Conway schools - the 1 day climb is no where near the 500.00 you mention in a previous post and it's well worth the money - they'll teach you all kinds of skills needed to make your climb both safe and enjoyable. Not just climbing skills per se, but personal maintence skills as well which you need in the winter. If you are more inclined to go it on your own, then I highly recommend you read the book "NOT WITHOUT PERIL". It's a great collection of true stories about mishaps on Mt. Washington, dealing with brutal weather, misjudgement, ignorance, and in some cases, just plain bad luck. The effects of severe cold in combination with hurricane force winds(which occur regularly on Mt Washington) cannot be appreciated until you experience them. Knowing how to cope with these conditions - which often come up unexpectedly - take time to master. Many people have the good fortune of climbing above treeline on a rare calm day and get a false sense of what this mountain can be like. I've been above treeline many a time when conditions and the way you are feeling go from comfortable to life threatening in a matter of minutes. The decisions you make during those critical minutes can mean the difference between life and death. A simple mistake like placing a glove down and having it blow away can render a hand useless in minutes. There are lots of little skills you need to be able to travel safely above treeline in the winter. I hope I haven't rambled on too long, but I love winter climbing, and I like to pass that on to others, but remember, fun can turn into tragedy very quickly if you are not prepared. Good luck in your endeavors - I would be happy to help you with any specific questions you may have.
Tim Jones
Climbabout p.s. you may email me privately at tim@masterelectricsupply.com if you wish

KD Talbot
10-28-2006, 11:53 AM
I think Tim offers excellent advice. People die of hypothermia in July on the Presidentials, to give an idea of what conditions can occur. Reading "Not Without Peril" can give a strong respect for the mountain. In my good weather climbs there I carry all the equipment and then some that Brad mentions earlier. I have spent years familiarizing myself with the different trails so that I knew where I was heading, where it would take me and what other trails it would cross or link up with and where they would take me. Reading the trail descriptions in the AMC guide over and over every trip. Learning things like "Huntington Ravine should not be used as a descent route in any weather". Studying the maps over and over, knowing alternative routes by heart and carrying the map with me anyway. I too have spent the time and money to find good equipment, but more importantly I have taken it into the mountains on easier climbs to familiarize myself with its use and to decide if something different wouldn't work better. For real winter beginners I suggest starting out much smaller and learning your equipment and endurance levels. Great beginners winter hikes can be had on such summits as Mount Major in Alton. Welch Dickey in Waterville Valley also offers the chance to get above treeline, but also lots of ice to try out those crampons. For those who wish to go over 4000' try Moosilauke Gorge Brook Trail or Mount Pierce by the Crawford Path. These both are pretty easy and offer excellent winter wind and trail conditions above treeline for beginners to try out new gear and skill levels.

amfrede
10-30-2006, 09:21 AM
One of the things that helped me the most when i was first starting out was training on the more forgiving mountains in the 'dacks. They allow you to practice almost all of your skills needed for Washington while having the security blanket of being able to get below treeline much faster. I recommend a few winter training expeditions to Mt Marcy. With about 300 feet above treeline you can practice placing snow anchors, self arrest, crampon/ax skills and others. Go all out and bring everything you plan to bring to washington with you. Practice rope skills a lot. My first time this was my biggest problem. The conditions in mid february are similar tho not as sever, but at least you'll get a good idea of what to expect. My style is more alpine (light and fast) but there are downsides to this approach. There are times when i've wished i had one more pair of socks but didn't and ended with cold feet for many hours ( a touch of frostbite ), but these are choices we make.

One additional note on water and fluids: Stay hydrated but dont drink too fast. Force yourself to take a sip or two of water every 10 min like clockwork. If you have a hydration pack this is easy at first but the longer you are out there, the more your tube will freeze. This is a problem i have yet to solve ( i've tried many things ) but i recommend blowing the water out of the hose once u finish drinking. It wont stop the water from freezing completely, but it'll last a few hours longer. Keep everything as close to your body and under as many layers as u can. Rarely will the water in the actual hydopack freeze ( tho i have had it happen on long, 17 hour, day trips ). And of course if you camp, put all your water in your sleeping bag with you. Waking in the morning to find your water completely frozen is terrible ( this happened to me on my very first mountaineering trip, i think i cried )


Other than that, have fun, keep a close eye on the weather and don't be afraid to turn around. We all have. We accept that as a real possiblity because we know that this sport is dangerous and often, it is other people's lives that depend on the decisions we make. No mountain is worth a life.

Hope that helps.

SDB777
12-23-2006, 04:15 PM
I remember way back when.....1982. Made three attempts and had to turn around each time due to weather. 1983, I made four attempts....again-defeated due to weather coniditions. 1984.....finally made it to the summit, but couldn't stay long...weather comes rushing in and makes the day pretty bad, pretty quickly.

Those trips, as failed attempts, were lessons. There was no internet back then(remember, we had to go outside and do something), and imformation wasn't easy to get. It had to be earned the hard way.....by the experience of doing. Today, there is a LOT of info out there for all that need it. I look things up all the time......

Get the equipment and go for it! Do you know what temperature 35mm film freezes? I'm not completely sure, but my camera was frozen inside my backpack in 1983(it's in my journal)............


Scott (memories, good thing I wrote them down) B

Plumbutt
12-26-2006, 01:07 PM
I've climbed Mt.Wash a bunch of times during the winter, all during the month of January. The conditions have varied. Some climbs it was around 10 degrees, sunny with winds gusting to only 10-20. Other times, I've been stuck climbing up the summit cone with temps -30 and winds gusting to 80 mph. Although I've summited most of the time, I've also been wise enough to know when to turn back, regardless how close I've been. Two O'clock is usally the cut off time if you havn't reached the summit yet.

Go prepared and hit the trailhead early, around 6 or 7 am. Wear all the appropriate layers, shells, etc. Make sure you have extra gloves and/or mittens as well as extra socks. Goggles are a must.

Crampons and double plastic boots are of course needed as well as a treking pole, mid sized pack (@3k cu), snow axe and plenty of snacks, trailmix, energy bars and gels and hot tea. Don't overheat while treking up the trails, so unzip when conditions permit and zip up when you stop for a break.

Don't glissade down with crampons on and take special care on the descent especially right below treeline going down the ice shoot.

Here is the best advice...

Haul your gear up in a plastic sled. Ditch the sled as you ascend the ice shoot. When you return and hit the main trail, use the sled to sled down to the bottom quicker. This will save your back and legs after a long days climb.

Most of all research the weather beforehand and keep an eye on the sky. Things change quickly in the Whites.

Cheers and safe climbing,
Plumbutt

alpino
12-27-2006, 06:03 PM
For anyone interested in winter hiking I would highly recommend the AMC Winter Hiking Workshop. I attended the course a few years ago and again this year as a refresher. The instruction and reference materials are excelent. Unfortunately, the course offered by the Boston Chapter for winter 2006/2007 is already completed. But you might check with other chapters (NH?). They have similar workshops at different times.
The course I took through the Boston Chapter was very inexpensive ($35 and we met every Tuesday evening for five weeks) and very informative.

Ian
01-01-2007, 03:27 PM
Hello people, nice thread,

How technical is the winter route up Lions head? Is a rope belay necessary at points?
Are snowshoes worthwhile below the treeline?

If it is anything like the summer route than it must be pretty hairy when encrusted with ice.

Thanks,

Bill O
01-01-2007, 04:24 PM
Hello people, nice thread,

How technical is the winter route up Lions head? Is a rope belay necessary at points?
Are snowshoes worthwhile below the treeline?

If it is anything like the summer route than it must be pretty hairy when encrusted with ice.

Thanks,

Neither for Lion's Head. An ice axe and crampons are standard equipment on the most technical section of Lion's Head. Just one mountaineering axe will do, you don't need two short ice tools.

You probably don't need snowshoes on that route either. The lower section is packed down daily by the forest service snow cat and everything above tree line is mixed rock and snow.

Yalcin
01-01-2007, 10:22 PM
Thanks to everyone for this helpful thread. I'm new to the area and have never hiked Washington -- here are two questions I had.

1. Are ropes usually needed in winter? Somebody above recommended experience with ropes, anchors, etc. Others seem to suggest that crampons and an axe will suffice.

2. Do most people use plastic boots, or will heavy leather goretex boots do?

3. I'm interested in skiing down. How challenging are the routes (blackish, blueish)? In particular, how challenging is the least challenging route?

Thanks!

Brad
01-02-2007, 04:57 AM
Thanks to everyone for this helpful thread. I'm new to the area and have never hiked Washington -- here are two questions I had.

1. Are ropes usually needed in winter? Somebody above recommended experience with ropes, anchors, etc. Others seem to suggest that crampons and an axe will suffice.

2. Do most people use plastic boots, or will heavy leather goretex boots do?

3. I'm interested in skiing down. How challenging are the routes (blackish, blueish)? In particular, how challenging is the least challenging route?

Thanks!
Others will give you better answers. But, when I see pictures like this, I watch from the bottom.

http://www.tuckerman.org/photos/05-06tuck/images/2006-01-07%20Justin%20checking%20the%20snow.jpg

rockin rex
01-02-2007, 11:17 AM
Plastic boots and gaiters are a must. There are people who will tell you they have done a winter ascent in leather boots but I can guarentee they wish they were in plastic. If you don't have plastic boots you can rent them at E.M.S. in N. Conway. The boot rental comes with the Crampons. For the normal route up Washington crampons and ice ax will suffice. For the Ravine Headwalls, ropes would be needed. Washington is not an extremely difficult winter ascent by its self but the weather is what makes it so difficult. The weather on Washington is extreme and you need to be prepared for it mentally and physically. As far as skiing just head up to the bowl and take a look around. The routes vary from easy to extreme and you can just ski the routes you are comfortable with. NEVER ski above your ability in Tucks!! If you are a level 3 black skier, then in the right conditions you should be able to ski peak to pink. That is the summit to pinkham. The thing with Tucks is be aware of the avalanche danger. Tucks is 100 percent backcountry skiing and back country ski knowledge is very important. Hope this answered some of your questions.

Bill O
01-02-2007, 12:04 PM
Thanks to everyone for this helpful thread. I'm new to the area and have never hiked Washington -- here are two questions I had.

1. Are ropes usually needed in winter? Somebody above recommended experience with ropes, anchors, etc. Others seem to suggest that crampons and an axe will suffice.

2. Do most people use plastic boots, or will heavy leather goretex boots do?

3. I'm interested in skiing down. How challenging are the routes (blackish, blueish)? In particular, how challenging is the least challenging route?

Thanks!

1. You wont need ropes on Lion's Head, and probably not if you are climbing Tuckerman Ravine headwall. A fall is unlikely in these areas with crampons and ice axe. If you do fall you should be able to quickly self-arrest.

Unless....these routes are pure water ice, then its a different story. You would need ropes, anchors (snow and ice), and 2 ice tools.

2. I agree with Rex. Plastic boots are standard gear in the winter. Rental is convenient down in North Conway. In the spring you can get away with heavy duty leathers that will support crampons, but not in the winter.

3. I would consider everything above tree line to be black. Sure, there are some easy sections, but you'd eventually have to cross over black terrain to get down. One big factor is the variable conditions. Potential for water ice, holes, slabs, etc and the possibility of long, fatal falls.

HikerBob
01-05-2007, 12:18 AM
Have to disagree on the need for plastic boots. A *good* pair of boots is required but plastics are not absolutely necessary.

I hiked three winter seasons in the Whites in Salomon SM Lites and if they still made them I'd have bought another pair. For this season I was convinced I'd need to go the plastics route but every pair I tried were horrible (for my feet at least) and I ended up with a pair of La Sportiva Nepal Evo boots. These cost as much as or more than some plastics but they do the job and in my opinion are a darn sight more comfortable.

So no, plastics are not necessary but good boots are.

Bob

post'r boy
01-05-2007, 05:46 AM
i agree wif hikerbob!!!
i've been climbin' washy in winter for the last 30 years an' i never even owned those plastic contraptions. :)

'member the ol' leather double boots???:)

Bill O
01-05-2007, 10:14 AM
i agree wif hikerbob!!!
i've been climbin' washy in winter for the last 30 years an' i never even owned those plastic contraptions. :)

'member the ol' leather double boots???:)

I agree, there are some nice double leather boots that will get you up Mount Washington most of the time. I just get worried that people hear leather, and think Vasque Sundowner.

rockin rex
01-05-2007, 03:38 PM
Have to disagree on the need for plastic boots. A *good* pair of boots is required but plastics are not absolutely necessary.

I hiked three winter seasons in the Whites in Salomon SM Lites and if they still made them I'd have bought another pair. For this season I was convinced I'd need to go the plastics route but every pair I tried were horrible (for my feet at least) and I ended up with a pair of La Sportiva Nepal Evo boots. These cost as much as or more than some plastics but they do the job and in my opinion are a darn sight more comfortable.

So no, plastics are not necessary but good boots are.

Bob
I guess I should be more clear in what I said in reference to boots. Make sure when you climb the rock pile in the winter the boots you wear keep your feet dry and also keeps them warm. Plastic boots are the norm but there are other boots that will do the job. Leather expedition boots and leather double boots ( Sorel's) are two other boots that work. Just make sure the boot is crampon compatible.

Bill O
01-05-2007, 04:13 PM
When I mean double leather boot this is what I am talking about:

http://a1072.g.akamai.net/f/1072/2062/1d/gallery.rei.com/media/706760_8333Lrg.jpg

post'r boy
01-05-2007, 05:17 PM
When I mean double leather boot this is what I am talking about:

http://a1072.g.akamai.net/f/1072/2062/1d/gallery.rei.com/media/706760_8333Lrg.jpg

i'm drulin'!!! jus' for an example; i've never hiked washy in winter wif a double boot. been up there when it was -35 an' 75 m.p.h. winds. still got the old weather sheet from pinkham for that day! when the conditions were really bad they used to use pink highlightin' markers on the temp and wind speed.
fabiano mountain masters is the boot is was wearin' still got 'em. tough as nails!!
p.s. we were the only two on the summit that day,there was warnin's everywhere not to go up! when we came back down the dude at hermit lake told us we were off our rockers!!! alberta clipper moved in at 1:30 pm and hit like a freight train. we(me and mickey finn) know that mountain like the back of our hands.
talk about whiteout. we literally couldn't tell the ground from the sky,everything was "milk"white!! :D

Bill O
01-05-2007, 05:27 PM
You can get away with a lot in even the most extreme conditions as long as nothing goes wrong. Pretty much every Mount Everest summit is like that. But if you are under equipped and it is -35F there is no room for error. Sure, you can hike and stay relatively warm in leather boots, but if you are forced to stop walking that's when things get bad.

rebtad
01-16-2007, 03:34 PM
I'm preparing for a February hike and getting my gear together. I'm a novice winter hiker, so I am purchasing most of the winter gear right now. My question is what sort of coat is best for the climb? I will have long underwear, two layers of fleece, and a very light waterproof pull-over. I don't know if a large down parka will be too bulky but I know it's got to be better insulated than fleece lining. Suggestions?

rockin rex
01-16-2007, 04:04 PM
What coat should you wear is the million dollar question. The main thing to remember is to dress in layers so if you get to warm you can shead some clothes. You do not want to sweat! Most people wear a thermal top next to the body then a fleece then a wind shell. The temp you will be in determines what weight of layering you go with. I always go with an extra layer in my pack just in case. Bottom line is layer and be comfortable.

KD Talbot
01-16-2007, 08:07 PM
This is going to sound harsh and maybe insulting but Mount Wash is no place for novice winter hikers in February. It is also no place to try to familiarize yourself with new equipment. Have you ever climbed Washington before? On a perfect, windless summer day it can tax even the most athletic. Are you familiar with the trails and different escape routes? A simple wrong decision like "I think I'll descend Huntington Ravine Trail to see what it's like" could get you killed. There are nearly 140 names of people who underestimated this mountain on the wall at the summit, many with years of experience and numerous winter ascensions. You don't want to be next. You don't say whether you are going with an experienced party or not, solo climbs are out of the question. There are many spectacular winter climbs in the Whites that won't involve risking your life. Are you experienced with crampons? How about putting them on or taking them off in 60 mph winds? It's easy to trip yourself up in them, especially if your legs are wobbly from the climb up, this could send you sliding down towards rocks or worse, over a precipice. Are you familiar with self arrest techniques with your ice ax? Were you going to bring one? Getting to the summit is only halfway, most people get in trouble on the way back down where exhaustion, fading daylight and dropping temps can come into play. It is possible that one could climb up and down in perfect sunshine and temps in mid winter, but the odds are definitely against this, and mishaps can come in the most idyllic conditions. I am not trying to snob you off the mountain but I want you to realize that it is a life threatening undertaking you propose. My advice would be get some experience with your new equipment. Then get some experience above treeline in winter. A loop over Pierce and Eisenhower is good for this. When you are comfortable with this then you can think about going for it. Any experienced winter hikers will back what I say, those that don't are living on the edge and will fall over some day.

HikerBob
01-16-2007, 10:38 PM
I second KD Talbot with Washington in February being no place for a novice winter hiker to venture without experienced company and solid trip planning.

Conditions encountered on any Washington climb can range from spring like to arctic merely from elevation change and can deteriorate rapidly... and I'm talking about a summer climb!

While apparently (I stress apparently) balmy at Lakes of the Clouds...
http://www.bobspics.com/hike06/06-01-28/images/021.jpg

Things can be very different near the summit...
http://www.bobspics.com/hike06/06-01-28/images/025.jpg

To that last image you need to add a highest temp of 21* (it was a very warm day!) and an average wind speed of 76mph (MWO stats)

Visibility can also be an issue. Those big buildings... (July 1st)
http://www.bobspics.com/hike06/06-07-01/images/022.jpg

...can disapear easily! (Jan 28th)
http://www.bobspics.com/hike06/06-01-28/images/027.jpg

On the right day a winter climb of Washington is probably easier than that of several other peaks, but it has far greater potential danger.

If you have some winter experience, the proper equipment, experienced company and favorable weather a winter ascent can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. It will doubtless be one not forgotten - just be sure you too are around to remember it.

Bob

rebtad
01-17-2007, 05:24 PM
Thanks for the advice guys. The thing is, I have climbed Mount Washington in the summer and I am a testament to the severe weather. I literally turned purple last August! Anyway, I know it is risky making my first winter ascension on Mount Washington, but I have hired an experienced guide and I'm training pretty intensely for it. I feel prepared for the risks (I just finished the extremely precautionary Not Without Peril) and this mountain has great memories for me so there's no place I'd rather start alpine climbing. I wouldn't be opposed to breaking in the gear on a less challenging route before the climb but I have an intense schedule and can find only one weekend to climb this winter. Go big or go home I guess.

KD Talbot
01-17-2007, 05:56 PM
With this added info I am much more at ease about your climb. Go for it! I am glad to see you have read "Not Without Peril". I was going to suggest it in my last post. If anyone is following this thread and considering a winter climb on Washington I highly recommend it. It will instill a respect for the mountain you may lack. I guess the only other thing I would ask is what route has been chosen. The obvious choice is over Lions Head to Tucks but with the relatively new tradition of plowing the Base Road in to the Cog, approach from the west is now possible. I find the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail easier (well, certainly no harder) than Lions Head. You come out above treeline a few hundred yards from the Lakes of the Clouds Hut so you are relatively protected from the west winds until there. If things prove too nasty at this point you can get below treeline again much quicker than Lions Head and if you doubt your ability to go on to the summit of Washington at this point, you can always settle for Mount Monroe, 15 minutes from the hut in good conditions. Of course the hut will be closed but it makes a great wind block and in the worst scenario can be gotten into to survive. At any rate I personally feel the climb up the Crawford from Lakes is easier than the climb from Lions Head, though it is more exposed to weather from the west. Good Luck and let us know how you do! And don't forget to send pictures!
KDT
Oh by the way, I would go with a mid weight parka, you can never be too warm when you stop. What you don't want to do is sweat when you're climbing!

rebtad
01-17-2007, 06:18 PM
Will do on the jacket. I am going with Lion's Head per the specification of my guide. I'll definately let you all know how it goes. Thanks!

rockin rex
01-17-2007, 07:59 PM
I have climbed Washington in the winter from both the Lions Head route and Ammo Ravine route. I find the Ammo Ravine route MUCH more difficult let me explain why. Above the Gem pool the trail does many stream crossings and crosses over many rock slabs. These rock slabs freeze in the winter and getting across them gets rather difficult. Some of these slabs if you slide your off for a long ride! I also found the trail difficult to follow in the winter with all the stream crossings especially towards the top as the amount of rock slabs increase. The other problem is most people do not use the Ammo Ravine route in winter so if help is needed in emergency you might be waiting awhile. If you want to hike from the Cog side I feel the Jewell trail is a much better choice though you are more exposed to the weather. As far as descending Ammo Ravine route in the winter I have not done that nor do I think I ever will. Those slabs were rough on the way up with the ice I can't imagine trying to come down them. Those of you who have descended Ammo Ravine in the winter you are a better soul than I. I find the Lions Head route much better. The winter climb I did solo recently was over Lions head and I found it vey enjoyable except for the rain and the small section between Alpine Garden and Tuck Ravine trail where I post holed ALOT on the Lions head trail. Maybe I am partial to Lions head but I just find it the best way up in the winter.

HikerBob
01-17-2007, 10:47 PM
rebtad - seems you have everything lined up. I hope you get great weather!

The Ammo route is, in my opinion, probably the easiest. Yes, it is steep after Gem Pool and it does need to be well frozen. Once things are frozen up hikers tend to make a bee-line for the hut after tree line. The problem with this is that you are basically ascending a frozen watercourse. Great as long as you are comfortable on crampons...
http://www.bobspics.com/hike06/06-01-28/images/013.jpg
... and you don't punch through! If it seems a little sketchy it's better to keep to the scrub on the right, but this will be harder work.

The 'Dungeon' is a rather dank, small room at the lower left side of the hut (when approached from the Cog) and is intended as an emergency shelter only. I wish people would stop peeing in it :(

It does offer a nice view...
http://www.bobspics.com/hike06/06-01-28/images/016.jpg

Keep us posted on your prep and climb date.

Cheers,
Bob

climbabout
01-18-2007, 02:37 PM
To answer your original question regarding what coat to bring - I'm not sure if you mean what coat to bring for when you are hiking or when you are at a rest stop - so I'll answer both. You need a good windproof/breathable layer for when you are above treeline and in the wind - something of the gore-tex variety with hood and preferably with zippers in the armpits for ventilation. For rest stops, I bring along a primaloft or down parka with hood - even in the coldest conditions I've never hiked wearing the parka. The couple extra pounds of weight is well worth the effort for the benefit it gives you. That 10 or 15 minute break up at lion head becomes much more comfortable if you put it on as soon as you stop to trap in the body heat you worked so hard to generate. It's also great if you need to stop unexpectedly. Here's how you have to think when packing for a winter hike above treeline - what do I need to bring to survive if I have to spend a night out in the worst possible conditions? My winter pack always includes the usual assortment of winter clothing and at least a sleeping bag and emergency bivy sack and small shovel. 30-35lbs max.
climbabout

rockin rex
01-18-2007, 03:12 PM
Here is a man who has obviously climbed Washington in winter. Everything he said is right on!!!!!!!! Anyone who listens to his advice will do well in a winter ascent of Washington.

kk153
01-18-2007, 05:04 PM
All good advice indeed.. Any other "things I wished I had known the first time" info out there..

I too plan a winter ascent in March along with 2 buddies. I have never climbed Washington (in Summer or Winter) but am familiar with winter hiking/climbing and the do's and don'ts of extreme weather (though I have to say data I have gathered on Washington puts it on the outside edge of even that).

My biggest concern is navigation. Having never done the climb and actually having never seen the mountain, I suppose I could end up relying heavily on my GPS should conditions go South. I know what whiteouts can do and its always the objective hazards (like weather) that freak me out the most.

In any case, we will have prepped well in the even of being "benighted"..

All climbers will have their own bag and bivvy sack and we will have a stove between us as well.

Any tid bits would be appreciated.

kk153

rockin rex
01-19-2007, 01:15 PM
Having never climbed Washington and making winter your first atempt is rather a bold move. It was only after MANY climbs up in the summer that I even thought about doing it in the winter. I know this mountain very well and on my last climb up in Nov. I even lost the trail above tree and had to spend time looking for it. When the fog or blowing snow moves in the cairns are hard to find. As stated in all the previous post climbing Washington in the winter needs to be done with great respect for the mountain. You need to be comfortable with crampons, ice ax, self arrest, navigation and most important extreme weather. This is not a mountain to take lightly. Once you cross over Lions head you fully realize what you are in for.

kk153
01-19-2007, 02:15 PM
Trust me when I say my respect for the mountain is there... Part of my reasoning in gathering as much info as possible is due to that respect. Climbing and mountaineering require the ability to constantly evaluate then re-evaluate situations and to marry those assesments with an accurate and conservative knowledge of ones own ability. I try to always climb within the comfortable range of my ability.

Having said that, I also know fist hand that things can go south quickly. When they do, panic is a killer, knowledge is a life saver.

I was hoping to gather a bit of that knowledge specific to the mountain from this formum in that it obviously exists here in vast amounts.

My planned route is up Lions head (winter) route. I plan to attemt the summit on 3/10 although a final determination will not be made until that morning. If weather/snow conditions permit, we go. If not, we don't.

Questions -

I see that tree line is listed on this site at about 4300'. Is that accuate. Also, on Lions head trail, what is the approximate distance from treeline to summit. (in true distance, not elevation gain)

We will, of course, have crampons and ice axes but I do not plan on any sort of roped travel given my perceived absence of glacier conditions as well as each persons ability to self arrest. I assume that is within the normal method of travel on this mountain, is that correct?

Should weather/visibilty turn bad while we are on the summit, would the prefered route of decent be lions head (the same way we came up) or is there a better route based on poor visibilty conditions?

We will have GPS. Any known problems with GPS functioning in this area?

Any other insights would be appreciated.

KD Talbot
01-19-2007, 03:46 PM
You will break out of the trees 2 or 3/10ths of a mile before reaching the summit of Lion's Head. From the summit of Lion's Head it is 8 or 9/10ths of a mile before reaching the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. You may still pass through some low trees depending on the depth of the snowpack. From there it is 4/10ths to the summit and you will encounter the steepest section of the entire climb. The distances can be easily determined from the Widerness Map Company's map of Mount Washingtom available from wilderness maps.com. I would definitely get a copy of the AMC's White Mountain Guide and read the route description. The guide will also provide maps. There is also a large section on Mount Washington in general which has valuable information. Also there are sections on winter travel in the Whites.

You are correct that you should not need ropes but it wouldn't hurt to have one.

The best way back down is, yes, back over Lion's Head. It may be possible to descend Tuckerman Ravine Trail from the summit depending again on the snowpack, but this way cannot be counted on due to changing conditions. The one way you definitely do not want to descend is Huntington Ravine Trail where you will absolutely need technical skills and equipment.

As far as GPS someone else will have to answer those questions. I don't use one and basically plan my travel days on these summits by knowing we are in for a good long stretch of high pressure weather where the chances of sudden storms are low. Doesn't mean it can't happen, just not as risky.

In the event of a whiteout this is where a rope can come in handy. One member can stay at a cairn while another can search for the next one while staying linked by the rope.

climbabout
01-22-2007, 10:55 AM
KK153
Here's my .02 regarding navigation in winter. Get your weather report from Pinkham before you head up - gather as much info as possible. My personal experience is that any reasonably skilled climber can make it to treeline in bad conditions. Above treeline,its another world altogether - it's my personal rule never to travel up hill in poor visibilty -ie. less than a couple of hundred yards. If you can't see more than a couple of cairns ahead - it's probably not a good day to be up there for the first time. Regarding gps - you want to record your bearings at least at the following critical spots - 1-the orange sign near treeline on the winter route(it's a safe assumption that you will probably be using this route in March) 2-at lion head, 3-at the junction of the lion head and alpine garden trail, 4, at the junction of lion head trail and tuckerman ravine trail, 5 - at split rock, 6- the lower parking lot, 7- summit. I personally prefer to not totally rely on gps - I also carry with me a compass with some critical bearings to get me from the summit cone to the orange sign - I have the bearings written on tape in big letters on the bottom of the compass. I got these years ago from one of the EMS guides. Navigating by compass in a whiteout though is not something I would want to experience - if you miss to the north you end up in Raymond Cataract, to the south you'll tumble into tuckermans - neither would be a pleasant experience. One last thought - as you ascend above treeline periodically look back to see the view where you came from - it could prove invaluable on the way down.
Good Luck
Climbabout

climbabout
01-22-2007, 06:59 PM
Here's my waypoints as stored on my gps for the Lion Head winter route to the summit: 1- Orange sign at treeline on the Lion Head Winter Route - elev4615 n44deg 15.869m/w71deg 17.134m 2- Lion Head elev5387 n44deg 15.934m/w71deg 17.650m 3- junction with alpine garden trail elev5449 n44deg 15.902m/w71deg 17.743m 4- split rock elev5625 n44deg 15.954m/w71deg 18.087m 5- lower parking lot elev6180 n44deg 16.173m/w71deg 18.120m 6- summit elev6288 n44deg 16.248m/ w 71deg 18.208m. So much for technology - from my somewhat less accurate but reliable Suunto compass I have an approximate bearing of 105deg from tr trail junction to alpine garden trail junction to lion head to the orange sign at treeline. Approximate at best and not much use in a whiteout - but better than nothing. Keep in mind when descending, you have the Raymond Cataract on your left which is a jumble of krummholz and probably filled with snow, and Tuckerman Ravine to your right - if you can keep heading downhill between and avoiding those 2 unmistakeable features, you have a good chance of finding the winter route in bad conditions. Keep in mind as I mentioned in my previous post, I never continue uphill in marginal conditions, it usually gets worse the higher you go - but I have the above info with me as insurance in case conditions turn bad unexpectedly as they often do. There's no shame in turning back and living to enjoy the mountains another day.
Climbabout

KD Talbot
01-22-2007, 07:07 PM
Thanks. I couldn't answer these questions, but I would like to point out-

The Lion Head Summer Trail is still open. The Summer Trail crosses an avalanche prone slope that has not developed as of yet. The Winter Route is not built for travel without adequate snow cover, so although we are in winter, please help keep the Winter Route in good shape by using the Summer Trail.

This is taken from todays avalanche posting on-

http://www.tuckerman.org/avalanche/index.html

KDT

Bill O
01-22-2007, 07:11 PM
Thanks. I couldn't answer these questions, but I would like to point out-

The Lion Head Summer Trail is still open. The Summer Trail crosses an avalanche prone slope that has not developed as of yet. The Winter Route is not built for travel without adequate snow cover, so although we are in winter, please help keep the Winter Route in good shape by using the Summer Trail.

This is taken from todays avalanche posting on-

http://www.tuckerman.org/avalanche/index.html

KDT

I just noticed that today as well. I can't imagine that to last too much longer though. One decent storm should fill everything in.

rockin rex
01-22-2007, 07:20 PM
I find this navigation info a learning experience from those MUCH wiser than I. I have always traveled with just me, the mountain and a compass in my pocket. I have always made a mental note of the trail on the way up and any tricky parts I have always marked for the way down. I know this mountain so well that maybe I have a false sense of security. I think tomorrow I will be looking at G.P.S. units. It only takes one time to pay for that false sense of security.

climbabout
01-22-2007, 07:20 PM
Thanks fella's for posting that reminder - regarding summer vs winter route -I neglected to mention it - it's always prudent to check the av report - that will tell you which route is open - also watch for the orange sign on the tucks trail as to whether the winter route is open.
Climbabout

rockin rex
01-22-2007, 07:28 PM
Thanks. I couldn't answer these questions, but I would like to point out-

The Lion Head Summer Trail is still open. The Summer Trail crosses an avalanche prone slope that has not developed as of yet. The Winter Route is not built for travel without adequate snow cover, so although we are in winter, please help keep the Winter Route in good shape by using the Summer Trail.

This is taken from todays avalanche posting on-

http://www.tuckerman.org/avalanche/index.html

KDT
Can't believe summer route still open. I went thru here on my Nov. climb with no crampons. Bet that is not the case now.

kk153
01-23-2007, 01:27 PM
Thanks for the GPS coordinates... I plotted them on MapSource and they look pretty much dead on.

Thanks again. Big help to have these waypoints already entered...

kk153

rockin rex
02-25-2007, 07:51 AM
Nice to see how many people have looked thru all the info here. If you are at all interested or have questions in reguards to climbing the rock pile in winter this thread is full of valuable info. For all those who do a winter ascent have fun and be safe.

kk153
03-16-2007, 09:52 AM
As a follow up...

I summitted on 3/10. Excellent conditions, challenging climb. Thanks to all who posted info. In that is was my first climb on Washington your beta was invaluable. Also, GREAT gps coordinates.

Thanks again.

kk153

climbabout
03-17-2007, 09:00 AM
Congrats on your summit - sounds like you had everything dialed in -
Tim