View Full Version : Inexperienced Hiker, Mount Washington via Tuckerman's and Lionshead

09-18-2008, 10:13 AM
Hi there.

Now I know some of you are going to want to smack me just after reading the subject line of this post, but hear me out.

I am new to serious hiking. I've hiked up a few steep climbs around New Brunswick, but I have never climbed up a serious mountain.

A group of young folks (i.e. 20-30) is planning to hike up Mount Washington this coming weekend (sept 19-21) using the Tuckerman's Ravine and Lion's Head combo. I am planning to go with them.

Now I have read about all the dangers of climbing Mt Washington and I know that it is an advanced climb and I have read several posts on why it is NOT good for beginners.

That being said, I have decided to go on the trip, assuring myself that I will not push myself beyond my personal limits and safety. I was thinking that if I got to Hermit Lake and found myself exhausted, I would not go beyond that point. There is one other person going on the trip at the same fitness level I am at (I consider myself to be fit and very active -- I just haven't specifically exercised the muscles used in mountain hiking before) and the same mountain hiking experience. We have agreed to stick together as far as stopping if it turns out to be more than we are able to handle but the rest of the group wants to go on.

Anyways, I know a lot of you are shaking your heads at me by now and mentally adding to the Mount Washington body count... but I hope you'll help me by giving me some advice on what to expect AND what to pack.

I have found several articles and threads on Summer hiking and Winter hiking up Mount Washington, but since this is sort of in between the two seasons I'm not really sure about which set of advice to follow. I want to maximise my chances of being able to handle this hike physically so if anyone could give me some advice on Fall hiking gear, ESPECIALLY what clothes to wear at the outset AND what types of extra clothes and equipment to pack that would be great. I don't want to be carrying too heavy a pack, but I do want to have everything I will reasonably need.

The group plans to set out on the trail at 7:00am and be back to the starting point by 7:00pm.

Thanks for any help or advice.


Bill O
09-18-2008, 12:18 PM
You sound like you have way more knowledge than the vast majority of Mount Washington climbers out there.

I wouldn't even consider this weekend to be a fall weather pattern....still summer weatherwise.

I'd count on temps in the 30s on Saturday for the summit (somebody please let me know if I am wrong). Make sure you bring the right clothes to be warm in those kind of temps with a margin of safety for it being colder and wet. You want to be warm in those temps if you had to sit on a rock without moving for several hours.

Its okay to be a little cold when you start hiking. Don't worry about that, your body will tell you what to wear.

09-18-2008, 01:30 PM
It's really not that bad a climb, especially over a twelve hour period. Unless you're three hundred and fifty pounds and consider using the remote control for the television your exercise regime, it shouldn't be too bad. You'll probably feel it in the morning, but isn't that the point? ;)

As long as the weather forecast is decent, tally ho and good luck and all that. :)

09-18-2008, 02:11 PM
A little over a year ago (July 2007), MW was my very first "serious" climb, and I went the exact same route. My second time back on the mountain, this past July, I decided to take the most difficult route up the mountain, Huntington Ravine.

From reading your post, it sounds like you are much more mentally prepared than many, many hikers we see on the trails. I think nothing makes us shake our heads and frown more than seeing a hike in a t-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes and only a water bottle.

My fellow MW hikers will chime in with more experience, but the other part of being prepared is your equipment. I pretty much leave Pinkham wearing convertible hiking pants (zip off legs), wicking shirt, good hiking boots (can't stress that enough), thick wool socks (even in Summer), and a bandanna for my head.

I carry a good size day pack (Osprey Atmos 35), with two large Nalgene water bottles, Cliff Bars and other energy snacks, trail map with compass, my GPS, Hikers First Aid kit with emergency blanket, waterproof matches, RoadID braclet, rain coat, rain pants, compression tarp, at least two other shirts, a change of socks, extra pair of pants, wool hat and pair of gloves. Ocassionally, depending on if I know where the water sources are, I've got a Steripen. And of course, my camera! Including the pack itself, this usually weighs in between 20-23 lbs total.

I should note that this is pretty much what I carry on every hike, not just MW. I pack preparing for the worst case scenario, such as, I get separated from my group or other people, its getting dark, cold and rainy and I don't know where I am. I've got the tarp to get out of the rain, gear to stay dry, matches to build a small fire to stay warm. The last thing you want is to get half way up and start wishing you had a warmer top. It could really ruin your experience. I'd rather haul something up and down the mountain and never unpack it, versus being up there and wish I had it.

And one last word of caution... hiking Mount Washington is extremely addictive! Before you know it, you'll be driving 12 hours each way just to get in a day hike, like me!

Good luck and I'm sure you will enjoy the hike. And now that you are on the forum you are obligated to report back with all the details and post pictures of the trip! :)

KD Talbot
09-18-2008, 02:59 PM
All good advice so far. The one thing I would stress that Bill hinted at is that it is good to be a little cold when you start out. You warm up so fast. You don't want to soak your clothes with sweat. You will cool off way too fast at the top. Stay cool climbing and have layers to add as needed. Eat plenty and stay hydrated, can't stress that enough.

Believe me, we all wish that everyone would ask the questions that you did. Most think they've got it covered. They're the ones you see coming down in litters. Someone like you is way more likely to succeed. I assure you, there is not one person on this forum who would dope slap you for asking first.

The most important thing you said in your post was "You will not push yourself beyond your limits." Many do just that, thinking,"If I can just get to the summit I'll buy a ticket and ride down." Bad mistake. No guaranty of a ride for one thing, and pushing yourself above tree-line when you should be turning around is just plain foolish.

Good luck, and like Blue Dog said, now you owe us a report and some pictures!


09-18-2008, 03:10 PM
Good advice so far, don't forget a flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries. Optional are a hiking pole or poles which are handy decending.

09-18-2008, 05:10 PM
I think nothing makes us shake our heads and frown more than seeing a hike in a t-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes and only a water bottle.

Hehe. You're not lookin at me, are you, BlueDog? :) I've got to admit to being one of the guilty parties, then. I almost never bring more then that, unless it's midwinter. I remember earlier this year climbing through snow on Lafayette in sneakers. Suppose that's not the best way to do things, though, gase.... :)

09-18-2008, 06:10 PM
Everything BlueDog said. :)

09-18-2008, 06:53 PM
Everyone always says - dress in layers. This really does help. It may be downright cold when you start. 7Am is just after sunrise. As soon as you start hiking you will warm and the layers will come off. Later the layers will go back on.

One layer needs to be wind and waterproof. If the wind picks up or you get in a wet cloud - or both - you will want this. A knit hat and winter mittens or gloves of some sort can help. It is possible you will be hiking in 30 degree wind chill (or lower) for an hour when you get above treeline. Or it could be a warm day in the sun - or both in the same day.

The key is to be prepared for most anything. I look at the wind chill on the summit now as 14 degrees. Be prepared for that and have plenty of water and snacks and you will do fine.

09-18-2008, 07:01 PM
do not worry about getting to the top
i did the same trail for seek the peak and made it up above the tree line and just below loins head look out when my legs started cramping up . i said to the others with me to keep going and i would go down by my self . and i did that after sitting on a nice rock [ if you can find one ]:D for 2hr just looking around ,and i loved it it made my day .
so be safe and know your limit an take a lot of pictures for us that cant get up there a lot ;)

09-19-2008, 09:26 AM
Brad, KD, bluedog and others have given you excellent advice regarding clothing, so I'll only add the following 2 bits of advice -
1-Google hypothermia and learn what it is and how to recognize it and deal with it - make sure all in your party can do the same.
2-Nothing you can carry in your pack can replace that piece of equipment sitting between your ears. Use common sense and your instincts. The mountain will always be there - you can always return to climb another day if conditions are'nt right. I have turned back many times and never regretted it. When you finally summit it makes it that much sweeter.
Good Luck