View Full Version : Mount Washington via Tuckerman Ravine and Lion's Head 2009-08-08

08-10-2009, 10:01 PM
My wife, Jennifer, born and raised in New Hampshire, decided this year she wanted to climb Mt. Washington. It took until August 8 to find a date where the weather was good, we could find someone to watch the kids (my mother-in-law), and I could escape from work. Ideally I wanted to go up via Tuckerman Ravine and Lion's Head and see the Alpine Garden, but that had come and gone, so we settled for the loop without the garden tour. I left work a bit early on Friday and we headed to my mother-in-law's for the night. After a big breakfast and a late start, we were further delayed by the 24 Hours of Great Glenn Bike Race (funny being on the delayed side - plenty of experience delaying the cars.) Arriving at PNVC, we parked about 1/2 mile down route 16 in a long line of cars. Turns out the lot is being resurfaced. At about 10:15 we departed up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail bound for Hermit Lake and HoJo's. This was my third time ascending Washington, but my first time from the east.

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Lion's Head, Hermit Lake and Tuckerman Ravine

From the porch you could see a steady line of people ascending the headwall of the ravine. Apparently, 10,000 other people saw the same good weather report that we did. There were more hikers here than I have ever seen in all my previous hiking. There was more variety too - it's very obvious that Mt. Washington is a draw simply because of its status, and that Tuckerman Ravine is the way to go. I saw one man wearing a winter coat, jean shorts, and hat stuck in his pocket, carrying a plastic grocery bag with his lunch, and another trail runner wearing sneakers, socks and shorts (no shirt), and carrying nothing else (on the summit cone.) There were smokers and butts to be found. In all quite different than what I am used to. After the wide, lower stretch, which doubles as a ski trail, ends at Hermit Lake, the trail to the ravine becomes more like a traditional trail. It is not too long until the famous headwall is staring you right in the face. We could see the line of hikers ascending from our vantage point on the ravine floor.

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Tuckerman Ravine Headwall

Once at the base of the headwall, it gets steep in a hurry. The crowds started to back up here, and we politely picked our way around people as best we could, and waited when we couldn't. Just looking at your footing doesn't reveal the steepness of the surrounding terrain - you have to look to the left or the right to really appreciate it. I'm now curious enough to consider heading up in May to watch the skiers. After going up for a while, suddenly the lip of the headwall appears - just about level with Lion's Head. We stopped here and ate lunch in the lee of some big rocks. After lunch, it was time to dress more appropriately for the exposure to 15-30 mph WNW winds and the predicted temperatures in the mid 40s. Looking up the summit cone, the colorful line of hikers stands out against the uniform color of the granite boulder field.

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The floor of the ravine, View to Lion's Head from the lip

Hundreds of people were picking there way up the "trail" where the "trail" means within a reasonable distance of the cairns. Likewise, dozens were picking their way back down. Jen stopped a few times to adjust layers. I just kept my steady pace trying not to sweat up a dry shirt before hanging out on top and not moving. When we got to the top, the line to take summit photos was, as you might expect, several minutes long. I suggested that after having your picture taken, you step forward and take the next group's photo. This seemed to work for at least a short while. Post summit-sign photo, we strolled around the obs deck for a while and on cue, posed for the webcam archive. It was mostly cloudy on the top, but the clouds were all well above the peaks and the usual views were all there.

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Jen's first time!, little rockpile / Big Rockpile

After about 15 minutes on top, it was time to leave. We headed back down Tuckerman's to the left turn for Lion's Head. Lion's Head was much-less crowded than Tuckerman's, although we were still within sight or earshot of people most of the time - just not tripping over them. I prefer loops over out-and-backs, and I appreciated the level stretch and the views across to Slide Peak before plunging back down to Hermit Lake. We stopped on the Lion's Head formation itself for a while and the braver of us sat on the edge of the rocks. There weren't many wildflowers on Tuckerman's but the sand wort was all over the Lion's Head trail.

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Sitting on the edge of Lion's Head, Lion's Head from below

We stopped on the Lion's Head formation itself for a short break, and enjoyed the view straight down into the ravine. Someone dropped a pole into the rocks and decided to part with it rather than attempt to retrieve it. With my long reach, I was able to fish it out and return it.

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Crystal Cascade, 1/13sec @f/7.1

The final stop was at Crystal Cascade. We stopped in the morning but the sun was very bright on the water making photographs difficult. The afternoon light was indirect and I took a series of photos. This one is my favorite.

All photos (http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/573973596pLgfnZ)


08-10-2009, 10:28 PM
Great TR and fantastic pics Tim. Congrats to Jennifer on her first time to the top. Looks like you couldn't have picked a better day. I love the picture sitting on the edge of Lion Head. Not sure I could make myself do it - but love the pic.

KD Talbot
08-10-2009, 10:37 PM
Nice pics and Tr as usual, Tim! We were on the Southern Presis and you couldn't have picked a better day!

OK, so this means you two are on tap for STP next year, right?


08-11-2009, 06:49 AM
Great trip report and fantastic pictures. Looks like you guys had perfect weather.Congradulations to Jennifer but warn her M/W is addictive. Thanks for sharing.

Snow Miser
08-11-2009, 12:34 PM
Great TR and photos! Thanks for sharing them with us. I agree with Chris, your wife will probably find Mt Washington addictive, as well as other mountains in the Whites.

08-11-2009, 12:56 PM
My wife has been hiking her whole life... she's just not a 'list person' and had never been up Washington. Having done more hiking in the Presidential Range than any other one spot, I would say I far prefer the views of the taller peaks from the lesser peaks (Ike/Pierce looking north, Isolation) than the other way around. Washington (sorry guys) is just too crowded when the weather is good.


Snow Miser
08-11-2009, 02:02 PM
Washington (sorry guys) is just too crowded when the weather is good.


Yes, you are definitely right there. But as long as the crowd level is not too bad, Washington is still fun. But to have isolated peak to yourself or with just a few others, priceless.