View Full Version : Summit Attempt 2-3-07

02-01-2007, 09:20 AM
Hello! I'm new here. I've been reading quite a while now. From an observer standpoint, I greatly appreciate all the honest and sincere remarks and advice posted. So many other forums are filled with flame that it totally ruins the cred. This is a great resource.

Anyway, a buddy and I are attempting to climb Mt. Washington this coming Saturday 2-3-07. We are going with an EMS guide (we weren't aware of so many other guide services in N. Conway). This is a gift from our wives. Neither of us has climbed Mt. Washington. As a result, we are paying for someone else's expertise and judgment. I have been training pretty hard for this by hiking every night with a 65 lb pack (full of cast iron weights). It's not an overnight, so I don't think I'll need 65 lbs of gear. We are physically fit, but not expert climbers. We have all the gear, and then some, EMS requires and recommends minus the boots, crampons, and ice ax. I have an ax, but it's old, so it's staying home.

My concern after reading this thread is the sweating. I sweat just thinking about it. I bought a Patagonia (I'm a patagoniac, but not a wealthy one) prima-loft pullover which is incredibly warm. I wore it a few times while hiking with my 65 lb pack and I was soaked by the time I got home. Earlier in this thread I read that I should avoid sweating. I now understand that the down/synthetic down layer is for resting. Any suggestions on the sweating issue? I have more fleece to choose from than Biden has political problems. So I've got some choices there.

I'm also concerned about being a newbie, but I trust I'm paying for good leadership, education, training, and judgment. We have no idea which route we are taking. I guess that's left to the guide as well.

We are driving up tomorrow and should arrive in N. Conway tomorrow afternoon/evening. Hopefully in the middle of a snowstorm, but that doesn't look all that promising any more. We intend to ski on Sunday. Can you kind folks recommend a good spot (H2O Valley, Bretton, Wildcat, etc.) given recent weather? Anything else about the town or area that we should know?

Once again, appreciate all the info you've given on this and other threads. There are observers soaking it all in and we are appreciative.

Bill O
02-01-2007, 09:41 AM
I thought this thread deserved a spin-off. I'll give you my 2 cents when I get some free time in a few hours.

Bill O
02-01-2007, 10:09 AM
Thanks for joining the forum and you better post a trip report when you get back from the climb.

Sweating is a big issue, but it is pretty easy to manage.

First, you probably wont be running up Mount Washington. The guide will keep the pace reasonable. Its amazing how fast you can move by just slowing down a little.

Second, you need to manage your temperature with layers. The down and fleece are nice, but those are insulation layers. What do you have for a base? I'm hoping some sort of mid or lightweight long underwear, something that wicks. My typical winter top includes: midweight long underwear, heavy weight long underwear, down jacket, and Gore-Tex shell. I might bring a fleece if it is really cold, but the down offers superior warmth to weight ratio. When you are hiking up you may just be wearing the base layer, especially if there is no wind. Even if it is 0 degrees.

If you sweat through your base layer that usually is not a problem. Just make sure your insulation layers stay dry.

For the bottom its a little trickier. Full side-zips are nice because they allow you to change layers withouth removing your boots. I generally just have a long underwear layer, fleece or softshell pants, and a gore-tex shell. Maybe extra long underwear if it is really cold.

A general rule is that you want to start hiking a little cold, certainly not freezing though. If you have to stop in the first five minutes to adjust that is okay.

I wouldn't worry about being a newbie, that's why you have a guide. Just read up on the mountain as much as possible, and be somewhat familiar with the route you will take.

02-01-2007, 11:03 AM
Thanks Bill! I have multiple choices for base layers. polypro, fleece, capilene, silk, etc. I was going to wear Lifa polypro next to skin, then a thicker long underwear top like capilene then a fleece then my jacket (I'll have the primaloft sweater with me). For the bottoms, I have polypro LU, then I have a mid-weight fleece LU, then a thick fleece pant with shells over them. I have OR modular GTX mitts with an old pair of down mittens as liners and thing polypro liners. Have several pair of gloves with liners in addition.

Will totally post up some pics. We're taking video as well in case there is opportunity.

Any places in N Conway that we have to hit?

We are getting super syched.

Bill O
02-01-2007, 11:19 AM
Sounds like you have all the right gear. It's just a matter of picking the right layers to stay comfortable and constantly adjusting.

Sorry, I don't have any recs for North Conway, I'm sure somebody on this forum does.

02-01-2007, 11:26 AM
It's not an overnight, so I don't think I'll need 65 lbs of gear.
Correct, you don't need to carry 65 lbs of gear--unless you're a masochist. Carry everything that you'll need for the climb, plus extra food, layers, tools, and anything else to help you make it through an emergency bivy. Cutting your 65lbs pack weight in half would be good.

We are physically fit, but not expert climbers. We have all the gear, and then some, EMS requires and recommends minus the boots, crampons, and ice ax. I have an ax, but it's old, so it's staying home.
You'll NEED boots, crampons, and an ice ax--especially boots, do NOT try to do this climb in just your socks alone :D:D:D

My concern after reading this thread is the sweating. I sweat just thinking about it... I wore it a few times while hiking with my 65 lb pack and I was soaked by the time I got home. Earlier in this thread I read that I should avoid sweating... Any suggestions on the sweating issue?
Rather than thinking about how to stop sweating, think about trying to manage sweating. We humans sweat 24 hours a day, it's physically impossible to stop sweating--unless you're dead.

I was going to wear Lifa polypro next to skin, then a thicker long underwear top like capilene then a fleece then my jacket (I'll have the primaloft sweater with me).
Nix the fleece when starting out--just keep it in your pack just in case you need it later. It may be cold at first, but once you get moving it will feel fine.

I have OR modular GTX mitts with an old pair of down mittens as liners and thing polypro liners. Have several pair of gloves with liners in addition.
Gloves below treeline and mittens above.

Good luck,

Bill O
02-01-2007, 11:59 AM
This is a common problem that beginners have. They have the right gear, but literally don't know how to dress. I wouldn't worry about it, you will figure everything out very quickly.

02-01-2007, 01:04 PM
I have made the climb you are about to many times both on my own and with ems guides. The route you undoubtedly will take is the tuckerman ravine trail to either the lion head summer or winter route - at this time the summer route is still open, but that could change with more snowfall. The advice Bill o gave is right on the money - the key is to start out a little cold and allow your body to warm up as you hike - your heart rate will rise quickly during the first 10-20 minutes and you should be comfortably warm after about 15 minutes. The ems guides are experts at helping you and they will probably stop after about 10-15min to allow you to adjust your layers - you will invariably be making a stop at the bridge over crystal cascade to accomplish this. Even in extremely cold weather you should be fine to start out in just your light synthetic skin layer on top and at most a light fleece or wind layer over that. If the temps are around 15 and no wind I just go with the skin layer, if theres a breeze on the bottom or if it's colder, I'll add perhaps a 100wt fleece or goretex jacket over the skin layer. Again - better to start a little cold and add a layer. One other thing I usually carry is an extra skin layer for my top. You'll probably take a break to put your crampons on before the route steepens and you can change out your skin layer quickly there if you absolutely have to. I generally don't have to do this, but it's an option if you are uncertain about being able to avoid overheating. Regarding your weight, the ems guide will do a gear check at the school in the am and check to make sure you don't have any unecessary weight - your pack should be no more than 30-35lbs max - if it's any heavier, then you have some redundant gear. Hope this helps - you're in for the experience of your life.

02-01-2007, 01:18 PM
I have a couple more thoughts for you that will help. Above treeline can be extremely intimidating if it's extremely cold and windy which it's likely to be. Bring a spare hat and a spare pair of gloves. More than 1 person has set something down during a rest break and had it blown away - think carefully before you set anthing down - and also try to know where everything is in your pack -- especially the critical pieces of gear. Practice breathing with your face mask and goggles on - it's a big challenge to keep the goggles from fogging up with the facemask on if you are breathing hard - most facemasks perform better with the breathing holes enlarged to let your breath escape better - purse your lips when you eXhale against the mask so your breath doesn't try to exit thru the goggles. Regarding town - I always visit the Red Parka Pub for dinner - at the intersection of 16 and 302 in Glen - you'll pass that intersection on the way to the mountain - theres lots of great places to eat, but that is my favorite - get there early as there's usually a wait after 6pm. I don't downhill ski anymore, but when I did, Wildcat was my favorite - it's got the most magnificent views of Mt Washington - you'll get a good look at the route you climbed if the weather is clear. On the other side of the mountain in Crawford Notch - I liked Bretton Woods - again great views of the "back side" of Washington.
p.s. where you guys from?

02-01-2007, 02:26 PM
This is all good info and just gets us pumped even more. We are from York, Pennsylvania. Small city along the southern border north of Baltimore, MD. My climbing buddy hails from Iowa. Been skiing all over including VT, but never had the opportunity to ski in NH.

Thanks for the good info....


Bill O
02-01-2007, 02:50 PM
After training with a 65 pound pack your pack this weekend is going to feel like nothing. You probably wont even notice it, at least at the start.

For skiing, I'd hit Wildcat, with caveats. If its really cold you might want to try an area that is less exposed to the weather. Also, some of the other areas probably have more open terrain. So if you want more variety than Wildcat may not be the best choice.

KD Talbot
02-01-2007, 04:30 PM
I can't add much to what has already been said about your climb except enjoy! Looks like a decent day for it. If you ski Wildcat Sunday (not sure you'll be up for it after climbing Washington Saturday) look for the guy in the red jacket that doesn't take any turns, just skis straight down as fast as he can go, that'll be me. I like Wildcat 'cause it's in the WMNF and there ain't no damn condos! Not to mention one of the best views in New England! There are multitudenous places to eat and drink in North Conway, but as was said before the Red Parka is A-1. Also, the Moat Mountain Pub is a favorite with members on this forum. But if you ask me the best food in the mountains is at a little hole in the wall called Mary's just off rte 16N on Cascade Flats in Gorham. When you go down there you won't even believe there's a restaurant there but they have the best homemade pasta, sauce and pizza you can get anywhere up there and they been doin' it since 1943! It's about 10 miles north of Wildcat. Just my 2 cents, maybe kinda out of the way from North Conway.

02-01-2007, 07:37 PM
KD, I went off to your pictures and they are excellent! I could (and probably will) spend hours checking them out.

KD Talbot
02-01-2007, 08:29 PM
I'm sure there's more than anyone would ever want to look at but in my mind I believe it serves several purposes. It is a reference to anyone seeking new territory in the White Mountains to explore and it is a record of what can be seen, such as wildflowers and foliage, and what time of year it can be seen. It is also a history of the weather on the particular day I (we) hiked/camped. Other sections contain other interests and a tribute to my late son, Jack, who I lost last year. I just came in from skating under the full moon on the pond where we live and he was with me just as he and his brothers were growing up. I taught them skating and hockey here and we had many a moonlit game. I will hold him in my heart 'til we meet again in the Summerlands. Thanks again.

02-01-2007, 11:26 PM
All good advice and you'll soon learn what works for you layer wise. Just don't be shy in asking your guide for a stop to adjust. Apart from the sweat issue overheating is an extreme drain on energy.

Adding or removing a hat is a simple way to regulate on a small scale without having to drop pack. Removing gloves and going with just liners is another way to micro-adjust.

If you do remove hat or gloves, stash them in pockets or just inside your jacket/vest as this will keep them warm for when they go back on. I made the mistake early on of taking a sweaty hat off and stashing it in the side of my pack. Went to put it back on and it had frozen solid!

Full side zip pants are another easy adjuster as you can quickly vent the sides. If you find your feet getting too warm and conditions allow, remove your gaiters.

When you get up top and it's windy you really don't want to be losing a mitten. I always wondered why they had such long cords on the wrists :rolleyes: What you do is put your hand through the loop and cinch up the adjuster then put your hand in the mitten/glove. If you need to remove the glove it then just hangs off your wrist. Just watch out for twirling madness in high wind.

Also something to be wary of in high wind is that you don't get lashed in the face, or worse eye, by any loose straps and cords on your jacket/pack.

Here's hoping for great weather! I'll wave from Adams... hopefully :D


02-04-2007, 02:38 PM
Well Alpineski I hope you had a blast (pun intended) on whichever route you were on yesterday. I'm guessing Lions Head and I hear the winter route was in.

Given the temps and wind chill prediciton we scaled our objective back from Adams to just getting to Durand Ridge for views into King Ravine. However, one of my companions got chilled and was unable to get warm so we turned back just short of the Scar Trail junction. Even being prepared is not enough sometimes.

It certainly was a breezy day and a tad chilly but a day (or even half a day) in the woods in winter is always time well spent.

Pics for the curious can be found HERE (http://hikerbob.phanfare.com/album/204456)


02-04-2007, 03:42 PM
Great photos and video of the hike. You can hear that wind blowing through the trees and plenty of snow. thanks for sharing those with us. Love the video and photos. -50 is quite chilly I would agree. :)

Bill O
02-07-2007, 01:53 PM
Alpineski...any photos or beta about the climb?

02-09-2007, 11:37 AM

I'll be as brief as I can for now. No photos yet, they are on another computer. We also have some video that our guide was willing to take.

We checked in at EMS climbing school in N. Conway about 7 am. At the time, our guide Tim informed us that going to the summit looked unlikely. On friday, the forcast called for temps to be 0 heading to -10 throughout the day with winds increasing to 50-70mph. At check-in, temps were -4 i think and falling quick and winds were sustained close to, if not above, 80mph and the 15 minute gust and 24 hour gust were the same at above 91 mph. He said we may have to turn around at tree line.

Back up to Thursday night before we traveled to NH from PA on Friday. I got home from work with a cold. Around 5 I was really stuffed up and got a fever and chills. At this point I was quite worried. After loading up on OTC meds, the fever and chills subsided enough to allow me to pack.

Friday was spent driving to N Conway and chlling at the Moat Mountain Pub. My climbing companion purchased some remaining gear at EMS under a great sale.

Sat I awoke with a nice cough and sore throat, but felt ok, maybe a little nervous. We weren't the fastest at gear check and donning our clothing so we finally hit the trail at 9. We were shooting for the summer route, but just before we left the visitor center, the attendant overheard us and indicated that the winter route is now open. We had a nice, but little, snowfall the night before.

We started out with a few light layers as you indicated. My sweating, as I was worried, became an issue almost immediately. My hat was a thick Mt. Hardware windstopper fleece thing. Nice and warm, but within 45 minutes, I looked like I dunked my head in a barrel of water. So I stashed my hat in my pack and donned a light weight beanie for in the trees.

My training with a 65lb pack was ok, but I should have been doing more endurance training and leg strength exercises. My friend did really well and the guide was so fit with 6% body fat, that we were not moving fast enough and he got cold. Really great guy though and treated us with utmost respect even though my fat arss didn't deserve it.

I felt a little better after switching hats and we got to the winter route cut-off and the steepest part of the climb. I started to get really nauseous though and craved water. My food froze solid, as did that hat I referenced earlier, which I would need above treeline.

I did "ok" on the steepest part of the climb which is the winter route spine heading up to lions head (according to our guide). He equated it to the Hillary Step on Everest. It was fun, but I had to battle my nausea too much. We were advised to walk slow and constantly as opposed to fast and take breaks. I think I tried too hard to keep up to my ultra-fit companions. We finally hit tree line and donned our wind layers, face mask, and goggles. On the way up to this point, several groups of climbers were passing us coming down. One or two passed us going up. Apparently everyone, or most everyone from what our guide could tell, was turning around at tree line or just above. Anyway, when I put my face mask on, I put it on over my balaclava, and my goggles over that. Which I didn't know. So I was trying to breathe through two layers. It was really windy at this point and trying to get everything on without blowing away was tricky. Plus at this point on the Lions head trail, there were several groups of people stopped to do the same and people passing in both directions.

My goggles froze almost immediately so above treeline travel was tricky. Plus I had to try to breathe through two layers, which under strenuous exercise, was inhibiting. I tried to put my Mt. Hardware hat back on, but it was frozen solid. It was super windy. Never really got cold though. A touch of frostbite on my cheek, but nothing extensive. I was pretty warm. Crampon and ice axe work is fun. We made it to Lions Head. We spent a few minutes shooting photos and video and looking around. On the upslope of Lions Head the wind was incredible. It was totally awsome. Could barely stand. Our guide hopped around like a marmot. We looked at Tuckermans and the surrounding area. It's amazing being up there looking up at the summit and tucks with the conditions. It's a different world. Then, based on time and conditions, our wise guide turned us around. It was about 1 pm.

My companion borrowed some extra ski pants of mine but didn't put his gaiters on over them, so my pants look like he was attacked by a lion. He stuck himself several times and fell. It was pretty funny, but he could have hurt himself and in these conditions, that woudn't have been good. After the climb he said he was having some trouble on the way down with his feet and legs.

I feel bad. I think my companion could have made it further had I not been so slow. Maybe even summited. I did ask the guide if I could descend and he continue with my buddy as far as they could make it. Trail was obvious at this point, so I think I could have trailed another group down. But, like a good guide, he said we started as a team, we end as a team. He did teach us a bunch of good stuff during the day.

A few goups went past us where we turned around. Once we stopped to take off layers and crampons in the trees, those groups that passed us, suddenly showed up and indicated they too turned around shortly after Lions Head.

The rest of the climb down was uneventful although going down is hard on you as well.

We were fried by the time we got back to the Eastern Slope Inn and made it as far as the fireplace inside the tavern a few short steps from EMS inside the Eastern Slope Inn. A few beers later and several calls to loved ones indicating our safe return, we crashed at our lodging for a spell. We tried to get into Red Parka, but there was quite a wait. We ended up in Conway at Cafe Noche. OK mexican.

The next day after another late start, we skied ourselves silly at Wildcat. My legs could barely hold it together at first, but by the end, I was feeling better. They had some pretty good terrain open. I didn't tele though, that would have been disastrous.

We spent that night at May Kelleys to watch the Super Bowl. Red Parka wasn't happending that night either.

That's about it. Definitely comming back for another attempt. I learned a lot about how to prepare physically, and nuances about gear, food, etc. Oh, my food froze as well, so couldnt' really eat anything. Maybe if we had gotten an earlier start, if I could have regulated my sweat better, not had a cold, trained a little differently, we would have made it all the way. But, I'm still happy with my effort. I know what it took me to get to that point.

FWIW, although I have little experience and only tried this through EMS, I hightly recommend EMS. I felt very safe and our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly.

We have pics and video and I hope to upload those in a few days.

Your advice was great and right on the mark. I'll be back.....

OH, and you were right, it was the experience of a lifetime! It was the best Christmas gift my wife could have given me. Oh, and I got to take my 21 month old son with me. I had a laminated photo of him around my neck the whole time.


02-09-2007, 11:48 AM
Excellent trip report Jake! It sure was a tough day out there and it certainly adds to the learning experience. Sounds like you had a great time and that's what counts.

I have a feeling you'll be back :)


Bill O
02-09-2007, 12:45 PM
Do you know if anybody summitted that day? I'm guessing nobody made it much past Lion's Head.

02-09-2007, 12:49 PM
Nice TR, alpineski. Congrats on the distance you DID make it with feeling like crap and all. Look forward to the pics.

02-09-2007, 01:00 PM
Nice report Jake - sounds like you had the full experience. Lots to learn about dealing with those conditions, and first hand experience is the best teacher. I remember after my first winter attempt, I made some written notes to myself about how best to efficiently deal with things -some things that worked well, some that didn't and those notes helped a lot on subsequent trips, until the skills became second nature. Here's how I handle the issue of keping food from freezing. I always make a liter of hot tea either in the hotel or better yet right at pinkham and place it in an isulated sleeve - then I place that in a padded insulated cell about the size of a lunch box - around the hot tea bottle I put my trail snacks that are prone to freezing - keeps them nice and warm.

02-09-2007, 01:47 PM
Excellent report on your hike. Thanks for the many great details and such. It was fun reading about the trip even through your illness and all. Glad you got to do it though. Looking forward to the video and photos of the hike as well and most of all Congratulations!!!!
Good job!

02-09-2007, 03:25 PM
It's amazing being up there looking up at the summit and tucks with the conditions. It's a different world. Then, based on time and conditions, our wise guide turned us around. It was about 1 pm.
Check out the summit conditions during your climb:
(courtesy of Brad's MWO photo archival site)

My training with a 65lb pack was ok, but I should have been doing more endurance training and leg strength exercises.
Endurance train as if you'd be running a half-marathon.

...My food froze solid...couldnt' really eat anything.
You should have placed your food (alongside your cell phone, GPS, digital camera, spare batteries) in your jacket's inside pockets--you're not bringing a 7 course meal here just some peanuts, power bars, slimjims, etc.

...I feel bad. I think my companion could have made it further had I not been so slow. Maybe even summited...

...Maybe if we had gotten an earlier start, if I could have regulated my sweat better, not had a cold, trained a little differently, we would have made it all the way...
I don't think anything you did or didn't do that day would have changed your guide's decision to turn around. And, as you described yourself, many climbers (possibly all of them) abandoned the summit because of the wind and weather.

Congratulations on your achievement and thanks for enlightening and entertaining us with your trip report.


02-10-2007, 04:32 PM

Any day out there and you return safely is a good day. We all have to remember the Rockpile will always win. Sometimes she lets us play with her.

I am hoping to get back into Tuckerman's next Saturday to take pictures. We will see if the weather is acceptable.

rockin rex
02-12-2007, 01:03 PM
In reading the account of the hike I read one thing that most hikers do on their first winter ascent. They stick their heavy winter hat that is covered in sweat in the pack and put on a light beanie. They only come to realize later that the hat is frozen solid and can't be worn. The frozen hat now becomes a problem unless an extra one has been brought along. The advice that climbabout has provided is right on. I have learned alot from reading his entries in the threads. As he says keep ALL things that need to be warm in your jacket and near your body heat. I have had my cliff bars freeze solid in my outside jacket pockets and couldn't eat them. THAT WAS A PROBLEM!
Bringing a thermos of a hot drink is another GREAT idea. That has saved me a few times. As far as E.M.S. guides they are awesome. I highly recommend them. Sounds like you had a great hike and next time you can put to use what you learned and head higher. Congrats on making it as far as you did. Lions head winter ascent is not easy hike and making it up to tree is something to be proud of especially in the conditions you faced. Again congrats.

02-14-2007, 01:28 PM
Working on pics, I promise. A few attached from my climbing partner, I'll upload a few of mine later.

I've been thinking a lot about my trip experience and everything I've read on this forum. In a way, I'm glad I didn't know everything and made a few mistakes on my own. Especially since none were life threatening. Had I received all the information I could and been more "prepared" I'm not sure I would have gotten as much out of it. I know it sounds wierd because suppose I did stash those items I need in my jacket to avoid freezing, supposed I wasn't sick, suppose I did train better and in a different way, I guess I may have made it farther. But, then I wouldn't have the experience of learning.

This is not to say that the advice learned is not valuable and that one should climb without it and without being prepared, but after the fact, I'm very happy with the climb and happy I made mistakes that taught me something, that, if not made, I wouldn't have learned "WHY".

02-14-2007, 02:06 PM
It sounds like you have exactly the right attitude and common sense to enjoy many safe trips above treeline. Every time I go out it seems I learn something new or a better way to handle a particular situation.

KD Talbot
02-14-2007, 06:41 PM
It is true. You can read every book there is and go to every course there is, but nothing teaches like the actual experience.