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View Full Version : Opinion on this hike, please...



thesubwaypusher
06-13-2010, 12:46 AM
My friend and I are going to tackle the Great Gulf trail as soon as we get a really nice weekend. We are driving the 7 hours from NYC, leaving at 5AM on Saturday, then planning to be on the trail by 1PM, starting at the GG trailhead. From my research, we will be reaching the area around Spaulding Lake at about 8PM, and need to set up camp (first time camping overnight) and then get up about 6 and continue up the headwall to the summit. We will be descending via the Tuckerman Ravine trail (thought it would be nice to come down different way) to Raymond Path to Old Jackson Road/Madison Gulf trail and back to the GG trail. We should be back at the trailhead and our vehicle by about 6PM- then of course, we have to drive home for another 7 hours!

Does this sound feasible to you folks that have experience on these particular trails? We have done the Ammonusuc and Jewell trails many times and understand that the GG trail is much more demanding. Could you also tell us where we can camp around Spaulding Lake? And if we can't find a place to pitch, is it okay to just pitch?

Thank you very much for any input,

Chris

FisherCat
06-13-2010, 08:24 AM
Actually Chris, you cannot camp anywhere near Spaulding Lake. Back in the day the area received a lot of damage from hikers that were doing so illegally. Lots of further info can be found in the AMC Guidebook on page 83. In part it states "Camping is prohibited within 0.25mi of the Great Gulf Trail south of its junction with the Sphinx Trail, including Spaulding Lake and its vicinity." Not withstanding this, there are great designated campsites, as the book states, marked by tentsite symbols between the Bluff and Sphinx Trail. Grab a copy of the book, its available here on the Obs site, proceeds going to the Obs,:

http://www.mountwashington.org/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=28

...and you will have an awesome time, the Great Gulf is a FANTASTIC area!

smitty77
06-13-2010, 08:53 PM
We will be descending via the Tuckerman Ravine trail (thought it would be nice to come down different way) to Raymond Path to Old Jackson Road/Madison Gulf trail and back to the GG trail.

As noted, there is no camping near Spaulding lake and from what I've heard this area is patrolled and the rules enforced.

I LOVED the Great Gulf - best hiking trail on Mt. Washington. My first trip through there used the same route you proposed, complete with camping just after the Sphinx Trail, though it was almost 20 years ago and we were able to get away with it. Some thoughts on variations of this trip:

I've done the Old Jackson Road route before and it's a nice walk but I seem to remember it being slightly uphill most of the way to the auto road. Give some thought to starting at Pinkham and taking OJR and the Madison Gulf Trail into the Gulf. A bonus is you won't have that woods-walk on the way back to your car after descending Washington. The drawback is you miss the lower portion of the Great Gulf Trail which is nice in and of itself.

Another nice route down is to take the Gulfside around/over Clay and descend the Sphinx or the Osgood Trails into the Gulf and walk out that way. If the weather cooperates that ridgewalk on the Gulfside can't be beat.

Have fun and let us know how the trip goes.

rockin rex
06-15-2010, 08:14 AM
Being from the New york city area and having been in the Great Gulf many times thought I would make a few comments. First be careful when camping in the Great Gulf. The camping regulations are STRICTLY enforced and tickets are issued for not following the rules. I have always base camped when in the gulf. With so many loop options I never feel like I want to carry a full pack. I set up camp and then take my day pack with warm clothes and a head lamp and take off. The day hike loops up the Gulf or out of the gulf are endless. Chandler Brook and Wamsuetta take you up to the auto road and Alpine Garden area. Buttress, Madison Gulf and Osgood take you up to Adams and Madison also the hut. Six Husbands (one of my favorites) takes you up to Jefferson and the Gulfside trail. Spinx and Great Gulf bring you to the Great Gulf trail nearest to Washington. Base camping lets you move much faster and cover more miles. I usally set my final day to end my hiking back at base camp break camp and head back to the car with the full pack. Hope this gives you some ideas. Carrying full packs up any of the trails out of the Great Gulf to the ridge makes for some hard work.

thesubwaypusher
06-15-2010, 01:33 PM
Thanks everyone for the info.

"Carrying full packs up any of the trails out of the Great Gulf to the ridge makes for some hard work." Rex, I appreciate you confirming this point that I have noticed folks leaning toward in various trip reports. However, we won't be interested in moving fast or covering miles. We just want to get up to the summit at an enjoyable pace, and then have the freedom to come down any which way, without worrying about going a certain way to recover our things from basecamp. This way, we won't have to carry daypacks either. When we have more time off, like a few days, we want to cover more summits of the presidential range, hanging out up top for a while. Your warning on the strictness of where to set up camp is noted and appreciated!

Smitty, are there any other advantages (besides a shorter walk to the car) in taking the OJR to Madison to the GG trail? According to my map, it looks like about 4 miles as opposed to the 2 from the GG. Also, that hike down you suggest over the ridge (weather permitting) looks great. Mileage-wise, it looks feasible to make it down to the car by dark. but since I'm not familiar with the terrain (which can have you moving quite slowly sometimes) do you think we will have any problems descending at an acceptable clip? Please allow for the pain of the previous day. LOL!

Cat, I ordered the book!

Thanks again guys, Chris

smitty77
06-18-2010, 08:15 AM
Smitty, are there any other advantages (besides a shorter walk to the car) in taking the OJR to Madison to the GG trail? According to my map, it looks like about 4 miles as opposed to the 2 from the GG. Also, that hike down you suggest over the ridge (weather permitting) looks great. Mileage-wise, it looks feasible to make it down to the car by dark. but since I'm not familiar with the terrain (which can have you moving quite slowly sometimes) do you think we will have any problems descending at an acceptable clip? Please allow for the pain of the previous day.

Not really, just the shorter walk at the end of the trip. Actually, looking at my map you could save a chunk of time and mileage by taking the Raymond path down to Old Jackson Road. But I've never hiked that section of trail so I can't comment on its condition. I will say the portion of the Tuckerman Ravine trail between the Hermit Lake shelters and Pinkham Notch is one of my least favorite in the Whites, but that's my opinion.

As for the ridge hike, please keep in mind it is very exposed for the entire section, totally above the treeline and prime weather will be required. The footing is what you would expect for the Presidentials above the trees - some okay sections easy on the feet and some areas where you hop from giant rock to giant rock. I don't recall it giving us a lot of trouble but I do remember a very nice break we took on the Monticello lawn (a large grassy area on the side of Mt. Jefferson) for lunch. We by-passed all of the summits even taking the Parapet Trail to access the Osgood Trail. I point this out because a lot of folks report the footing on the Parapet is so tedious that it's almost easier going over the summit of Madison. I don't remember it being that bad, but it was almost 20 years ago so some of the details are a bit fuzzy. For what it's worth I don't recall the Osgood Trail to be all that bad either, and judging by the contour on the map it's one of the more relaxed trails coming off of the ridge into the GG. I've never hiked the Buttress, Six Husbands, or Madison Gulf but my dad told me they are STEEP and I've read others comment that you probably don't want to descend any of them.

The White Mountain guide is THE guide you want with you. The trail descriptions are excellent and the maps are essential. If I had it with me I could better describe these trails, but of course it's sitting at home as I type this.

thesubwaypusher
06-19-2010, 01:37 PM
Thank you very much Smitty. With all this information, we are sure to take the right trails so that we can have a safe climb.

BTW, we plan on moving out early on Sunday morning (6am) to continue from a campsite around Wamsutta- get up the Wall, summit, and begin down my previously mentioned path- and do our best to get back to the car by dark. Are there any particular problems while walking in the dark- say, on the tail end of the Great Gulf trail- approaching the trailhead on Rt. 16? I mean, do like, all the animals suddenly appear? :eek:

Thanks, Chris

claaky23
06-20-2010, 11:07 PM
I think you'll find that you'll reach your planned campsite well before 8, as from start to summit, the whole hike can be done in about 5 hours, 6.5 if enjoying the river. I personally wouldn't want to be hiking in the great gulf in the dark; and I have stumbled on very fresh bear footprints before on the trail. Other than that it sounds like a great plan and a great weekend. Be careful not to lose the trail if you go up the headwall, Cairns are rare above treeline due to winter avalanche. I lost it last year, making a relatively safe hike an extremely hairy situation.

thesubwaypusher
06-21-2010, 01:48 PM
I think you'll find that you'll reach your planned campsite well before 8, as from start to summit, the whole hike can be done in about 5 hours, 6.5 if enjoying the river. I personally wouldn't want to be hiking in the great gulf in the dark; and I have stumbled on very fresh bear footprints before on the trail. Other than that it sounds like a great plan and a great weekend. Be careful not to lose the trail if you go up the headwall, Cairns are rare above treeline due to winter avalanche. I lost it last year, making a relatively safe hike an extremely hairy situation.

Thank you John. I was waiting for someone to warn me about bears in the dark. Funny how we sometimes need confirmation on the most obvious things. Losing the cairns I didn't know and will be careful to keep track of them.

Regards, Chris

Brad
06-21-2010, 09:37 PM
Thank you John. I was waiting for someone to warn me about bears in the dark. Funny how we sometimes need confirmation on the most obvious things. Losing the cairns I didn't know and will be careful to keep track of them.

Regards, Chris
If visibility drops even in the daytime, you can easily lose sight of the next cairn. Years ago I was guiding a group and the clouds came down on us fast as we were above treeline. We had to take sweaters and sweatshirts and hold them by the sleeves to send a string of connected people out in a direction to find the next cairn. Then the rest would come up. It was critical to not lose sight of all the cairns at any point in time. I would not have wanted to be there alone or with just 1 or 2 others.

thesubwaypusher
06-22-2010, 10:09 AM
If visibility drops even in the daytime, you can easily lose sight of the next cairn. Years ago I was guiding a group and the clouds came down on us fast as we were above treeline. We had to take sweaters and sweatshirts and hold them by the sleeves to send a string of connected people out in a direction to find the next cairn. Then the rest would come up. It was critical to not lose sight of all the cairns at any point in time. I would not have wanted to be there alone or with just 1 or 2 others.

Thanks Brad. Because of these warnings, we are going to be extra cautious.

I must ask one more question, since the White Mountain Guide hasn't arrived yet. I know there is no camping allowed above the Sphinx trail. And I know that the campsite is on the Wamsutta trail. Could someone tell me which way to get to the campsite, just in case there are no signs? Is it right or left on the Wamsutta as you come up the Great Gulf Trail?

Thanks, Chris