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View Full Version : What is good enough shape to climb Mount Washington?



Vox Sciurorum
07-02-2010, 07:50 AM
I want to climb Mount Washington but it's much more elevation gain that I've climbed before and I have doubts I should try it yet. But I also don't know how to know when I am in good enough condition to try.

Is there a guideline for prior experience, like if you can climb X feet of elevation gain or the length of some trail you can probably make it the extra height or distance up Mount Washington?

If the internet is to be believed the Ammonoosuc ravine trail is not as steep as the climb up to East Osceola. But it is almost as steep for twice the distance.

KD Talbot
07-03-2010, 10:51 AM
Have you hiked up to East Osceola? I find that most of the trails to the summit of MW are a good bit more difficult than most of the other trails in the White Mountains. The difference is the above treeline rock-hopping and scrambling. In bad weather this can be a nightmare, in good weather it can be like crossing a desert.

Not knowing what shape you're in, it is hard to tell how well you will do. Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the most common trail to the summit and tens of thousands of folks in all kinds of shape and size make the climb each year. It is 4.5 miles and 4250' of elevation gain, have you done anything like that?

The most important thing to remember when attempting it is that the summit is only 1/2 way, you still have to get back down. The Auto Road and the Cog are not viable options and shouldn't be relied upon to bail you out. Know your limitations and if you think you've gone too far, you probably have. Turn around. The mountain will always be there.

KDT

Charlie
07-03-2010, 06:09 PM
the first time i started up i got almost half way up and my legs cramped up and i had to go down ,if i kept going i may have needed help to get off and i did not want that
last year i did make it to the top but i have a hard time breathing so i need to go slow .my legs were ok and im doing a lot of walking up hill and stairs to get ready for the july trip up

so if you work up your legs and take your time and you will do it

krummholz
07-03-2010, 08:40 PM
If you can do a hike with something like 3000-3500 feet of elevation gain comfortably, then you can almost certainly make it up (and down) Washington--but expect some sore leg muscles the next day, since the particular type of motion involved in hopping around on the talus is hard to duplicate anywhere other than above treeline in the Presies. Going up Lafayette and/or Lincoln would be a good warmup, maybe the Falling Waters / Old Bridle Path circuit. (Not Old Bridal Path, by the way--this strangely irritates me beyond any reasonable measure!)

Tim&Val
07-04-2010, 08:47 PM
I think that the Ammo trail is a great way to get Washington for your first time! You have the Lakes of the Clouds hut as a milestone, so if you make it there, that's great! Buy a cookie, enjoy the views... do you feel like doing more uphill? 0.3 miles more or 1.5 miles more? If 0.3, then you get Monroe (which, by the way, has fantastic VIEWS of Mt Washington). If you still have spunk, then you go for Mt Washington. This gives you intermediate goals so that if you can't do all the elevation that's needed for the summit, you've still had plenty of positive reinforcement and will want to come back and try again!

The first time I summited Mount Washington, it hadn't even been in the plans. We were *only* doing Monroe, but the day was so clear and perfect, that we went for it (with appropriate calls to our family so that they knew the updated plans).

Bill O
07-04-2010, 09:21 PM
It's not always practical to train for a hike by essentially mirroring the distance / elevation gain on another mountain. Yes, if you can climb 5,000 vertical feet you should be able to climb Mount Washington, but that's not going to help you train since you probably don't have a 5,000 foot mountain in your backyard. Nobody trains for climbing Mount Everest by climbing Mount Everest. You can actually climb really big mountains by training in a gym with weights and walking on flat ground. People from Iowa go to the Himalayas too.

For running my rule is that I can race twice the distance I've trained at. For a marathon that means my longest runs in the training cycle are only 13.1 miles.

For hiking that means if you regularly and comfortably hike 2,000 vertical feet and four miles you should be able to double that for your "A" hike up Mount Washington. Your "A" hikes are your big goals for the year. Maybe MWN for the first time. These are what you train and taper for so you peak just in time for the hike.

Addicted
07-06-2010, 01:14 PM
I hiked up Tuckerman Ravine and down Lions Head when I did it. Consider your knees, as this is where most of my pain was. Once the knees start to ache, it's not a case of stamina or the willingness to continue, but becomes the inability to. I would have paid anything for a 4 wheeler to come by on that last mile on the way down and pick me up. I had to step sideways in places because the stepping from one rock to another in a downward motion was excrutiating. And trust me, it always feels so much worse than you think it would! But I made it, just something to consider.

Brad
07-06-2010, 03:42 PM
I hiked up Tuckerman Ravine and down Lions Head when I did it. Consider your knees, as this is where most of my pain was. Once the knees start to ache, it's not a case of stamina or the willingness to continue, but becomes the inability to. I would have paid anything for a 4 wheeler to come by on that last mile on the way down and pick me up. I had to step sideways in places because the stepping from one rock to another in a downward motion was excrutiating. And trust me, it always feels so much worse than you think it would! But I made it, just something to consider.
I find that treking poles really help on the way down.

Snow Miser
07-06-2010, 04:13 PM
I find that treking poles really help on the way down.

I too find the poles to be essential to help save the knees.

smithtim
07-06-2010, 05:39 PM
If the internet is to be believed the Ammonoosuc ravine trail is not as steep as the climb up to East Osceola. But it is almost as steep for twice the distance.
per nat geo

ammonooscu is 3.1 miles & 2500' to lake of clouds then probably a long mile or close to two on the from the hut to summit along the app trail with maybee 1000'??

tuckermans is 4.2 miles & 4250' from pinkman to summit


so yes doing the math ammonooscu is longer but not as steep grade then tucks ( anybody have the info on Osceola).



For preparations & all that I'd say eat a lot of carbs the night before, get good rest, get up early eat some protein and get a very early start then see what happens. Just bring plenty of water /snacks + listen to your body & pay attention to the weather as the mountain will be there tomorrow.......

Charlie
07-06-2010, 06:57 PM
I find that treking poles really help on the way down.

i find it helpful on the way up and down ,it helps like having a 3rd leg to lean on for balance . when my legs cramped up when i was above the tree line on Lions Head trail it helped out a lot coming down

Vox Sciurorum
07-06-2010, 07:56 PM
Thanks for the replies.

I went up Beaver Brook trail to Mount Moosilauke last weekend and that confirmed that Mount Washington would have been a bad idea. I probably would have made it to the top but I would not have made it down on foot. I tried East Osceola earlier this spring. My friend's back started hurting him so we didn't make it all the way up.

I haven't been using poles. I did buy a pair recently. I suppose I should practice in my own area.

I've never had knee problems. My main concern is ankles. I can easily see myself turning an ankle walking downhill on rough ground when my legs are tired. I do have decent boots but they can't save me every time.

Where I got sore after last weekend was the front of my thighs. I read that both East Osceola and Beaver Brook trail are class 2 climbs. Those wear me out. From 2,000 to 3,000 feet on Mousilauke felt like more work than 3,000 to 4,802.

climbabout
07-07-2010, 08:10 AM
I find poles invaluable for both up hill and down hill. Like having 4 legs instead of 2.
Tim

Addicted
07-07-2010, 11:20 AM
I NEVER leave home without my poles...

mtruman
07-07-2010, 02:46 PM
Another vote for poles - particularly for anyone with knee or back issues (both in my case). For an east side loop my personal opinion is that up Lion Head and down Tuckermans is the easier option. There are a number of sections on Lion Head that aren't too bad going up that I don't think would be much fun on the way down - particularly with tired legs. For me the worst part of this route is the last 2 miles down from HoJo's. It isn't hard in terms of steepness, rock hopping or any of the other things that are a regular part of the rest of the route. It just feels like you should be back at Pinkham by the time you get there and 2 more miles with 2000' of elevation (down) to go just wears you down.

Ghost23
08-16-2010, 09:13 AM
First of all, thanks for the information guys. I'm training now to make an attempt on Mt Washington as part of the 3 day accelerated program that EMS offers.

My main reason for climbing Mt Washington is skill building. My ultimate goal is to climb the Matterhorn in 2012. I'm going to the gym 3x a week with weight training and running(I'm looking at running about a 1/2 hour every day as opposed to just 3x a week). I'm looking at climbing Mt Washington in December 2010, Grand Teton during the summer of 2011 and the Matterhorn on 2012.

My question is this. For those who use a gym to train primarily, how can I tell that I'm "ready" for Washington?

Thanks for your help!

Vox Sciurorum
09-02-2010, 09:03 AM
I did make it this week. Not as wearying as I feared, but I was still tired that day and sore in my thighs the next. My schedule had over two hours of slack but I blew that by three hours to get back to my car almost an hour after dark. I got late one little bit at a time. Leave home a little late. Rest a little here. Five minutes there when I lost the trail. Slower descending over boulders than I planned. And so on.

The train wasn't carrying hikers on Monday; it was reserved for some environmental group's excursion. Otherwise I would have bailed out that way. Near the end I met another guy who didn't make it down until after dark.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31715949@N00/sets/72157624734949685/

The weather was nice -- clear, warm, maybe a little humid. The summit forecast said 25-40 mph winds but I'd say they were blowing 50+ on the deck.

There was a spot on the Jewell trail above treeline where I couldn't see the next cairn. I could see the trail clearly in the distance far below me. What was between there and here was a mystery. There was a broad rock slope and any part of it might have been the trail. I guessed wrong and had to go back and over to the real trail.

deborye
09-14-2010, 12:23 PM
I made it to the top via Amonoosuc Ravine Trail, everyone was saying that is the easiest. HOLY MOLY it took me 7 hours. We made it to take the Cog down in the knick of time. I would not of made it back down. I 'm sticking the smaller mountains. I thought I was ready but did not count on the weight of the water and snacks.

Brad
09-14-2010, 03:31 PM
Good post - and nice to know you made it back down safely. Hitching a ride down on the Cog or in a van is an iffy thing and not one to count on.

I have taken friends and family on Mt Washington hikes with a wide variety of results. The common theme though is - it was a lot harder than they expected. That was true even for those who run 5-8 miles a day - or bike a lot - or swim a lot. There is something different about the muscles used for hiking and the never ending irregular steps. Everyone says the only way to prepare for a hike like Mt Washington is to hike and work up to it.

Your post should be a reminder to folks - don't start with Mt Washington and don't go up further than you can get down on your own.

novascroller
09-23-2010, 12:38 PM
We made it up via Tuckerman's on Sept 11th! it was crazy busy up there. It took us 5 hrs to get up, including rest stops. I thought that the climbing would get easier after the headwall, i was wrong. lol This was our first challenging climb in the Whites as our usual hike is Mt Willard. my heart rate monitor recorded that i used 4400 calories going up. we took the shuttle back down (cheated). There was one spot that scared me and that was one section on the headwall when it turns back to the left, there was absolutely nothing to grab a hold of! trekking poles helped a lot to get to the headwall and summit cone but looking back on it now, they may have been more of a hinderance than a help during the last half of the hike. they definately would have helped coming down. the idea of climbing back down Tuckerman's scared me. we would have likely taken the Boott Spur trail back down if the shuttle was unavailable.

Brad
09-25-2010, 04:42 PM
I was talking with the man who sells one-way down tickets - just for the Cog. He sold 68 tickets one day this summer.

smithtim
10-02-2010, 02:23 PM
I was talking with the man who sells one-way down tickets - just for the Cog. He sold 68 tickets one day this summer.

interesting...

Vox Sciurorum
10-16-2010, 11:30 AM
Good post - and nice to know you made it back down safely. Hitching a ride down on the Cog or in a van is an iffy thing and not one to count on.

I have taken friends and family on Mt Washington hikes with a wide variety of results. The common theme though is - it was a lot harder than they expected. That was true even for those who run 5-8 miles a day - or bike a lot - or swim a lot. There is something different about the muscles used for hiking and the never ending irregular steps. Everyone says the only way to prepare for a hike like Mt Washington is to hike and work up to it.

Your post should be a reminder to folks - don't start with Mt Washington and don't go up further than you can get down on your own.

I find that slope matters a lot. A few weeks after climbing Mount Washington I climbed up Mount Israel, one of the shorter White Mountains, and had to stop to rest. a few times Then I went up the unimaginatively-named "old bridle path" in Franconia Notch and was fine even though it is 2,400 feet vs. 1,500 feet elevation gain. It must have been a little less steep.

For people who get tired in steep sections the Jewell Trail up Mount Washington ought to be a lot easier than the others. Coming down I found it mostly smooth and not too steep from base to tree line.

smithtim
10-16-2010, 11:31 PM
I find that slope matters a lot.

that's an undersatment..... for example take the loop trail just south of the bridle path you mentioned

To get to the summit there is a split a little ways in on Liberty Springs trail: continue straight to the top and then go right along the ridge and you'll arrive at the 4300' foot Mt. Flume ( actually passing a higher peak) in roughly 5 miles with no worries, almost could do in tennis shoes........but instead take a right at that split you'll arrive at that same summit in a little bit shorter distance (4.8 miles to be exact), but the last 0.7 miles stretch is over 30 degrees in slope that will really make you feel it when you get to the summit

cluettr
10-18-2010, 12:46 PM
I haven't read every response here but there is a lot to consider. If you are questioning whether you can climb Mount Washington and it being your first time you should take considerable precautions and know what you are getting yourself in to.

I climbed Washington only to have to descend via the Cog Railway. Why? I suffered dehydration/heat stroke just 50 feet from the summit. Yes, I bonked and was uttering nonesense as my climbing partner told me. I could not keep my eyes straight and had to stop after every 10 steps.

To qualify all this, I was attempting a Presedential Traverse and Washington happened to be on day 2. I had attempted to climb 2 mountains the day prior (one of which I was successful at climbing). I was not able to Summit Madison because I suffered what we thought was dehydration. In the end as my doctor told me it was Heat Stroke. Anyway sat it out Madison while at the Madison Spring Hut and my fellow climbers ascended the rest of the way. The following day after rest I was ready to summit the final 5 mountains. I had assumed I was recovered. Washington was to be the second summit that that day. I climbed Adams with no problem at all and felt great. I bonked as I said 50 feet from the summit of Washington. I had a 37 lb pack. I had only climbed the Osceola's before this attempt so I was unwise to do this. My fitness level was not there. Since my failed attempt I have summited another 12 4,000-5,000 foot mountains. It's easier now and I feel safer now targeting a summit of Washington.

The things to consider are this:

1) How heavy is your pack going to be? Keep it light!
2) Are you aware of how to properlly manage your heat levels (either for summer or winter). Aviod heat stroke!!!! Avoid dehydration!!!!
3) Are you climbing with a crew of 4? Yes a crew of 4 is ideal and I feel necessary. If someone bonks or gets hurt one can wait with the downed man and the other 2 can hike out.
4) What is your current fitness level. Climbing/hiking is it's own beast. Runners project well for hiking but other fitness levels may not.
5) Lastly, what have you done in the days prior? Avoid drinking, rest-up, get good sleep.

Brad
10-19-2010, 01:58 PM
The things to consider are this:

1) How heavy is your pack going to be? Keep it light!
2) Are you aware of how to properlly manage your heat levels (either for summer or winter). Aviod heat stroke!!!! Avoid dehydration!!!!
3) Are you climbing with a crew of 4? Yes a crew of 4 is ideal and I feel necessary. If someone bonks or gets hurt one can wait with the downed man and the other 2 can hike out.
4) What is your current fitness level. Climbing/hiking is it's own beast. Runners project well for hiking but other fitness levels may not.
5) Lastly, what have you done in the days prior? Avoid drinking, rest-up, get good sleep.
First off, I am glad you are safe and back home a bit wiser. There are some good lessons for us all to learn from your experiences. Many times we hear the only way of getting in shape to hike up a mountain is to hike up a mountain - and work up to heavier packs and longer hikes. Also, do not hike up further than you can hike down. There might not be a ride down. For example, I have heard for the next 2 days the Auto Road will not be open at all due to paving activities. There are all sorts of reasons why a ride down might not work out. I have hiked Mt Washington with runners who still struggled with the activity. Being overly cautious is a very good thing.

I am sure others will add to your list. But, I have to add that you make sure there is someone who knows exactly what trails you will be doing and the planned timing of things. That person knowing the trails from personal experience helps also. I find most times I can get a text message to my home-base contact to keep him updated where I am - even if I can not make a voice call. The new Delorme GPS unit that lets you text message off a satellite connection is an interesting new capability.

It helps when folks share their good and bad experiences here on the forum for us all to learn from. Thanks.

freighttrain
10-23-2010, 06:01 PM
Climbing up the rock pile should not be your first summit in the whites. I set a goal for myself to climb mt washington in 2010 and to also start doing the 4000 footers list. I will start out with some background dec 2008 i weighed 356lbs and would have had trouble climbing a 20ft ladder let alone the tallest moutain in the northeast. by spring of 2010 i had slimed down to 280lbs and still weigh about the same. I have hiked 15 of the 48 4k footers and if I can give anyone doubting there ability some advice I would say bag about 10 peaks first and make sure you are hiking about 10 to 15 miles a week. get a couple 10 + mile climbs under your belt do the lincoln lafayette loop do the hancock loop the steepness you will incounter on the hancock loop trail is similar but much shorter than a washington climb. Also pace is very very important. For example the tuckerman ravine trail is rather easy in the begining until you hit the lunchrocks on the floor of the ravine. but from there it is a very steep and exposed climb. If you go as fast as you can to the floor of the ravine you will wipe yourself out by the time you reach the top. taking it easy and going slow in the begining can help you get a groove that can stay with you longer and make less stops to rest. Also when you attemp the rockpile for the first time do it in june/ july when the days are longer it may take you ten + hours to do this hike and you want daylight on your side