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View Full Version : Where to hike for the weekend of 11/26-11/27?



Melvin Glover
11-23-2010, 08:13 PM
Hello! Let me introduce myself briefly. I'm Melvin from Chelmsford, MA and I am enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

A couple of friends and I are looking to climb the beautiful Mount Washington this weekend, but after my research, I still don't know the best route for us at this time of the year. We are experienced in hiking and camping, but aren't looking into anything to icy. What are your suggestions on trails to hike? We want to do a 2 day-er, camping somewhere the first night.

Also, where can I park my car overnight?

Thanks, Melvin.

Brad
11-24-2010, 02:46 PM
Melvin, welcome to the forum. This is not a good time of year to be attempting Mt Washington. In the winter days are short, the wind is significantly stronger and the cold will rip right through you if you are not prepared. But, to get started - on the east side leaving from the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (parking is available) you can hike about 2.3 miles up to Hermit lake Shelters and camp there. Just east of the shelters Lion Head Trail goes up to the north and that takes you to the Alpine Garden. When you get to there the wind will kick in if it is a typical windy day. It has been blowing higher than 80 MPH for the past few days with gusts over 100 MPH. Wind chills have been down below minus 20. But, one can always luck out and have a nice day. "Nice" this time of year is wind chill around zero.

From Hermit Lake Shelters you could head further into the ravine and see what the Headwall is like on the right side. My guess is icy and not very safe. But, we have not gotten a lopt of snow yet.

On the western side there are a couple of trails - the Ammo Ravine Trail and the Jewell which both start from the Cog railroad base station. There are all sorts of rules you need to follow about camping along any of the trails. But, be aware the winds do not stop at night time so it can get very cold at night.

Most folks don't start with Washington and certainly not in the winter. There are other peaks in the southern Presidential range such as Pierce which are a lot easier hike and a lot safer to do this time of year. The trail maps will show the best trail is up the western side. For any of these peaks Microspikes are required for better traction in the snow. Others may be able to say whether you need snowshoes yet.

Melvin Glover
11-24-2010, 03:03 PM
Maybe you are indeed right, Brad. Where would you recommend we could do a two day hike this weekend and be able to camp on the mountain (for free if possible)? There will be 3-4 of us, and we are from north eastern MA. We can bring a tent no problem.

Knapper
11-24-2010, 05:15 PM
Hello Melvin -
Welcome to the forums. Good to hear that you are interested in hiking to the summit of Mt. Washington. I don't know what your hiking experience is so it is hard to say if this is a good weekend for ya. The summit can be beautiful and doable this time of year but you really have to know what you are getting into especially when it comes to the weather up here. So, before you start in on any other plans, always start with the weather.

We (the observatory) post a 36 hour outlook every morning by 6 am. We also post a mp3 evening forecast by 6 pm daily as well. While the dates of your hike are outside that window currently, you can continue to check back to see what is happening on the days leading up to your hike as well as on the day(s) you are planning to hike. This is available here: http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/summit_forecast.php. NWS also provides their 36 hour forecast each morning and after by 6 am/6 pm available here: http://www.weather.gov/view/validProds.php?prod=REC&node=KGYX. You can also check out any automated weather site like NWS regional forecasts, accuweather, weather underground, etc but when it asks for a location, DO NOT put "Mt Washington, NH" but rather put our zip code 03589. For reasons longer than I want to explain in this forum, the model statistics for our zip code tend to be far more accurate than our names location. But even then, keep in mind that the numbers for a zip code are just model stats and have little to no human interpretation.

As far as my loose numbers on how this weekend is shaping up (I am one of the meteorologists on the summit by the way), it is looking like the 26th (Friday) will see temperatures starting in the mid 20s then fall to mid teens by the afternoon, winds will be 35-50 mph increasing to 50-70 mph, in the fog with mixed precipitation turning mostly to snow, heavy at times with blowing snow in the afternoon. Fog and mixed precipitation will linger overnight becoming showery by the 27th. Temperatures will fall and remain in the single digits for the 27th. Winds remaining 45-60 mph overnight and during the day Saturday.

Now, these numbers are preliminary but looking at how the models have been behaving, things should look like this. But keep in mind and continue to check the links above as things might shift colder, wet, and windier as well. But this is one thing to consider in your decision on where to hike this weekend.

The next thing to consider is your equipment. Like Brad mentioned, it is winter up here, so you should dress as such. Here is an equipment list that EMS recommends for hikes up here: http://www.emsclimb.com/equipment_lists/observatory.html and a similar list from REI: http://www.rei.com/adventures/trips/weekend/mww.html#sec2 Now, while some of this equipment probably isn't necessary this time of year, a lot of it is stuff I would be carrying even for a day trip up here.

Next up is trail conditions which you can get here: http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/tripplanner/go/index.cfm Also, when you arrive, check in at Pinkham Notch or the Highland Center to get more current information and to sign their log books. But I can say on the summit cone (from 4k upward), Trax or Crampons w/ ice axe are strongly encouraged. It is very icy up here currently.

As far as an overnight, camping can be hard to come by this time of year around the summit. There are spots but I would recommend a shelter or hut in the system. Information for AMC huts and shelters can be found here: http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/availability/index.cfm/fuseaction/availability.main and you can check RMC huts and shelters here: http://www.randolphmountainclub.org/sheltersinfo/aboutourshelters.html. There are also some campgrounds around the summit you can camp at and just do a few day hikes around the area. I would recommend Zealand or Carter Notch as good alternatives that are rewarding.

As far as parking, on the east side, Pinkham notch is the common place and on the west, there is a car park off the cog road. If you choose other trails to the summit or other locations like Appalachia, NH, most will allow overnight parking. If unsure, check the signs at the trail heads or check in at a local ranger station or AMC visitor center (there are one of each of these in Pinkham Notch).

I am sure there are other things I am forgetting but other forum members can chime in and help guide ya as well. But if you decide that the summit is something you can do, and are well prepared for keep a few things in mind. Nothing is open on the summit this time of year. If you do get in trouble, it can be hours before a rescue can be done, especially with the weather looking as it is. Even if we find you need help right outside our doors the fastest we can get you down and to a hospital is, at best, 3 hours. Cell service is spotty around the whites, so bring them but don't rely on them. Hike with someone else or at least let others know exactly where you are going. Invest in a map. GPS's are fine but they can fail. And remember, it is usually safer to head back down than it is to head up as conditions always get worst the higher you go. The mountain isn't going anywhere, so if you can't reach the top this weekend, go to where you feel comfortable and try again another day. Good luck in your decisions and play safe out there this weekend.

Brad
11-24-2010, 05:31 PM
Ryan, I had forgotten about RMC and their Grey Knob cabin. That could be a good option to hike to there for the night - then depending on conditions and advice from the caretaker, plan out the next day for maybe Adams.

Melvin Glover
11-24-2010, 07:22 PM
Thanks for the info from both of you. My friends and I have decided to save the Washington beast for the spring. What would you guys suggest for other mountains in New Hampshire that can be done in two days, and allows fee-free camping on the mountain? We really want an overnight hike. Any information in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

We were thinking the Franconia Loop.

Edit: We are probably doing the Franconia loop. We want to camp, backcountry camp that is. It si against restrictions to do this? We want to make it a 2-day and not have to rush, and we dont want to camp at Lafayette Place.

mtruman
11-24-2010, 08:05 PM
For back country camping you're a bit limited with the Franconia loop. There is no camping allowed above treeline (which rules out everything on top) and in other areas the rules vary but any campsites need to be 200 feet off trail and on this loop you'd be hard pressed to find a spot (or even know where to head off trial to look). The best bet would be Liberty Springs tent site which is just below treeline on the Liberty Springs trail below the summit of Liberty. If you do a clockwise loop (going up Old Bridle Path) you can continue across the ridge past Little Haystack and continue to the Liberty Springs trail and head down (just a couple of tenths) to the tent sites. They are wooden tent platforms (which is the only way to get a level spot in these areas). You can find out more on the AMC site (www.outdoors.org).

Remember what was said about the Mt Washington conditions though. On the ridge you're going to be well above 4000' (5249 on Lafayette) and completely exposed. If it's windy you're going to feel the full force up there. You also need to count on ice and snow on the trails and likely sections of floe-ice (basically frozen streams down the trail) which will be impossible to traverse without traction (Microspikes, etc). These were the conditions being reported by everyone hiking 4000 footers in the Whites last weekend so it's a pretty safe bet. Also remember that it's going to be COLD at night camping. You need full winter gear to be safe and at least a zero degree sleeping bag if not warmer. Not trying to discourage you with this - just want to make sure that you are prepared and safe. Good luck.

Here's the link to the complete forest service backcountry camping rules: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/white_mountain/recreation/camping/2010_backcountry_rules_web.pdf

AMC page for backcountry tent sites and shelters: http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/campsites/

Melvin Glover
11-24-2010, 08:43 PM
Thank you very much Mark! I will begin my research and decide what my friends and I are doing.

Brad
11-24-2010, 09:38 PM
I still come back to Gray Knob as an option. Not really camping outside - but it would be a lot safer - and a bit warmer though not much some times.

http://www.randolphmountainclub.org/sheltersinfo/aboutourshelters.html

Knapper
11-24-2010, 10:35 PM
Something to consider this weekend regardless on where you camp is it is going to be a wintry mix at all elevations. The 26th may see rain but this will transition to sleet, freezing rain and finally snow Friday into the overnight hours and Saturday. So, depending on your location and tents rating, you might have to have someone up in shifts through the night to keep the tie downs tight and snow/glaze ice off the tent to keep it from collapsing or failing. If you are hell bent on getting out there this weekend, a shelter or platform location or hut is highly recommended. If it were me or my friends wanting to do this I would tell them to reconsider and do another weekend or point them towards a semi-sheltered type outing. Most are very cheap and if you are all sharing, you can all chip in to make it cheaper. It will be very icy this weekend and where it isn't freezing, be weary of trail flooding as nearly an inch of precipitation will be falling late Thursday night to Saturday. Just make sure you know what you are getting into and that you are well prepared. This weekends weather will be no joke.

And I echo Mark on the Franconia Loop. It is very similar to the Presidentials in conditions. Maybe look at the Ossipee range for some alternate trails. And if you need more trail information, check out the AMC's White Mountain Guide. It's like the bible of hiking for this area. Since you are at university, odds are they have a copy at your schools library to look at. If not, it is also online. Just make sure whatever you end up doing that you are prepared and not just hiking because you have two days off and that is what you have to do. The mountains aren't going anywhere.

Melvin Glover
11-24-2010, 11:22 PM
thank you all for your generous help. we were actually just discussing the weather conditions, and will wait it out to see if next weekend is any better for the weather. I will let you all know what actually happens!

mtruman
11-25-2010, 06:46 AM
I think you guys are making a good choice Melvin. Sorry it didn't work out this weekend. Mountain weather has a way of interrupting our plans sometimes. Hope it works out for you next weekend. Look forward to hearing the story (and seeing the pics).

smithtim
11-26-2010, 11:48 AM
I still come back to Gray Knob as an option. Not really camping outside - but it would be a lot safer - and a bit warmer though not much some times.

http://www.randolphmountainclub.org/sheltersinfo/aboutourshelters.html

2nd that and there are a tons of options for a few day treks over there with the vast number of trails RMC maintains.


Best of luck for a safe & enjoyable hike whichever weekend it turns out to be

freighttrain
11-26-2010, 01:30 PM
Hello! Let me introduce myself briefly. I'm Melvin from Chelmsford, MA and I am enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

A couple of friends and I are looking to climb the beautiful Mount Washington this weekend, but after my research, I still don't know the best route for us at this time of the year. We are experienced in hiking and camping, but aren't looking into anything to icy. What are your suggestions on trails to hike? We want to do a 2 day-er, camping somewhere the first night.

Also, where can I park my car overnight?

Thanks, Melvin.

I would ask how experienced a hiker are you ? Have you been out in this kind of weather before? If not I would hike south of the white mtns. Its gonna be cold wet and windy so if you do go to the whites I would pick a hike that is below the tree line. Also you dont want something icy. Well I would bet after the rain and sleet that has been going on there everywere is icy so if you dont have at the minimum micro spikes I would pick something else to do. Like our weather forcasting friend knapper says the mtns arent going anywere. But If you still want to hike I would do Mt isolation its 14.6 miles round trip and the trail head is rocky branch trail head on rt 16 in glenn. you can get a parking permit at right off exit 32 in lincoln get off the highway and go strait ahead you will see a white building. Were the rocky branch trail meets the mt isolation trail there is a shelter. But be very very careful crossing the rocky branch river if somebody falls in its gonna be a cold 3.6 mile walk to the car!