View Full Version : Tuckerman - Height Issues

03-28-2011, 08:20 PM
I'll be hiking Mt Washington for the first time in mid-June from Pinkham Notch. I am planning on going up the Tuckerman Ravine trail, but I understand that sections of it are often closed due to snow/avalanche risk this time of year. Does anyone know what alternate routes are suggested to get around the closed sections of the trail? My hiking companion has a fear of heights, and although we've done lots of steep climbs together (Grand Canyon, etc.), we've never been to the White Mountains. Are any trails better for people with height issues?

Also, how easy is it to go up and back the same day? We're planning on doing that, but are considering a two day hike instead with a stayover at Lake of the Clouds Hut. We're experienced hikers, in good shape, in our 50s. From what I?ve read, it seems about a 9-10 hour hike roundtrip if we to do it same day...

Any advice would be welcome. Thanks!

03-31-2011, 03:49 PM
The snow in the Whites is very deep this year. (It's so awesome!) I would not be surprised if the Tuckerman Ravine Tr is closed in mid-June. You'll have to read the trip reports before your trip to get an idea of the trail conditions. You can do that here: trailsnh.com/find/Mt+Washington

Ammonoosuc Ravine Tr makes a very enjoyable alternative to Tuckerman Ravine Tr. It starts near the base of the Cog (west side of Mt W.), and climbs right to Lake of the Clouds hut. You'll have the option of descending the Jewell Tr back to the Cog.

How easy is it? That depends. Lot's and lots of people do it as an up-and-back in a day. I'm sure lots of people think it's very hard, but worth it. 9-10 hours sounds like a safe estimate, call it an all-day hike.


04-01-2011, 06:52 AM
If doing the Lions Head or Tuckerman routes from the east or the Ammonoosuc trail and Jewell Trails from the west, they are both very doable in a day. Some people will stretch them out to two days on these trails but if you are in decent enought shape, the time that Kimball said is realistic. The key (among several) is to keep an eye on the weather forecast on our page on the day of your hike and start early. Regardless of your start time, pack a headlamp or flashlight just in case though. There is no guaranteed rides down.

When it comes to the height thing, if it is a major issue, I would recommend an up and down on the Jewell Trail if only planning a one or two day trip. Most do the up the Ammonoosuc and down the Jewell but the Ammie can get pretty steep the further up you go and I have had friends take issue on the trail when they look back down. But the Jewell keeps you in a lower pitch most of the way up. The best is to look at a topo trail map (which I recommend buying before hiking up) and look at the pitches yourself. There are also plenty of online resources and books to help you choose your trail as well.

04-01-2011, 08:36 AM
I love going up Tuckerman Ravine - but prefer doing Lion Head trail up and then down for the Headwall. But, in June snow would be my biggest concern. Based on what I know now of the conditions, I would not do an east side hike as my first time up Mt Washington in June. I would go with up on the Ammo trail if the conditions are good - then down the Jewell. I have never done down on the Ammo and it is fine I am sure - but when the Jewell is right there and so much "better" I always have done the Jewell down. If the Ammo conditions are bad, I would do up and down on the Jewell. I would take full winter gear, microspikes, headlamps just in case. The weather changes fast - and being on the western side you will see it coming in which is really good. If you can plan a 3-day weekend for the hike - and then select the best weather day, you will have better success.

04-01-2011, 12:48 PM
I definitely agree with Brad on making it a long weekend, and picking the best day. I, personally, was completely wiped out on completion of my hike, going up Tuckermans and down Lions head. Lion's head is a killer on the knees, as I suspect Tux would be coming down, although i haven't decended that way yet. I did come down the Ammo though, and don't remember the steepness on the way down bothering me much.

I found that the thing with tuckermans ravine is that I was so wrapped up in the scenery and the view around me, that I never really noticed the steepness of the fact that I was hiking along the edge of a steep drop in places. I never once felt fear or concern on the trail, but you do have to remember that it's a long way down should you mistep! Either way, Tux or Ammo or Jewell, the views you'll get on a clear day will be amazing!

04-01-2011, 10:11 PM
Part of the issue with doing Ammo down is the slippery rocks.

04-03-2011, 06:19 PM
i would like to do a 2 day hike late this year and do the Ammo up to Lakes in the clouds and then summit the next day and down the Jewell

04-03-2011, 06:52 PM
I'll echo the sentiments of the others on the multi-day hike. Mid June is the perfect time for this since the Alpine Garden should be in bloom. We've wanted to do this for several years and finally have our plans set this time. We're actually spending two nights at Lakes of the Clouds to give us a whole day in the middle. The only thing is reservations for the hut are filling fast. When we made ours several weeks ago the first and second weekends in June were fully booked and we got almost the last spots for the third weekend. Not sure how things are now. (You can check on the AMC site - outdoors.org).

As for Tuckerman's and height issues - I have a pretty good case of acrophobia. We've gone down Tuckerman's (and up Lion Head) all three times we've been to the summit. I haven't had any place on Tucks that I felt nervous. You do have to be careful and stay away from the edges of the trail in the more precipitous spots. Doing it with snow on the trail would be another story though - not something I want to do.

However it works out for you I hope you have a great time. Perhaps we'll even run into each other up there...

04-04-2011, 07:14 AM
I have gone up the Ammo and down the Jewell 3 times and really like this route. If you park at the hikers parking lot and take the trail from there I find it a nice little warm up. As far as coming down the Ammo. Last time I did it the rocks were wet and I seen a guy take one heck of a fall. He was ok but a bit embarresed and his butt a bit dirty. I also do not like hight and I had no problem with the Ammo or the one time I went down by Tucks.

04-04-2011, 09:04 PM
Add another one who likes going up Ammo and going down the Jewell! In fact, that is what my group is planning to do this May. Best of luck in what you decided to do :)

04-05-2011, 07:25 PM
Thanks to everyone for all the helpful replies. Sounds like I have two good options for a full day hike: (1) Up Ammo and down Jewell, or (2) Up Lions Head and down Tuck. I'll definitely need to check the posts in mid-May and then decide. A couple of follow-up questions...

If I do (1), what is the likelihood that there will be snow on the Ammo and Jewell trails in mid-June? Do I need spikes/snow gear? I know it's been a snowy winter, but since I've never been there I don't have a good feel for what the conditions will be on the various trails. I assume if I did this trail it would be best to use the AMC Highland Center as my base (my current reservation is at Joe Dodge/Pinkham Notch).

If I do (2), I assume sections of the Tuck trail will be off-limits due to avalanche issues. Does this typically affect the entire trail (as well as Lions Head), or just sections of Tuck? Can I still fit in a hike along the Alpine Garden Trail, which I hear is beautiful in June?

Thanks again everyone!!


04-06-2011, 07:20 AM
The west side (Ammo/Jewel) trails should be clear by mid June (we certainly hope so anyway). The info about avalanche danger would be posted on the Mount Washington Avalanche Center site: http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/. They have historical advisories going back a full year so you can see the conditions from last year to get an idea. The last posted avalanche warning last year was May 24th.

The Lion Head winter route is always open but winter conditions dictate full gear (ice axe, crampons). Those conditions are hopefully not going to still exist in mid-June but again you want to check back closer to the time of your trip. You can also check out the Time for Tuckerman site and forums: http://timefortuckerman.com/

A one day trip via Ammo and Jewel is not going to allow you to get to the Alpine Garden since that's on the other side of the summit. If you come up Lion Head you cross through the edge of the Alpine Garden on your way up. On the west side trails you can still hopefully catch the June blooms in Monroe flats (near Lakes of the Clouds hut). This area generally coincides pretty well with the Alpine Garden blooms.

Again, hope this all works out well (for both of us). :D

04-09-2011, 06:47 AM
Another thing that could help you is to go back through the web camera image archives to see what the Ravines looked like in June in prior years. The Ravines camera (and the others) are organized by year - then by camera inside the year - then by month at http://public.fotki.com/MWO/

KD Talbot
04-09-2011, 08:38 PM
My biggest concern in early June would not be ice, snow or heights. It would be Blackflies... :(


04-09-2011, 09:36 PM
My biggest concern in early June would not be ice, snow or heights. It would be Blackflies... :(

Kevin, if you weigh enough they can not carry you away. So, no problem.

KD Talbot
04-10-2011, 10:32 AM
after a few hours hanging out with them, my fluid weight has diminished enough to where they could carry me away. Sometimes I just jump off a cliff to stop the buzzin'...

True story: I can't remember who told me, which makes it all the more believable...

This guy's on a survey crew in Northern Quebec, the flies are eatin' him alive. After a day in the woods pushin' him towards insanity he says to an old timer, "Man, these flies are horrible!"

The old timer grunts and says, "You think this is bad? Down in New Hampshire they got this place called Pinkham Notch..."


04-11-2011, 10:12 PM
I never thought I'd be hoping for rain and heavy winds on the day of my hike!


05-09-2011, 12:35 PM
I've hiked up Tuckerman's and down - up Lion's Head and down - up Jewell trail and down - and up Ammonoosuc Ravine and down. In short I've hiked just about every trail up AND down. When you come right down to it, no matter WHICH trail you take in the Whites, there is going to be SOME stretch of it that is demanding. Somewhere along the way you HAVE to get up roughly 3,000 vertical feet to the ridgeline. The Jewell trail is probably the easiest/ most gradual rise of any of them - longer, too, of course - for that very same reason. Almost everyone I read about does that loop "up the Ammo - down the Jewell", but I am one of those that loves that trek in reverse . . . Don't think there's any right or wrong there - just personal preference . . .
As to the "height issue", I, too, have hiked in the Grand Canyon. If your friend can handle some of THOSE trails (visually SEEING 8 or 9 switchbacks directly below you, decending 1,000 feet or more) then I seriously doubt they will find things here worse than that. Tuckerman Ravine trail will have sections that might come CLOSE, but I remember, in the Grand Canyon, flattening myself against the Canyon wall to
let the "mule train", with riders, pass. I remember thinking that if I were ON one of those mules and looked to my side, I wouldn't see any ground, just the fall-off to 1,000 feet below. I hugged the canyon wall a little harder and closer and thought to myself I would never in a million years ride one of those mules. Thinking of that, I can't think, even on Tuckerman's, of any stretch that came that close to making me nervous. (and the Grand Canyon didn't really make me nervous either - more concerned for those riders on those mules - I will always trust MY feet more!) Besides that, in mid June, you probably won't even be able to go up that part of Tuckerman's - but will take that climb up Lion's Head trail and join Tuckerman's trail up top . . .
Now, while all of this CAN be done in one day - as a strenous day hike, I would ALWAYS prefer more time, once there. A two day hike with a stay ANYWHERE would, in my book, beat out the one day "total assault". Every second I have in the mountains is precious - and every second more I get is savored. If I can extend any hike another day, I'm out there. In this case it also means being able to pick and choose the perfect day to climb. I've sat in my tent, on more than one occasion, playing cards and Cosmic Wimpout, waiting for Mt Washington to clear - hoping the next day would be perfect. More than one day out means you GET to hope for a better day tomorrow . . .
Having said all this and read all these comments, all I can say is I'm jealous of all of you getting out there in mid June. Spring on Mt. Washington is awesome and unique! I should really pull it together and get out there myself!!

05-11-2011, 10:04 AM
Thanks, Trekker, for the good info, and the comparison to the Grand Canyon. It looks like we'll be ok on height issues. I'm looking forward to the hike!

05-13-2011, 08:19 AM
Any updates on current trail conditions on Lions Head or Jewell/Ammo? DO you think I'll need winter gear (spikes, etc) for a hike on June 11?

06-07-2011, 02:04 PM
Sounds like the snow & ice are gone, and the alpine flowers and bugs are out.
TrailsNH.com/find/ammo (http://TrailsNH.com/find/ammo)