View Full Version : Mount Washington via Tuckerman ravine, Apr 16, 2011

04-17-2011, 08:55 PM
After take off at 8 pm from Hamden on 15th, I arrived at Pinkham Notch around 1 am with my 20-month-old dog Missy who?s tired from the long ride. Originally I planned to check in Motel 6 off exit 3 on I-91, but it was only 10 pm when we got there. So I thought, what the heck, we?ll get to Pinkham and sleep in the car a little bit and make an early start. It?s going to be a long day, and having enough daylight when come done is crucial. So that?s what we did. It was cold in the car, but we managed to sleep for a while.

Watch alarm set off at 4 am, I put on the knee guards, Marmot softshell climbing pant, hooded REI windproof softshell jacket. From my experience at Mount Shuksan in the Northern Cascades last June, wearing long underwear would be too warm and very uncomfortable. Because it?s still very cold, outside the softshell I put on the Mountain Hardware synthetic insulation layer. In the last minute I left the helmet in the car, but took the two ski poles. I ate a CLIF bar, some trail mix, and fed Missy water and some of her favorite biscuit and meat, and we were on the trail in total darkness around 4:50. The trail was covered with packed snow, actually easier to walk compared to the big rocks in summer. The sun was slowly arising, and I can see the trail very well so I put away the headlamp. At the beginning Missy closely followed me in the dark, but around dawn she happily ran in the front and occasionally wandered 10 feet or so into the woods. Once a while she lingered behind and I had to call her to keep going. About 30 minutes into the trail, I stopped and put on the crampon for better traction. With the spikes biting into the packed snow, I made good progress. We stopped at the wood bridge, I took some photos of Missy looking at melting snow running on the rocks and the rising sun on the horizon. At 3700 feet we made a 90 degree left turn, and 100 feet above a trail on the right led to Lion Head Trail. After a short walk, a guy came out from the woods on the left, and Missy couldn?t be happier to meet the first stranger since the hike began. We introduced each other, and turned out he?s one of the shelter caretaker. Peter told me there would be a big race on the Tuckerman ravine that day-the biggest event of the year on the mountain. We stopped at Hermit Lake Shelter, and took each other?s picture with my camera. I stood at the same place my wife and I stopped in the winter of 2004, looking at the head wall of Tuckerman Ravine. I can see the long ski track marked with flags on the left side between rocks, and the snow covered steep gully of the ?bowel? in the center. This time I have crampon, ice axe, and some experience from the Mount Shuksan climb, and I was determined to ascent the summit from this once formidable route.

Initially it was easy walk above the shelter, but then the snow was cut into knee deep narrow trench by skies, and the bushes constantly scratched clothes. I struggled on the trail trying not to kick myself, but after getting to the first aid cache I found the right crampon cut the front of left boot and left a half-inch wound in the leather. Looking back, large cloud gathered above and to the left of the shelter, and the pale sun shined above. Missy walked around the big boulders by the trail while I took photos. Soon we arrived the floor of the bowel, with great views and details of different gullies. According to forecast, avalanche risk on the slopes was low. The slope of the second gully from the right seems gentler and should be a good route going up. I checked crampons, put away ski poles, and grabbed the ice axe. On the lower slopes, it was easy walk, with crampon securely biting into loose snow. It got steeper with elevation gain, and I started zig-zagging the slope. Missy climbed with ease, although occasionally she walked right in front of me and I was afraid to cut her paws with the crampon. Around 15 to 20 minutes up the slope, I saw a skier picking his way up in a gully left (west) to the one we climbed. Later I saw another two heading up to our left. It was much steeper close to rim of the bowel, and we finally reached those bushes. I tried to walk through the bushes, and in a rush sliced the gaiter on right leg with the left crampon. I had to walk down a few feet and turn around the bush and headed up again. Now we are at the same level of the cloud south of the ravine. A short distance away stacks of stone marks the Alpine Garden Trail, and a dominant dome hided the summit behind.

We met a skier right off the trail, who planned to ski down the auto road if there was too many rocks. After we started on the trail leading to the dome, Missy followed the skier closely. My right crampon was loose, and I could not catch up with them. I sat down on a rock, spent probably 15 minutes to fix the crampon and drank some water. Luckily, the skier was not far above me, and he skied down once I went up to Missy. From there the terrain was with rocks scattered on ice-crusted snow, and I often heard the sound of small ice sheets tumbling down the slope. Sometimes I thought I heard water running under the ice, probably imagination.

Soon I saw a tall steel tower rising from top of the dome, happily knowing we are close to the summit. 10:45 am we reached the sign marking the end of ravine trail, the structures on the summit plateau are within sight. Missy walked up the wood steps, and I walked up on the final snow slope. We were probably the first team got there since we took off so early. It was gusty and I could not hold my hands steady while taking photos and short videos of Missy. The view was awesome, and visibility was great for at least 5 to 10 minutes before cloud and fog started to gather with the wind. I walked around and took some photos, and my bare hand quickly became very cold. Ice grew out of wood or steel structures to the direction of fierce wind, in similar shape as high altitude glaciers melting under the sun, only sideway. Finally we walked up the piles of rock with the wood plate marking the summit. Missy had the leisure of sitting down on the rock and looking around while I took her summit photo with bare hand in bitter cold. I took photo of my second summit of Mount Washington, contented that I made it by the ravine route and it was only 11 am. Unable to find the entrance to the building where post office and rest room were located, we seek shelter from the gust outside a closed door in a recess under the concrete structure. I guess everything is closed in winter season. The water bottle outside my pack was half frozen and the lid could not be opened. I drank some from the other bottle kept in the pack, and pour some into my left hand for Missy. I had no appetite for the bagel with salami and Swiss cheese, just had a CLIF bar and some trail mix. Missy must be very cold, and coiled herself on the snow covered by a thin layer of sand. I fed her some peanuts and dried fruits. It was around 11:25 am, and it?s time to go down.

KD Talbot
04-20-2011, 06:56 PM
Glad you had a safe hike , nice pics and welcome to the forum. You were at the entrance where the PO and restrooms are, but you are correct, they are closed in winter and most of the spring, when you made this hike. Would have been good to know beforehand.

Some food for thought: If you need layers to stay warm, then your dog probably does, too. Judging from your pictures she is short haired, so your assumption that she is very cold was correct. If you need crampons to climb safely, then your dog does, too. No, they don't make crampons for dogs. Choose another route. Most hikers ascend the Lion Head Winter Route from Pinkham Notch. This would have been much safer with a dog than a gully from The Bowl. If you are thirsty, then your dog is, too. Carry a bowl for her to drink from. If you are hungry, your dog is, too. Many types of dried fruits, such as raisins, are toxic to dogs. Carry plenty of her food for her.

Maybe next time hike in warmer weather or get her a sweater/pullover. Think of getting her Muttlucs (http://www.muttluks.com/product_home.php?cat=2) for her feet, or maybe just leave her home. Remember: Your dog will suffer anything just to be with you, even sliding into a ravine. She loves you unconditionally. Respect that relationship by being on constant guard of her well-being. You will be rewarded with a relationship you will cherish the rest of your life, even though you outlive her by many years.

There are many knowledgeable people here on this forum that would be happy to answer any questions you may have about this mountain (and others) and hiking in general or hiking with a dog. The only dumb questions are the ones you think to ask after it's too late. No, I do not think I have all the answers. I learn every time I step out into the mountains. When you stand on the top of Mount Washington and look out at all the other peaks you can think of my dog and me. We have been to all of them, and most of them repeatedly in all seasons.

I hope you and Missy will have a long, happy time together hiking to many mountaintops and I hope to continue to read about your adventures together here. Thank you for sharing.


04-20-2011, 09:55 PM
Thanks for all your advice.

Jimmy Legs and Little d
04-21-2011, 02:38 PM
Nice report and pictures, Tony. Glad you and Missy enjoyed your hike to the Rockpile.


Anna LeBlanc
04-22-2011, 08:11 AM
Great advice Kevin as we who hike with our dogs all the time understand!


04-23-2011, 01:57 PM
Welcome Tony (and Missy). I second what the others have said and in particular Kevin's advice about hiking with dogs. Not trying to be critical. Hope you have many happy years and happy hikes together and continue to share them with us here.

04-23-2011, 02:53 PM
Great TR and pics... thanks 4 sharing :)

The issue with the crampons really sucks and I've had it happen a few times myself... Are you using strap on crampons? If so I'd recommend a step in ( AKA or pro ) as they are much more secure

These ones are getting great reviews


04-23-2011, 08:00 PM
Yes, the one I have uses strap. The one you recommended looks cool. Thanks.

04-25-2011, 09:20 PM

also you've gotta make sure you have the mountaineering boot that will hold the clip...