Lions Head - Question
I keep hearing about - the 1000' verticle climb on Lions head. Yet I never see anyone with a rope?
Im guessing it not a you fall you're dead area or I would see some people on rope. But can anyone give a good description, I keep hearing about "The Crux" of the climb...So Im a little confused.
I cant find any good photos to get a feeling for this area of the climb- I will try to take some when I go.
When somebody mentions a 1,000 foot vertical climb they don't mean its literally vertical. A 1,000 foot vertical "rise" might be a better term. Simply, the trail rises 1,000' in a relatively short distance...its steep.
I'd describe it as a system of ledges, ladders and steep pitches. For the summer route a slip might result in an injury, but rarely death. A serious act of carelessness or extremely bad luck would result in a major fall.
Based on the segment breakdown in the White Mountain Guide the steepest section is the winter route between the Huntington Ravine Fire Road and the main Lion's Head trail which is 845' in 0.4 miles - pretty steep. I haven't been up that way, but I know that going up the regular Lion's Head summer route in STP this year is seemed a bit steep, but nothing scary anywhere. Certainly a different story in winter...
Here's one TR that I found in a quick search recounting a trip up Lion's Head in winter: http://web.mit.edu/mitoc/www/history...eports/95.html
crux of lion head
The section most people refer to is on the lion head winter route - it's shortly after you turn off from the huntington fire road and continues to treeline - it's steeper in some sections than others, but there is little exposure as you are still in the trees - there are few spots where you would fall more than a few feet. You certainly need to be comfortable and confident in crampons, and know how to use an ice ax for self arrest. It's most certainly a hard physical section due to the effort required and unrelenting grade. You could certainly get seriously injured there, should you fall and hit your head on something, but long falls are unlikely. A rope is usually unneccessary, except for those who are very uncomfortable on steep pitches or unsure about their cramponing skills, especially going downhill, where most falls are likely. It's not unusual to see a novice guided party being assissted by a rope belay by their guide while descending, but for those who are experienced in icy winter travel a rope is rarely needed. Keep in mind however, that the difficulty of this section is greatly influenced by the current snow conditions. This trail was cut with tree stumps of 3-4' left in place to not only prevent summer travel on it, but to aid in holding the snowpack. This trail becomes somewhat easier, as the snow depth builds and the rock and tree stumps are covered. There are a few sections of steep slabby rock that are difficult when not covered with ice or snow - those without at least some rock or ice climbing experience will have trouble in those sections. When these sections are well covered in ice or firm snow, they pose only a modest challenge going up but certainly require your full attention going down. Hope this helps. This is the best picture I have of this area - keep in mind you don't usually take pictures when both hands are needed, so I have none of the slabby sections. I'm in black looking up. Hope this helps.
I've ascended the winter route many times and only once have I needed a rope. Last year one of the climbers in my group was extremely tired on the descent and asked to be roped up for the safety of himself & the group. We belayed him down the steep sections and everyone made it home safe & sound. That is the mark of a smart mountaineer and I commended him on it once we were back at Pinkham.
The long story short is that I always carry a 50 foot length of rope and one locking biner just in case we need it. Imagine trying to descend that steep section with a sprained ankle and no rope..... I say bring a short rope and hope that you don't need it.
The best way I can describe it is that you walk forward and see a slope ahead of you and think, "Okay, the trail is going to switchback around that," and then you realize, "Oh, I get it, the trail is going right up that."
Not exactly a technical climb but under certain conditions pretty close to it.
I'd have to second Kaseri about the rope for emergencies - I too carry a short 9mm lightweight climbing rope as well - doesn't weigh that much - no downside to having it.
I think he's referring to the summer route.
In the winter think of your ice axe and crampons as the rope. Without them falling would not be an option. Actually, once you fall your crampons are a liability, but they're a major reason you aren't going to fall in the first place.
Here are a few pictures of Lions Head during the dead of Winter last season.