Beta? Oh yeah, I got beta...
THE MOUNTAIN KICKED MY ARSS!!
I'll be as brief as I can for now. No photos yet, they are on another computer. We also have some video that our guide was willing to take.
We checked in at EMS climbing school in N. Conway about 7 am. At the time, our guide Tim informed us that going to the summit looked unlikely. On friday, the forcast called for temps to be 0 heading to -10 throughout the day with winds increasing to 50-70mph. At check-in, temps were -4 i think and falling quick and winds were sustained close to, if not above, 80mph and the 15 minute gust and 24 hour gust were the same at above 91 mph. He said we may have to turn around at tree line.
Back up to Thursday night before we traveled to NH from PA on Friday. I got home from work with a cold. Around 5 I was really stuffed up and got a fever and chills. At this point I was quite worried. After loading up on OTC meds, the fever and chills subsided enough to allow me to pack.
Friday was spent driving to N Conway and chlling at the Moat Mountain Pub. My climbing companion purchased some remaining gear at EMS under a great sale.
Sat I awoke with a nice cough and sore throat, but felt ok, maybe a little nervous. We weren't the fastest at gear check and donning our clothing so we finally hit the trail at 9. We were shooting for the summer route, but just before we left the visitor center, the attendant overheard us and indicated that the winter route is now open. We had a nice, but little, snowfall the night before.
We started out with a few light layers as you indicated. My sweating, as I was worried, became an issue almost immediately. My hat was a thick Mt. Hardware windstopper fleece thing. Nice and warm, but within 45 minutes, I looked like I dunked my head in a barrel of water. So I stashed my hat in my pack and donned a light weight beanie for in the trees.
My training with a 65lb pack was ok, but I should have been doing more endurance training and leg strength exercises. My friend did really well and the guide was so fit with 6% body fat, that we were not moving fast enough and he got cold. Really great guy though and treated us with utmost respect even though my fat arss didn't deserve it.
I felt a little better after switching hats and we got to the winter route cut-off and the steepest part of the climb. I started to get really nauseous though and craved water. My food froze solid, as did that hat I referenced earlier, which I would need above treeline.
I did "ok" on the steepest part of the climb which is the winter route spine heading up to lions head (according to our guide). He equated it to the Hillary Step on Everest. It was fun, but I had to battle my nausea too much. We were advised to walk slow and constantly as opposed to fast and take breaks. I think I tried too hard to keep up to my ultra-fit companions. We finally hit tree line and donned our wind layers, face mask, and goggles. On the way up to this point, several groups of climbers were passing us coming down. One or two passed us going up. Apparently everyone, or most everyone from what our guide could tell, was turning around at tree line or just above. Anyway, when I put my face mask on, I put it on over my balaclava, and my goggles over that. Which I didn't know. So I was trying to breathe through two layers. It was really windy at this point and trying to get everything on without blowing away was tricky. Plus at this point on the Lions head trail, there were several groups of people stopped to do the same and people passing in both directions.
My goggles froze almost immediately so above treeline travel was tricky. Plus I had to try to breathe through two layers, which under strenuous exercise, was inhibiting. I tried to put my Mt. Hardware hat back on, but it was frozen solid. It was super windy. Never really got cold though. A touch of frostbite on my cheek, but nothing extensive. I was pretty warm. Crampon and ice axe work is fun. We made it to Lions Head. We spent a few minutes shooting photos and video and looking around. On the upslope of Lions Head the wind was incredible. It was totally awsome. Could barely stand. Our guide hopped around like a marmot. We looked at Tuckermans and the surrounding area. It's amazing being up there looking up at the summit and tucks with the conditions. It's a different world. Then, based on time and conditions, our wise guide turned us around. It was about 1 pm.
My companion borrowed some extra ski pants of mine but didn't put his gaiters on over them, so my pants look like he was attacked by a lion. He stuck himself several times and fell. It was pretty funny, but he could have hurt himself and in these conditions, that woudn't have been good. After the climb he said he was having some trouble on the way down with his feet and legs.
I feel bad. I think my companion could have made it further had I not been so slow. Maybe even summited. I did ask the guide if I could descend and he continue with my buddy as far as they could make it. Trail was obvious at this point, so I think I could have trailed another group down. But, like a good guide, he said we started as a team, we end as a team. He did teach us a bunch of good stuff during the day.
A few goups went past us where we turned around. Once we stopped to take off layers and crampons in the trees, those groups that passed us, suddenly showed up and indicated they too turned around shortly after Lions Head.
The rest of the climb down was uneventful although going down is hard on you as well.
We were fried by the time we got back to the Eastern Slope Inn and made it as far as the fireplace inside the tavern a few short steps from EMS inside the Eastern Slope Inn. A few beers later and several calls to loved ones indicating our safe return, we crashed at our lodging for a spell. We tried to get into Red Parka, but there was quite a wait. We ended up in Conway at Cafe Noche. OK mexican.
The next day after another late start, we skied ourselves silly at Wildcat. My legs could barely hold it together at first, but by the end, I was feeling better. They had some pretty good terrain open. I didn't tele though, that would have been disastrous.
We spent that night at May Kelleys to watch the Super Bowl. Red Parka wasn't happending that night either.
That's about it. Definitely comming back for another attempt. I learned a lot about how to prepare physically, and nuances about gear, food, etc. Oh, my food froze as well, so couldnt' really eat anything. Maybe if we had gotten an earlier start, if I could have regulated my sweat better, not had a cold, trained a little differently, we would have made it all the way. But, I'm still happy with my effort. I know what it took me to get to that point.
FWIW, although I have little experience and only tried this through EMS, I hightly recommend EMS. I felt very safe and our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly.
We have pics and video and I hope to upload those in a few days.
Your advice was great and right on the mark. I'll be back.....
OH, and you were right, it was the experience of a lifetime! It was the best Christmas gift my wife could have given me. Oh, and I got to take my 21 month old son with me. I had a laminated photo of him around my neck the whole time.