Seek the Peak
There have been several inquiries about this event lately. Many are by people who may be climbing Mount Washington for the first time. I will try to cover as much in this thread as I think is pertinent to a newcomer.
For the first timer I would suggest:
Where do I stay?
The nearest big towns on the east side of Mount Washington (The Mount Washington Valley Area) are North Conway to the south and Gorham to the north. There are many motels to suit any pocketbook in the North Conway Area. Also to the south are the towns Bartlett and Jackson which also have many places to stay. Try this link:
In the Gorham area my personal favorite is:
Also here is the Gorham Chamber of Commerce:
There is also a lot of camping in the area. Two of my favorite campgounds are:
Although you can register in advance, we generally meet at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on Rte. 16 in Pinkham Notch on the morning of the hike/fundraiser. This year it is 7/28/07. Here you can turn in your paper work and receive the goody bag which always contains a map of Mount Washington. If you are in the North Conway area on Friday night 7/27/07, there is also a registration at Horsefeathers in downtown North Conway.
What trail is best?
One does not have to hike to the summit to participate in this event. There are many good destinations on the east side of the mountain which do not require hiking to the summit.
For a beginner who is interested in going to the summit I would suggest the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. This leaves from Pinkham Notch and climbs through Tuckerman Ravine to the summit of Mount Washington. It rises 4250' over 4.2 miles. Many use a combination of this trail and Lion's Head Trail either on the ascent or descent. This trail is easy to follow unless the summit is completely fogged in, in which case one should probably turn around anyway. There will be many people on this trail on a summer weekend who will be glad to assist in the event of an emergency or to give directions. There are several other trail options which start at or near Pinkham Notch, if one would like to take a lesser travelled route. There will be knowledgeable people at the registration desk who can suggest a route for all skill levels.
What should I bring?
You should bring a daypack which has at least:
A sandwich and some snacks. High energy food is best. Peanut butter sandwiches are good for this. Raisins, apples, bananas, oranges. GORP (Granola, oatmeal, raisins and peanuts) is always good and can be bought in premixed bags or you can make your own. Many supermarkets have sections where you can choose what you like. Chocolate is always good to have along. Many people fuel up with protein the night before. Pasta like the marathoners, or a nice steak or burger.
Drinks: A minimum of 2 litres per person of water or something like Gatorade. More if it's a hot day. Take a short break and a few sips every half hour. Stay hydrated. It is a good idea to have plenty to drink in the morning before a hike. Stay away from drinking a lot of coffee or tea as this will dehydrate you.
Clothing: No cotton! The saying is "Cotton kills!" Wear polypropylene clothing. It will dry quickly in the event of a downpour. Many people have died as a result of hypothermia even in the summer months. Bring a fleece pullover. It is July 3rd and the temp on Mount Washington right now is 43 degrees.
A wicking shirt for climbing. This will keep the sweat away from your body and keep you from cooling down in the wind. Pull the fleece on when you stop to retain heat.
A windbreaker/ rain jacket. There is almost always wind, and a rain shower can come up at any time. More than likely you'll be walking in the clouds. Wind/rain pants are a good idea, too.
An extra shirt, to put on at the summit as the one you start out in will probably be soaked in sweat when you arrive. There are changing rooms (and rest rooms) in the Sherman Adams Building on the summit if needed.
Gloves or mittens and a wool hat. There has been snow recorded on Mount Washington in every month of the year. Even if there is no snow, the temp may feel like there is. Wind chill can be a big factor even in summer.
Footwear: I highly suggest a good, hightop hiking boot. Sides up over the ankle. Many people hike in sneakers and I think they are just asking for trouble. It's a long way out on a sprained ankle. The rocks can be extremely slippery when they're wet, even after a brief shower. The unevenness of the ground can be very dangerous to exhausted limbs and cause slips and trips that would not otherwise happen. I've hiked many miles and taken many tumbles and my boots have saved my ankles on many occassions. Goretex is best, it keeps your feet dry. Wear good comfortable polypro socks to wick moisture away from your feet. Bring an extra pair in your pack.
A trekking pole (hiking stick): I personally find this an indipensable tool. It helps with balance on the way up and helps take the strain off the knees on the way down.
My other tips would be: In a group, stay together. Hike to the ability of the slowest in the group. No one should be allowed to continue on, or to return alone. If you must split up, then split up in groups. If someone is hurt or too tired to continue, then return to the base with them. Do not push on for the summit in the hopes of finding help or shelter. Getting down is the best way. In the event of a real emergency look for an experienced person along the trail who knows the mountain. This person will know where to get help. Do not rely on a cell phone as service is spotty at best.
In the event of the weather turning bad, head down. There may be more experienced people pushing on to the summit, but why risk it? The mountain will be there the next time you want to try.
If you're exhausted, turn around. Remember, even if you reach the summit, you still have to get down. This can be harder than the climb, because now your limbs are tired and you start to stumble.
Only you can judge yor ability and comfort level out there. Be honest with yourself.
If you're in charge of a group, you must be acutely aware of your fellow hikers. Watch for fatigue and dehydration as well as hypothermia, as stated before, hike to the weakest members ability.
Pretend the summit building is not there. Hike as though there is no warm, comfortable place to reach on the summit. The thought of pushing on to the safety of the summit buildings when many should have turned around has gotten many hikers in trouble.
Lastly, if you bring your dog: Remember, it can be just as dangerous out there for your dog as it is for you. Keep them on the trail by leash or voice command. Make sure they have enough food and water, treat them as you would any member of your hiking group. Old dogs who don't get out much probably shouldn't make this climb. People will not appreciate rescuing your dog. Dogs can pull muscles and sprain ankles just like people. A young, fit, healthy dog who is under control and not running all over the place should have little trouble making this climb. Of chief concern should be the pads of their feet. The rough quartzite mica-schist make up of the rock on Mount Washington can tear the pads up. A good product to use is Mushers Secret to protect their paws. Check them often and watch for signs the dog is favoring a paw or leg. Turn around if need be. Your dog trusts you and if it is like mine it will follow you to the end of the earth. Respect this trust and treat the dog similarly.
Last of all, please don't let any of this scare you off. Thousands of people hike Mount Washington each year and a very small percentage get in trouble. Common sense goes a long way out there. Go out and have a good time, but stay within your limits. We all hope to see you on the trail having a good time! I hope this info helps you to have a safe, memorable experience on Mount Washington!
thank you for taking the time to post this....
your websites are absolutely incredible....
thanks for the info it will come in handy
Thanks for the great info! I just went through with registering and will be making the trip up from Virginia! I lived in southern NH many years ago growing up and have always had a fond place in my heart for the area. This will be my first hike other than local trail runs and adventure races. I'm really looking forward to this event and meeting people on the trail!
awesome info. had rates i was looking for and directions to get there