I'm thinking about hiking the Tuck's Ravine trail from Pinkhams to the summit next sunday. I've never hiked Mt. Washington before, and I have three questions:
1) Is it generally a bad idea to be doing this this time of the year?
2) Can I get away with just hiking boots and poles or is there enough snow/ice to where we're talking crampons?
3) I know we're supposed to layer, but pants seem tricky to me given the fact that the base is ~60F and the summit is ~30F. Should I wear running pants w/ long underwear, shorts to start and bring snow pants, or just snowpants the whole time?
Stop at the AMC Visitor's Center. Go to the info/help desk with your gear. Ask them if you are well prepared. If not, go to EMS in North Conway. Spend money on the correct gear. Now you are prepared to hike The Whites. Be safe ... and enjoy!
First of all, the AMC is not the gear police and they aren't around to hold your hand. So please don't go asking them if you have the "right" gear. I have been hiking for many years and have never asked anybody if I had the right gear. I've asked about trail conditions, specific routes, but never about gear. Only the individual hiker knows whether or not they have the right gear for their skill level. This is the kind of knowledge you develop after many hikes, not on your first climb up Mount Washington.
To answer your question, the right amount of gear is what will keep you warm and dry should you be forced to stop hiking and wait for help. I'm not talking about spending the night in luxury, just surviving the elements. Given the current forecast and the range of weather possibilities for Mount Washington in October, do you have enough gear to spend the night outside in rain or snow down to 20F degrees? Now, for the rest of your questions:
1) Yes, no, and maybe. Depends on your skill level. This being your first trip up Mount Washington I have no idea. Is this your first trip up any mountain or your first trip up Mount Washington since you climbed Denali? Catch my drift?
2) Hiking boots and poles will probably be ok. Unless there is snow and ice. From what I can tell from the webcams there isn't much of anything. Just some rime near the summit. Who knows what the weather is going to bring. Check the forecast, check the webcams. And try to find what other people are saying about the trail conditions.
3) You're pretty much in charge of what you wear. Like I said before, this is something you learn after many hiking trips. Not something you perfect on your first trip up Mount Washington. My advice is to start hiking a little cold because you will warm up in a few minutes. Go from there. If you are cold put more clothes on, if you are warm take some off. That is what layering is all about. You may get so warm hiking up that you don't notice the temps dropping, but when you stop it will hit you, so be prepared to layer up quickly before you get too chilled.