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Thread: A few questions on winter hiking.

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    Default A few questions on winter hiking.

    My apologies if they've been asked a million times before.

    Anyway, ever since my dad took me on a climb of Mount Chocorua at the age of seven, I've harbored an affection for the White Mountains. Since then, I've climbed (mostly with my dad) Chocorua a few more times, Katahdin in Maine, Whiteface, Passaconaway, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington itself a few times, including the best climb of my life up Huntington Ravine.

    For years, I've been developing a hobby of photography, and it seems to me that I could get some lovely photos from Washington in winter. It's a view that I imagine few people get to see. However, I've a few questions.

    One, my dad is, to be blunt, not quite as young as he used to be. He had difficulty in our last ascent of Washington up Huntington. Consequently, I don't believe I should go with him - I don't think he could do it, and I'm not sure I want the responsibility of tending to him. Unfortunately, he's the one with the car.

    I'm an avid cyclist, but I doubt I could ride the hundred miles or so to Washington (I live in the Rochester, NH area), climb New England's highest peak, and ride back all in one day. This leaves me in need of transportation. I've done some research online, looking for bus routes or train lines that go from here to there, but to no avail so far. Do any of you know of public transportation for that route?

    Secondly, I've just read the book 'Not Without Peril', a book describing many deaths and injuries that have occurred on those famed slopes in winter. The narrative mentions mind-bogglingly low temperatures and triple-digits winds. Clearly, that's a bit more then I want to tackle on my first real winter climb. So, what's a good time to make the attempt; not so early as to be unimpressive, but not so late as to be excessively brutal? I was contemplating mid-December as a good time?

    Lastly, I was reading about new liability laws, laws that forbid reckless behavior that endangers others. Would a solo ascent in early winter be considered that reckless? Would it be reasonable to expect to be able to make the summit, considering my inexperience in winter climbing? As I've said, I've done it a few times in the past, in better weather.

    I thank you in advance for your patience and advice.

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    Default Washington in winter

    I believe Trailways runs bus service between Boston and North Conway - I think they also stop in Pinkham Notch - you might check them out. Sounds like reading Not without Peril gave you a healthy respect for the mountain - so you should know that brutal winter-like conditions can occur anytime. If it's within your means you would probably be better off looking into one of the guide services in the North Conway area - most of them lead one day winter ascents of Mount Washington throughout the winter. Both EMS and IME are well respected. That may be your best altenative if you don't have an experienced partner. For your first winter attempt - don't gauge your success solely on whether or not you summit, but instead focus on acquiring the winter skills you need for safe mountain travel. There's lots to learn about clothing, nutrition, hydration and self arrest to name a few.
    Good Luck.
    Tim
    p.s. heres a good thread that may be of help to you:
    http://mountwashington.org/forums/showthread.php?t=228
    Last edited by climbabout; 11-04-2007 at 09:27 PM.

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    I suppose I'll try Trailways, then. It's a bit far to walk.

    And I was reading about guides in that book, but I didn't know there still were services like that. Unfortunately, I'm a college lad who rides his bike everywhere because gas is too expensive.

    Do you think it's reasonable to make the attempt alone, as long as I'm prepared to turn back if things are excessively brutal? Have you ever done it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Acrophobe

    Do you think it's reasonable to make the attempt alone, as long as I'm prepared to turn back if things are excessively brutal? Have you ever done it?

    i would not do this in the winter but thats me

    if you post what the date that you are doing this maybe some one will go with you or there are other sites you can post when you are going and you may find a partner
    i am a Summit Club member
    http://public.fotki.com/hvachawk/new pictures and videos

    If your not a OBS member yet then what are you waiting for

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    If you're looking for a winter ascent you need to climb the mountain in the winter, 12/21 to 3/21. If you want a winter-like ascent those conditions can be found anytime between October and June, plus or minus a few months.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the reckless law. It's poorly defined, probably unenforceable and I'm guessing you'll do enough research to bring yourself above the level of a reckless hiker.

    A solo winter ascent of Mount Washington is a big deal. True, you can get lucky and cruise up to the summit on a calm, 40F degree day in February with bright sunshine, but that is the exception to the rule.

    At this point I'd keep doing research, learn more about mountaineering. Maybe join a hiking club at school. Climb Mount Washington in the summer. Take a trip up to Tuckerman Ravine on a sunny weekend in the spring.

    You can get a real winter type experience in April. Snow all the way to the base, steep snow climb up Lion's Head with crampons and ice axe. With slightly less risk than the middle of winter. Longer days and a good forecast can make the difference.
    Bill
    Next up: Vermont City Marathon: May, 2011
    EasternLight

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    I do Mt Washington alone in the summer. I pick my days and watch the weather. I have gone into the base of Tuckermans Headwall in the winter (Feb) - but I picked my weather right. I would not even think about going up above there alone in the winter. Even on a great weather day. The weather can turn on you so fast. Getting out there and staying safe builds your experiences and you learn more about what it takes to be out there in minus 35 degree wind chill - on a very good day - when you are out of the wind. It is a fun thing to do and I am hoping on getting back into Tucks this winter.

    Keep us posted on what you decide to do.
    Brad (a 6288 club member)
    http://bradstreet.zenfolio.com Personal Photo sales site
    http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet Personal photo web site
    http://public.fotki.com/MWO/saved/2012/ MWO image & video archive site 2006-2012

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    Default Winter climb

    I always suggest climbing something less challenging and getting some experience first. You mentioned Chocorua, a good place to start. Some of the Southern Presidentials are good starting hikes, Jackson, Pierce, and Eisenhower would all be good learning trips. You need to become familiar with your equipment and your abilities. December can be brutal anywhere in the Whites, let alone Washington. I like Bill's suggestion about going up in April and getting a feel for the area around Tucks when it's covered in ice and snow. I do most of my winter climbing in February and March, you can catch some real nice days then. If you can't afford to go on a guided climb, you might want to check here:

    http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/index-vftt.html

    Check the trips and events threads. You may be able to hook up with some of these people to make the climb, you can probably even catch a ride up. You need to be a member to participate over there, and you need a sponsor to become a member. There are people here, including myself, who will sponsor you if you promise to be a good member and obey the rules of posting, which I feel you would do. Learn all you can about winter hiking and don't let "Not Without Peril" spook you too much. Most of those people were woefully unprepared or made foolish decisions to push on when they should have turned back, although, every now and then the mountain claims someone who did everything right. It's just the nature of the sport. Winter hiking has its risks, but if you are mentally and physically prepared and well equipped it can be extremely rewarding. There is no shame in failing to reach the summit for any number of reasons. The mountain will always be there another day.

    KDT

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    Default mount washington alone in winter

    The greatest risk I see with a solo attempt in winter is sustaining some type of debillitating injury such as a blown out knee, broken ankle etc above treeline. Being alone you have no one to go for help or to help you down the mountain. An injury like that could easily occur and spending a night above treeline in winter alone usually does not end well. On top of that, cell service is erratic at best - so calling for help is not a reliable option. As a novice winter hiker I would strongly discourage a solo winter attempt. You can see why it's also a good idea to carry a sleeping bag and some type of emergency bivy sack - it could well save you or a friend's life. Winter experience is best gained in the safety of a group or in the company of an experienced partner or guide - your life is worth that patience. Although I have never travelled alone in the winter - after gaining years of exerience I probably would venture out alone only if the conditions were perfect and if I knew there would be other climbers on the route that day, should I need assistance. But again you need to be prepared for the possibility of spending a night out and being able to take care of yourself.
    Good luck and have patience.
    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Acrophobe
    Do you think it's reasonable to make the attempt alone...
    That's a question that only you can answer. You've done some climbing, are physically fit, and assuming that you have all the proper winter gear, you should be able to make the attempt safely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Acrophobe
    ...as long as I'm prepared to turn back if things are excessively brutal?
    Irregardless of whether or not you are alone, you should ALWAYS be prepared to turn around if things get really bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by Acrophobe
    Have you ever done it?
    Yes, I've summited during the wintertime solo and I'm sure others here have done so as well. I knew beforehand that this feat was well within my capabilities and I prepared for it accordingly. If I had any doubts about being able to do it safely I wouldn't have even tried.

    Unfortunately I will probably not be climbing Mt. Washington this winter. I'll be doing Mt. Adams in January though, if you want to tag along for that climb you're more than welcome.

    Mark

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    Yes, I've summited during the wintertime solo and I'm sure others here have done so as well.

    That must have been great. What trail did you go up? I was planning to try the easier Nelson Craig trail if I go. And was that nice summit building up there open in winter? Last time I went, the visibility was about three and a half feet, reduced even further by mist buildup on my glasses. So, instead of enjoying the view, we just went in and had coffee...




    I'll be doing Mt. Adams in January though, if you want to tag along for that climb you're more than welcome.

    You'd really invite someone you don't even know to come with you? I'm flattered.

    And if that's a serious offer, I might well be interested - though my school schedule's a bit fuzzy for that month.


    I always suggest climbing something less challenging and getting some experience first. You mentioned Chocorua, a good place to start. Some of the Southern Presidentials are good starting hikes, Jackson, Pierce, and Eisenhower would all be good learning trips.


    You're probably right - it doesn't really make sense to try to biggest and baddest-tempered mountain in the area without a little experience on smaller climbs first. My dad and I were thinking about Carrigain - anyone ever done that? Or maybe I'll just go to the Bowl of Tuckerman for a first time.

    Also, what kind of equipment does one reasonably need? A good coat with a couple extra sweaters, a hat, gloves, boots with a few pairs of socks? I'm reading another book about an group who stayed on the summit during the winter of 1870 -71 and it describes wading up the mountain in waist deep snow. It's been a while since I was short enough for the snow around here to be waist deep, but even now I can remember how hard it was. I assume snowshoes are prerequisite as well? My dad has an employee's discount at an outdoor sports outfitter, and he got some snowshoes that claim to be good for climbing.

    Thank you all for your advice.
    Last edited by Acrophobe; 11-09-2007 at 10:17 AM.

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