Will do on the jacket. I am going with Lion's Head per the specification of my guide. I'll definately let you all know how it goes. Thanks!
Ammo Ravine / Jewell Trail winter ascent
I have climbed Washington in the winter from both the Lions Head route and Ammo Ravine route. I find the Ammo Ravine route MUCH more difficult let me explain why. Above the Gem pool the trail does many stream crossings and crosses over many rock slabs. These rock slabs freeze in the winter and getting across them gets rather difficult. Some of these slabs if you slide your off for a long ride! I also found the trail difficult to follow in the winter with all the stream crossings especially towards the top as the amount of rock slabs increase. The other problem is most people do not use the Ammo Ravine route in winter so if help is needed in emergency you might be waiting awhile. If you want to hike from the Cog side I feel the Jewell trail is a much better choice though you are more exposed to the weather. As far as descending Ammo Ravine route in the winter I have not done that nor do I think I ever will. Those slabs were rough on the way up with the ice I can't imagine trying to come down them. Those of you who have descended Ammo Ravine in the winter you are a better soul than I. I find the Lions Head route much better. The winter climb I did solo recently was over Lions head and I found it vey enjoyable except for the rain and the small section between Alpine Garden and Tuck Ravine trail where I post holed ALOT on the Lions head trail. Maybe I am partial to Lions head but I just find it the best way up in the winter.
rebtad - seems you have everything lined up. I hope you get great weather!
The Ammo route is, in my opinion, probably the easiest. Yes, it is steep after Gem Pool and it does need to be well frozen. Once things are frozen up hikers tend to make a bee-line for the hut after tree line. The problem with this is that you are basically ascending a frozen watercourse. Great as long as you are comfortable on crampons...
... and you don't punch through! If it seems a little sketchy it's better to keep to the scrub on the right, but this will be harder work.
The 'Dungeon' is a rather dank, small room at the lower left side of the hut (when approached from the Cog) and is intended as an emergency shelter only. I wish people would stop peeing in it
It does offer a nice view...
Keep us posted on your prep and climb date.
Coat for Mt Washington in Winter
To answer your original question regarding what coat to bring - I'm not sure if you mean what coat to bring for when you are hiking or when you are at a rest stop - so I'll answer both. You need a good windproof/breathable layer for when you are above treeline and in the wind - something of the gore-tex variety with hood and preferably with zippers in the armpits for ventilation. For rest stops, I bring along a primaloft or down parka with hood - even in the coldest conditions I've never hiked wearing the parka. The couple extra pounds of weight is well worth the effort for the benefit it gives you. That 10 or 15 minute break up at lion head becomes much more comfortable if you put it on as soon as you stop to trap in the body heat you worked so hard to generate. It's also great if you need to stop unexpectedly. Here's how you have to think when packing for a winter hike above treeline - what do I need to bring to survive if I have to spend a night out in the worst possible conditions? My winter pack always includes the usual assortment of winter clothing and at least a sleeping bag and emergency bivy sack and small shovel. 30-35lbs max.
Here is a man who has obviously climbed Washington in winter. Everything he said is right on!!!!!!!! Anyone who listens to his advice will do well in a winter ascent of Washington.
All good advice indeed.. Any other "things I wished I had known the first time" info out there..
I too plan a winter ascent in March along with 2 buddies. I have never climbed Washington (in Summer or Winter) but am familiar with winter hiking/climbing and the do's and don'ts of extreme weather (though I have to say data I have gathered on Washington puts it on the outside edge of even that).
My biggest concern is navigation. Having never done the climb and actually having never seen the mountain, I suppose I could end up relying heavily on my GPS should conditions go South. I know what whiteouts can do and its always the objective hazards (like weather) that freak me out the most.
In any case, we will have prepped well in the even of being "benighted"..
All climbers will have their own bag and bivvy sack and we will have a stove between us as well.
Any tid bits would be appreciated.
Having never climbed Washington and making winter your first atempt is rather a bold move. It was only after MANY climbs up in the summer that I even thought about doing it in the winter. I know this mountain very well and on my last climb up in Nov. I even lost the trail above tree and had to spend time looking for it. When the fog or blowing snow moves in the cairns are hard to find. As stated in all the previous post climbing Washington in the winter needs to be done with great respect for the mountain. You need to be comfortable with crampons, ice ax, self arrest, navigation and most important extreme weather. This is not a mountain to take lightly. Once you cross over Lions head you fully realize what you are in for.
Trust me when I say my respect for the mountain is there... Part of my reasoning in gathering as much info as possible is due to that respect. Climbing and mountaineering require the ability to constantly evaluate then re-evaluate situations and to marry those assesments with an accurate and conservative knowledge of ones own ability. I try to always climb within the comfortable range of my ability.
Having said that, I also know fist hand that things can go south quickly. When they do, panic is a killer, knowledge is a life saver.
I was hoping to gather a bit of that knowledge specific to the mountain from this formum in that it obviously exists here in vast amounts.
My planned route is up Lions head (winter) route. I plan to attemt the summit on 3/10 although a final determination will not be made until that morning. If weather/snow conditions permit, we go. If not, we don't.
I see that tree line is listed on this site at about 4300'. Is that accuate. Also, on Lions head trail, what is the approximate distance from treeline to summit. (in true distance, not elevation gain)
We will, of course, have crampons and ice axes but I do not plan on any sort of roped travel given my perceived absence of glacier conditions as well as each persons ability to self arrest. I assume that is within the normal method of travel on this mountain, is that correct?
Should weather/visibilty turn bad while we are on the summit, would the prefered route of decent be lions head (the same way we came up) or is there a better route based on poor visibilty conditions?
We will have GPS. Any known problems with GPS functioning in this area?
Any other insights would be appreciated.
You will break out of the trees 2 or 3/10ths of a mile before reaching the summit of Lion's Head. From the summit of Lion's Head it is 8 or 9/10ths of a mile before reaching the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. You may still pass through some low trees depending on the depth of the snowpack. From there it is 4/10ths to the summit and you will encounter the steepest section of the entire climb. The distances can be easily determined from the Widerness Map Company's map of Mount Washingtom available from wilderness maps.com. I would definitely get a copy of the AMC's White Mountain Guide and read the route description. The guide will also provide maps. There is also a large section on Mount Washington in general which has valuable information. Also there are sections on winter travel in the Whites.
You are correct that you should not need ropes but it wouldn't hurt to have one.
The best way back down is, yes, back over Lion's Head. It may be possible to descend Tuckerman Ravine Trail from the summit depending again on the snowpack, but this way cannot be counted on due to changing conditions. The one way you definitely do not want to descend is Huntington Ravine Trail where you will absolutely need technical skills and equipment.
As far as GPS someone else will have to answer those questions. I don't use one and basically plan my travel days on these summits by knowing we are in for a good long stretch of high pressure weather where the chances of sudden storms are low. Doesn't mean it can't happen, just not as risky.
In the event of a whiteout this is where a rope can come in handy. One member can stay at a cairn while another can search for the next one while staying linked by the rope.
mt washington in winter
Here's my .02 regarding navigation in winter. Get your weather report from Pinkham before you head up - gather as much info as possible. My personal experience is that any reasonably skilled climber can make it to treeline in bad conditions. Above treeline,its another world altogether - it's my personal rule never to travel up hill in poor visibilty -ie. less than a couple of hundred yards. If you can't see more than a couple of cairns ahead - it's probably not a good day to be up there for the first time. Regarding gps - you want to record your bearings at least at the following critical spots - 1-the orange sign near treeline on the winter route(it's a safe assumption that you will probably be using this route in March) 2-at lion head, 3-at the junction of the lion head and alpine garden trail, 4, at the junction of lion head trail and tuckerman ravine trail, 5 - at split rock, 6- the lower parking lot, 7- summit. I personally prefer to not totally rely on gps - I also carry with me a compass with some critical bearings to get me from the summit cone to the orange sign - I have the bearings written on tape in big letters on the bottom of the compass. I got these years ago from one of the EMS guides. Navigating by compass in a whiteout though is not something I would want to experience - if you miss to the north you end up in Raymond Cataract, to the south you'll tumble into tuckermans - neither would be a pleasant experience. One last thought - as you ascend above treeline periodically look back to see the view where you came from - it could prove invaluable on the way down.