Input on a March hike of Mt Washington
Hi, I started a letter and lost it, hope it dosen't pop-up incomplete and confuse anyone.
I was very impressed by the help climbers have given each other on this site and feel comfortable asking for input on an up-coming hike I have planned.
First, let me qualify a little. I have experience climbing over 11K, have experience with crampons and ax, am wilderness first aid certefied and have found the wisdom of caution over daring. I've been in weather where a long sit beats a short fall every time. I have never been forced to night over on a mountain but can if neccessary. I respect what a mountain can throw at you in a NY minute. I have a tentative date of 3/13/08 to hike Mt Washington. (weather permitting) In my research, I feel the best route (always an interesting term ) for my desires is to leave from the Marshfield Station on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail around 6:30---7 at the very latest. My summit/turnaround time is set at 11:30--non-negotiable. Being on the west side of the mountain should give the best opportunity for whatever late afternoon light there is, but I plan on being back at the station by 3-3:30 with a buffer for time. Almost forgot, I am not going this alone, I have a partner.
Any insight, anything that may make the day more enjoyable and make the summit more attainable would be greatly appreciated.
I have never travelled that route during the winter - perhaps someone who has could chime in. However, you might consider the tuckerman ravine/lion head winter route on the other side of the mountain. It's well travelled and the winter route follows a prominent spine, thus lowering the risk of avalanche danger. If I'm not mistaken it's also the shortest winter route to the summit, further increasing your chances. Keep in mind, the wind can blow from any direction, but in my experience the predominent wind direction in the winter is from the west. Climbing on the eastern side keeps you sheltered for better than half the route as well. Plus, if it's blowing from the west, the wind will be at your back during the descent when you are most tired. Either way - good luck -it sounds like you've done your homework and have a healthy respect for the possibilities. What Mount Washington lacks in altitude, it more than makes up for in cold and wind.
I am in agreement with climbabout, the Lions Head trail is the shortest, safest, and most protected trail on the summit. In the winter, our winds are usually out of the west to northwest a majority of the time. With this in mind, the winds are lower until lions head then lower a tad as you move into the shadow of the mountain until you get close to the summit. The turn-around time is a must, stick to that no matter what. Even if the summit is in sight, it sometimes can take a lot longer than what you think it will take. The other good thing about Lions Head is there is more people on it so if trouble does arise, you have a better chance of getting help. Let people know when you are leaving and when you return, partner or not. Lastly, check the weather report prior to leaving and listen to the voice in your head. If the weather is telling you to turn around before your turn around time, follow it. Better safe than sorry.
Staff Meteorologist, KMWN
One more thing to consider
March is definitely still winter in the Whites, whether the calendar agrees or not. That being said, it is also a time that can bring transition. A particularly warm day can cause a lot of melt in the snow/ice pack above tree line. The Amonoosuc Ravine Trail crosses the Monroe Brook several times before reaching tree line. Some of these crossings are semi-difficult without the swollen brook effect brought on by snow melt. It is possible that it would be quite dangerous or impassable at some crossings.
I have to agree with the previous information and would also suggest that route. It will be very crowded on the weekends. Best if you make the climb during the week.
Thank you all, After reading your input and some additional reading I have done through the MW blogs, your collective wisdom dictates a change in trails to the lions head. Knowing the prevailing wind direction is a big help and understanding the potential for swollen stream encounters is invaluable. Keeping the route shorter for a fist attempt also increases the chances for a summit. I have been following some of the current weather reports as well as the avalanche conditions-- -- 120 mph winds the other day with extreme avalanche conditions on most trails---this mountain defenitly plays rough. Signing in and 2--3 weather checks before setting off is a standard practice but I would rather be reminded several times than forget once. Appreciate all your input and if anyone thinks of somthing else that may be helpful, I look forward to hearing from you.
one last thing
I might add that you should'nt consider a trip that you don't summit on a failure. I've turned around on Mount Washington many times and still had a great day in the mountains. Just getting to treeline or Lion's Head outcrop in the winter is a great experience. If you get to treeline and the conditions are too brutal to summit, you still get a good taste of what Mount Washington has to offer and you can easily retreat and return another time.
Thanks for the encouragement Tim. I'm looking forward to my introduction to MW and hope the weather will at least allow for some hiking above tree line.
Two questions: Can anyone suggest a camp ground or bunk house that we may use on our trip? We're set-up for winter camping so thats not an issue. We will be arriving the afternoon of 3/13 and staying 2 nights. Somthing close to Lions Head would be preferable but I understand that there may be limited facilities this time of year. Also, besides the MWO, what local weather stations are reliable for weather conditions. I hate to guess if I am getting the best local weather if someone already has good intel on this.
Thanks again guys
Last edited by Tazzzz; 02-06-2008 at 01:41 PM.
If you want to backpack in then you want to stay at Hermit Lake Shelter. It is on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at the base of Lion Head. There is also the Harvard Cabin near Lion Head. You'll be able to get up to date weather from the snow rangers at Hermit Lake.
Get a map and your planning will go much easier:
If you want to "Car Camp" Barnes Field at Dolly Copp CG is plowed and open all winter. You pick a spot and put your fee in the fee tube at the entrance. If you're looking to stay indoors then try Gorham. I suggest:
In addition to KD's advice you can also stay at the base of the Tuckerman Ravine trail at the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge. They also have the latest forecast and summit conditions posted in the main building. I haven't stayed overnight there in many years, but as I recall there are bunkrooms. The link below should give you all the info you need. You can also get a hot breakfast there and get hot water for your thermos or water bottles.
Here's the link:
Appreciate all the input and the links, gives me a lot to work with. I will post a photo or two when all is done and give an update as to how things went.
As a side bar, my nephew (he's my hiking partner) and I will be hitting Mt Marcy first and then heading east to Mt Washington. Should be a nice warm-up if the weather isn't too difficult.
Last edited by Tazzzz; 02-06-2008 at 10:06 PM.