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Thread: First-timer experiences

  1. #1
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    Post First-timer experiences

    I would like to hear about the experiences of hikers/backpackers who did their first summit of the 4K+ peaks, especially MtW, sometime in the last couple of years. I will be accompanying a group in another month for my first trip and have been swallowing as much info as I can get from the forums here, AMC, and other sites.

    I am specifically interested in the following:
    1) did your preparation (planning/prep hikes) allow you to summit as planned?
    2) If you were not able to summit, what factors contributed most?
    3) how prepared were you before the experience in terms of obtaining information about weather conditions, proper equipment, experiences of others, posted authoritative advice, etc?

    Thanks

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    This may generate some interesting posts. Over the years I have seen several factors making it so folks can or do not summit.

    1. weather
    2. having proper equipment
    3. being prepared.

    Weather - if you have several days to pick from, you are better off. Watch the weather forecasts and go on the best day. having to do it on a specific day due to schedule is very risky. You might hit a good weather day - or it could be terrible. It is even more risky to be part way up - above treeline - and have the weather go bad. You do not want to be above treeline in bad conditions.

    Proper equipment - this will vary of course with the time of year. But, we all see folks up there in the summer without a pack - no water - no extra layers - no food. Comfortable foot wear that has been broken in is key. The thing is to have extra things just in case and make sure you have tried them out before. Don't experiment on Mt Washington.

    Prepared - This is understanding the trails - backup plans - letting folks know where you will be - and being in good physical shape. The trails are steep - rugged - and slippery in many places. You do not want to be "up" with no ability to get back down.

    Unfortunately, I see more people make it to the summit with no ability or plan for getting down. We try to turn people around when it is clear they should not be out there or they have gone past their abilities. Most times they do not listen. Doing a Mt Washington hike and not getting to the summit is okay. It should be fun and safe. If it is clear it will be neither fun or safe, turning around is the best answer.

    I have been in zero visibility up there - and in snow and hail - above treeline in mid-summer. The temperature can drop in minutes with the wind picking up significantly. So, be safe.
    Brad (a 6288 club member)
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    I went up Washington the first time in 2006 with a group of people that I did not have a lot of strong ties to (It was a different charity hike) and had climbed a few mountains before hand as preparation.

    Those helped a lot to increase my confidence, but I think doing some road running helped a lot, as well.

    I had extra extra clothing because this group was slightly paranoid about what would happen...but we were also doing a 20 mile hike so had to bring extra clothes/food.

    You might want to try a few of the shorter Presidentials near Washington as practice and they will give you a better handle on what type of clothing you will need for Washington.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyM View Post
    I would like to hear about the experiences of hikers/backpackers who did their first summit of the 4K+ peaks, especially MtW, sometime in the last couple of years. I will be accompanying a group in another month for my first trip and have been swallowing as much info as I can get from the forums here, AMC, and other sites.

    I am specifically interested in the following:
    1) did your preparation (planning/prep hikes) allow you to summit as planned?
    2) If you were not able to summit, what factors contributed most?
    3) how prepared were you before the experience in terms of obtaining information about weather conditions, proper equipment, experiences of others, posted authoritative advice, etc?

    Thanks

    Your off on the right foot by reading and asking. I did my first 4k on April 11, 2009 (although I've had hiking experience as a Scout and I've camped off an on all of my life). I started by walking around in the woods...in the snow. This helped get the basic walking gear ready. (comfy boots, proper layering for how I hike and sweat, when I get hungry etc.)

    1) I was able to summit the first time as planned because I knew the trail conditions (read them on VFTT) and was able to compensate for soft afternoon snow. The weather was warm and sunny so that was not a factor for me.

    2) I took my son to Pierce and Eisenhower on 6-11-09 and we summited Pierce in the rain, could not see anything and bailed on Ike, heading back to Mizpah Hut to hang out. I had planned reasonably well, but the rain was just not much fun for my sons first hike. We were reasonably dry, but my son's gear was not quite up to snuff and he was not as warm as he would have liked (proper gear would have made a difference).

    3) VFTT for trail conditions...watch the weather. On every trip I have overpacked (within my carrying capability) to insure that I could handle problems. On day hikes I prepare to stay overnight (i.e. food, clothes for 2 days)

    Search the threads on VFTT and you will find tons of good opinions on what to bring and how to prepare for multiple conditions. They also have old threads with routes to take, bailout routes, bushwhacks, things not to miss, contigency plans, gear to use, gear not to use, Leave-No-Trace, good hiking food, bad hiking food, boots, hiking poles...well you get the idea.

    If you read the threads and do the prep you sem to be doing, you'll have an easy first hike regardless of the weather (i.e. plan for crappy rain and gale force winds and anything less will be a cakewalk).

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    My first 4000 footer was Jefferson. Took me three attempts to summit that monster. First attemp was in June 2007 and was so windy we physically could not get past the first 'cap' without getting blown over. Second attempt was me, in my jean shorts and tank top, in the rain (which turned to snow), in Oct, where we lost visibility. We got to the point where you begin that last .5 miles to the summit, up the rocky cone, and couldn't see the cairn. We went the wrong way and headed over towards Mt Washington. Upon realizing that we were not going up, we turned around. We were scared just enough to turn around and head down and not summit that day. Attempt #3 was a success, beautiful day, nice weather, good views. I am still thankful for this Mt, as it taught me what can happen up there and how to be prepared. I learned a lot of hard lessons. I now see inexperienced hikers and say, that used to be me. Thank god I know better now!

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    Thanks to those who responded so far. All very good info, verifies what I have been reading. As a forum newbie, I am a little slow, but eventually figured out 'VFTT.' A good site. Found a link to Pete's Poles Page and other good stuff.

    There are more experiences out there, so come clean!

    We have only one weekend to do our hiking, so the weather will be a gamble. All I need is the taste to bring me back and try again. My hiking/backpacking took a hiatus of many years, but starting to make a resurgence.

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    I have taken many first timers up Mt Washington. There is an initial cut for those who I know just can not make it. One or two have been very persistent and wanted to go anyway. For them we have gone up from PNVC to HoJo's and by then they are toast. Stop - rest - eat - look at the great views and head down.

    For those who do normal regular athletic things, we normally go up Lion Head and down the Headwall. One couple who run 8 miles a day were floored at how hard it was. They agreed it was the hardest thing they had ever done.

    One High School "jock" made it up - but there was no way he was coming down any other way than the Cog. The rest of the family had ridden up to meet us at the summit. So, The Jock rode down after not seeing anything at the summit because he was sleeping it off.

    We all talk about going up - taking pictures - no big deal because we know what to expect - are prepared - and know how to get out of there before a problem comes up. But, MW is not easy. I am sure than many here have carried packs for people met on the trail. (yes) Have carried people out who just could not go any further. (yes) Have guided folks out. (yes) Firmly told people to turn around as they are not getting to the summit if they are going up at 3PM and have not reached the Headwall. (yes) Have seen people hiking up in sandals with no pack, no water, no food, no extra clothes. (yes) Have seen a family with kids "just going to walk down and meet the car at the bottom". (yes - we carried one of the kids out)

    Yes, there are lots of stories out there.
    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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    My family and I have been hiking in the Whites since my daughter was about 6 and doing more difficult hikes each year. Our first 4k was 5 years ago when she was 9 and we hiked up Cannon by the Kinsman Ridge trail (and then took the tram down). We all made that one fine and probably have made it down fine as well. No big mountains over the next couple of years.

    Two years ago I gave myself a 50th birthday present of a 4 day hut-to-hut Presidential Traverse. Since this was the first really serious multi-day hiking and big peaks for both my wife and I we both did a lot of prep. Physical prep consisted of a lot of walking (I averaged 5 miles a day for the entire year that year) with as many hills as I could manage (which downtown Providence is excellent for). Also did lots of route planning, gear planning and every kind of mental prep possible. Read many trip reports, trail descriptions, articles on the hike we were doing, etc. I felt like I knew the route before we left. We had no trouble with this hike at all and I still think it's the most amazing experience of my life.

    We followed that up with Seek the Peak last year for our first hike up Mt Washington and then started another 4 day hut-to-hut the next day from Franconia Notch to Crawford Notch. Again, same kind of prep and same fantastic results. I will say that in both of these cases we were blessed with perfect weather which made things much easier. We were prepared for bad weather as well (particularly with the amount of time above treeline both times) and had the necessary foul weather gear and escape routes planned.

    This year we returned for our second STP and our 14 year old daughter made Mt Washington her first 4k (with her young legs flying ahead of us both up and down the mountain). All in all this was a long winded way of saying that if you 1) prepare physically, 2) plan and prepare mentally and most importantly 3) be prepared to turn back if you need to you'll be just fine.

    Hope you have a wonderful trip!!!
    Mark

    Keep close to Nature's heart...
    and break clear away, once in awhile,
    and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
    Wash your spirit clean. - John Muir


    Hiking photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman42
    Hiking Blog: http://theramblingsblog.blogspot.com/
    Seek the 2011 Peak page: Mark Truman's Pledge Page

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    We've been hiking 4Ks in the Whites for about 4 years, but we also had a couple years of ADK46s in there before that.

    1) did your preparation (planning/prep hikes) allow you to summit as planned?

    Being prepared is obviously very important - having the right gear for whatever weather hits you, etc...

    2) If you were not able to summit, what factors contributed most?

    In the cases when we've turned around, some have been Tim's decision and some have been mine, but usually it has been weather-related. None have been life-threatening, just more uncomfortable than we wanted to be.

    3) how prepared were you before the experience in terms of obtaining information about weather conditions, proper equipment, experiences of others, posted authoritative advice, etc?

    We take full advantage of ViewsFromTheTop, the AMC web site and Mt Washington Obs web sites for trail conditions, weather conditions, posted advice... We love gear, so we've got all the right stuff for all the right weather.

    Overall, it's important to know the bailout routes (especially if you intend to go above treeline for an extended period of time) and don't ignore signs of weather. If you are on the eastern side of the Presidentials, you can be very surprised to see a storm just as it comes into view above your head.

    Bring gloves, hat and fleece (and a waterproof layer) on any trip above treeline. Many of us can vouch that we needed those things on the weekend of July 25.

    Have fun and post pictures on your return!
    Valerie

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    Some very useful and interesting perspectives. I am anxious to go. Our climb is the weekend of the 21st - 23rd. Let's hope the weather doesn't get too dicey. Photos will be provided upon return.

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