First Time Hiker
This will be my first time in the Whites. I'll be hiking to the summit on June 11 (unfortunately, I only have 1 day!). I've been reading the posts and trying to decide whether to go up/down Lions Head, or go the other side and up Ammo, down Jewell. What are the pros/cons of each? Are views better on Lions Head? Is the rock scramble at the top on both sides of the summit, or just on the Tuckerman side? I assume Jewell/Ammo will be clear, but is there likely to be snow and ice on the Lions Head trail in mid June (I have plenty of warm clothes, but I don't have winter climbing gear such as spikes, etc.). Thanks for any and all advice!!
The Ammonoosuc will be a more difficult ascent than Lions Head. The ravine is just steeper, has some rock slab you have to navigate up and potential dangerous spots if rocks are wet. Lions Head will give you some nice views into Tucks and a potential viewing spot to watch some late season skiers. You won't need crampons for either route. Just keep an eye out on the weather and even though you only have one day up here, be prepared to turn around if things go bad.
I've done the Ammo trail twice. As hawks stated, its steep and tricky in places if wet. Although you don't get the southerly views you might on Lions Head, there are some waterfalls that could be just as rewarding if you're into that. (Gem Pool)
Since it is your first time in the whites, it doesn't hurt to reiterate hawks comment about the weather, which tomorrow states it will be cloudy, with rain likely and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon, and the often move in from the west up the Ammo Ravine. It should be ok, but just be prepared, the weather in New England has been funky lately.
Good luck, and be sure to let us all know how it goes!
Choice of trails
One could argue forever about which trail to the summit is hardest or easiest. It is all relative, none is really harder or easier. Some of the ravine hikes are steeper in sections, some have wet slabs which are difficult to traverse, but, except for Huntington, I wouldn't say any of them is easier or harder. Each has their different difficult/easy sections, and all have great views, albeit of different things.
I think what is hard about the trails on the Presidential Range is that most people are not familiar with hiking above timberline. In the Pressies this means you are on solid rock most of the time, often scrambling from one to another. It can pound your legs and especially knees and ankles. In the hot weather it can be like a desert with no shade, and in the wet weather it can be a slippery mess and very slow going.
IMO the hike up from the west, given the weather forecast, is the best bet, as any weather approaching from the west will be apparent, and the decision to turn around will be easier to judge. Also, there is shelter at Lakes of the Clouds.
The advice to turn around if need be is the best you can get. Many get into trouble because, like you, they only have a one day window to "get" the mountain. Often, the mountain "gets" them. When traveling above timberline one must be prepared for all sorts of weather, sleet, freezing rain, lightning, etc. from which there is no shelter. The safest bet is to get down off the mountain. Many have suffered greatly, and many have died because they push on for the summit, whether to seek shelter, or to "get" the mountain.
That said, thousands successfully hike it each year, many with very little experience. Keep in mind that travel above timberline is not a walk in the woods, things can happen quickly in the mountains, and small events can snowball into emergencies quickly. With the knowledge of what poor decisions can cost you, you are better prepared to face this hike. Go, have fun, enjoy, but remember, the mountain will still be there if you don't "get" it the first try.
The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to KD Talbot For This Useful Post:
BAXTERCA2 (06-10-2011), mtruman (06-11-2011)
Thanks for all the feedback. We hiked up the Ammonoosuc trail on June 11. The weather was good when we started, and windy enough to keep the black flies away! We loved the views and the waterfalls. Above the gem pool, it started to rain and the slabs were very slick and difficult to climb. It was slow going. I'm glad we took this route since the hut at Lakes of the Clouds was a welcome rest stop, and allowed us to warm up and change into warmer clothes and our rain gear. The final stretch to the top was even wetter, windy and foggy, and obviously slow going since we were watching our steps on the slippery rocks.
When we reached the summit, we realized it had taken much longer than we had planned, due to the rain and slick rocks. We weren't sure if we had time to hike down Jewell, and the weather seemed to be getting worse. Just then a Cog arrived, and we were able to get a ride down (for lots of $$$ !!!) All in all, it was a great hike, and I would definitely come back to do it again! Next time I would plan for a stayover at Lakes of the Clouds, so time wouldn't be a concern.