Mount Washington Lion's head 5/14
Trail still has ice and wet snow (both packed and unpacked) Crampons would be worn for about 1/8 of your trip. A lot of mud in the wooded areas and wet rocks. Wind and temperature (mid-40s maybe) were not an issue for us on this day.
A friend and I hiked up Mount Washington via Lion's head trail for the first time for either of us yesterday May 14. We started into the trail from the visitor?s center around 7:15am. The forecast called for a 50% chance of rain so we risked it and got pretty damn lucky. Not one drop fell our whole trip and we got to see some great views to boot. The temperature was pretty consistent the whole trip; I never had to put on my jacket. I was able to stay in my wind breaker pants, cold weather Underarmor and long sleeve t-shirt. It was comfortable the whole way up.
At the beginning there was little snow. Where there was snow there were also rocks peeking up through the snow so we're able to walk across the rock tops and keep good traction. There was a spot where an innocent little mud ended up being a huge hole of mud that engulfed my friends boot and half her leg. Nothing a change into spare socks couldn?t fix though.
Where the seemingly creepy start to Lion's Head broke away from Tuckerman's Trail there was still a lot of snow. Probably due to the lack of sunlight through the trees; it was like a mini ridge actually where we had to walk on packed snow that was only about 6" width and the sides dropped off to the forest floor about 3 feet down. We would have walked next to the snow but the trees were thick and there was still unpacked snow with a lot of shrubbery sticking up through. So we decided to stay along the packed snow. It was really strange, humorous and slow going but we managed. Someone had traveled the path recently with crampons (I could see the teeth mark in the snow). So I followed their tracks because the trail was narrow and difficult to tell exactly which direction to follow (a lot of the trail markers were difficult to spot) and even narrower with the snow ridge we were trying to keep our balance on. It was actually fun because it was conditions that were different than what I was used to hiking. This being my 3rd hike in the White Mountains and finally getting someone who wanted to hike Washington with me.
We eventually got to what I called the ?mud wall? it was literally a wall of mud that had restraining walls which consisted of 4x4s stacked about 3 high that held up the dirt and mud. We were lucky there were roots and other branches that we were able to help pull us up. We eventually made it up this portion while getting decently muddy. As the trail pitch started to shallow the trees became shorter and shorter and there was more of those short pine shrubs the snow covered the trail pretty evenly. The snow was wet and seemed to have seen less traffic than the trail before the ?mud wall?. This was the part that we wish that we had brought crampons. It seemed every step forward we made we lost half a step when our feet slid back in the snow. I was still following the crampon tracks from earlier which made me think that this snow had fallen recently and the tracks were probably about a day old. We had to plan every step and kick in the snow and beat it down to get good traction. Whoever came up after us had it easy with all of our foot holes!
Once we got to the part where we were looking over the bowl the trail flattened out and gave our legs a break. The trail here was drier with the occasional puddle. We could see snowboarders climbing their way up the left side of the bowl. I think we took the wrong path because we started heading toward the left away from the summit and closer the bowl. So we said to heck with it and started climbing the rocks. It was a little sketchy at first because some of the rocks were loose and you could tell that we were off the planned trail because the rock top?s weren?t worn down like on the trails but it seemed all the more strenuous this way. We finally made it the summit around 11:30 or noon when the fog really started rolling in.
We were a little afraid coming back down because we thought the forecast was starting to play through with the rain and we didn?t want to have to go down through the snow areas again. We were also more tired than we?d expected so we cheated our way down. We made a friend at the summit who was able to give us a lift down the Auto Road. We?re already planning a revenge hike for July and this time around we?ll do a loop trip and hike down.
I wish I had pictures but I forgot my camera on the charger. So unfortunately I only got a picture of the summit sign with my cell phone as proof. Also sorry for any grammar or misspellings, just got back from work to do this write up and only did one quick read through.
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