2014 - Jan 18-20 » Mt Washington (NH) and Mt Mansfield (VT)

 

Mt. Washington (New Hampshire, Pics 1-9)

I had a 3-day weekend off while working a contract job at the Boston Children’s Hospital, and talked my buddy Philip Wegge into flying out to join me on a winter ascent of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Philip arrived Friday night, we made the 3 hour drive to our hotel in North Conway, got up early Saturday, and started up the mountain around 7:30am. Though the climb was cold, Mt. Washington didn’t live up to its stature of having the world’s worst weather, lucky for us.

Philip and I passed a few groups on our way up (and tons of people while on our way down)…Mt. Washington is quite the social mountain… A short class 3 root/ice/rock scramble lower down added a little excitement before we broke out above treeline, and the research station on the summit decorated in rhyme ice topped it all off.  We made the roundtrip ascent in 6.5 hours without ever having to pull out our parkas or ice axes (had we stopped for more than a few minutes, the parka would have come out).

We kicked around the idea of doing the Franconia Ridge traverse the following day, but gave up on that idea when the weather deteriorated through the night. Our backup plan was Vermont’s highest point, Mt. Mansfield…

 

Mt. Mansfield (Vermont, Pics 10-21)

I was happy when Phillip didn’t oppose to sleeping in on Sunday, or indulging in a big breakfast (though I didn’t suspect he would). The two of us hung out at a local North Conway coffee shop for a few hours before making the 3 hour drive to Stowe, a ski resort town near Mt. Mansfield. The weather report wasn’t so great for Monday, but not so bad either, with supposed improvement as the day would go on. I rationalized a late start, getting our feet on the ground at 11am. We were able to follow a boot pack up the Long Trail, a fairly direct trail that heads to a hut below the summit ridge, and then towards the summit itself.

Philip and I made great time as snow fell lightly and consistently, making it to the hut and within 600 feet of the top in under two hours. Just past the hut, we ran into another climber on his way down,  who explained that he had turned back just short of the summit when the route turned dicey… we followed his tracks up to where he had turned back,  and indeed the climb did get a bit more aggressive. We looked for alternate routes, finally deciding on a short traverse below a rock outcropping, before heading straight for the summit in waist deep snow and low visibility. The wind picked up as we topped out, burning our faces and allowing just enough time for a photo before we were forced to head down. There was a short-lived feeling of desperation when most of our shallow tracks near the summit had filled in, making it tough to figure out where we had come up. Soon enough though, we dropped back into calmer conditions, where we were first able to enjoy our success. Quite the excitement for a short mountain, and a nice finish to a fun 3 days bumming around New England.

 

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