Friday, June 14, 2013

Washington and Monroe 6/13/13

Working title: Snakes on the trail

Peaks: Mt. Washington, Mt. Monroe, Boott Spur

Trails: Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Lion Head Trail, Crawford Path, Mt. Monroe Loop, Camel Trail, Davis Path, bushwhack, Boott Spur Trail, Boott Spur Link

Mileage/time: 13.2 miles, 5662 feet of gain, book time of 9:27, actual time of 9:28

Oh, Mt. Washington. It's been, what seems like, a long time since I've hiked you. How fitting that my return was accompanied by the last person to hike it with me, Mike! Originally, there were supposed to be four of us, Monica, Cat, and at the last minute, Mike. Sadly, Cat found out (also last minute), that she was unavailable, so we had a trio for the day.

Wednesday, Wednesday. You'll never get easier. Almost seven years on the night shift, and no matter how I slice it, that first off "day" is a beast (if you couldn't tell, it's Wednesday). I told myself I was going to do something about it, and I apparently have a problem with authority, especially when it's me! The day itself was fine, as far as I could tell in my sleep deprived state, and I crashed super early (like 7pm). 4am came along, and I was up, thankfully before the alarm. I loaded up my pack, ate, and sooner than later, headed out the door.

I arrived at the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center, early, and shortly found Mike. We awaited the arrival of Monica, sans her other half, Michael (hope you're enjoying Mountain Leadership School). She soon arrived, I rolled the longboard through the lot momentarily, and we started up Tuckerman Ravine Trail, under clear skies and bright sunshine.

The only thing different about this trail, from the last time I was on it, was only about 4 feet of snow! I also wasn't on my skis, which would have been useless on the meager patches of snow that remain in the ravine. We set off up the wide, and at this point, rather uninteresting trail, hopping from rock to rock, up and up. Crystal Cascade was running nicely, and we stopped for a peek.

Beyond here, the trail grinds relentlessly, another almost 1700 feet in 2.1 miles to the base of the ravine at Hermit Lake. I remember a time, shortly after I quit smoking, when this trail owned me. I'm not saying that I didn't huff and puff, or break a sweat, but at this point, it's an easy trail, with a manageable grade. We decided to stop at the shelter, and took a quick break before heading up Lion Head.

Upta Boott Spur

Upta Lion Head

I know they're everywhere, but they're awesome at 3800 feet!
Having only been on the Lion Head winter route, now was as good a time as any to try the summer route. It was steep, though not quite as steep as the winter route, and crosses an avalanche zone, which Mike pointed out. It soon came out at the junction where the winter route comes in, and kept climbing. We broke treeline, and continued in the open towards Lion Head itself. The views were impressive.

Nelson Crag

The summit cone of Washington

Boott Spur
Sweating like a pig, I thought it might have been a mistake to wear a thin base layer under my pants, but no worries, this story has a happy ending. The winds were coming out of the east as we broke treeline, and the breeze felt good, cooling me down considerably. Thank you wind, for keeping me in the game. The climb up the summit cone is brutal, pretty much from any direction, strangely with the exception of Nelson Crag, where it's gradual, and I daresay easy! Thankfully, there were things (and stuff) to behold along the way, to distract me from the brutality.

As we neared the parking lot at the top, the smell of exhaust, and the cacophony of bike engines filled the air. I do love Mt. Washington, but the commercialization of it detracts from the summit experience. We weaved our way through throngs of bikers, cigarette smoke, and other tourists to reach the summit. There was a bit of a wait at the summit, and between people's photographs, we tagged the summit, then retreated. Once inside, we ventured downstairs to the museum where Samantha was working, and we surprised the hell out of her! I don't think she was expecting us until Saturday. She ended up giving us a tour of the Mount Washington Observatory, complete with a climb to the tower, the actual highest point in the northeast!

Northern Presidentials

After our tour, we went inside for lunch, somewhat away from the throngs of bikers, and we actually saw hikers! I was facing the windows while eating, and about halfway through, I looked up, and saw nothing but milky white. In a cloud! Finishing up, refilling our water bottles/bladders, and saying sayonara to Samantha, we trucked on down towards Lakes of the Clouds, and Mt. Monroe.

I found a rock that looks like my state!

Upon reaching the hut, the summit of Washington was firmly socked in, so we went inside to use the facilities. It was kind of cold in the hut, we could see our breath inside, and were told by one of the Croo that there was still ice under the floor. Refrigerating the guests! We went outside and had a snack before heading up Monroe, pumpkin chocolate chip squares, delicious. The short, but steep, ascent to Monroe was upon us. This would be the official end of my second round of the 48, as Monroe was the last peak I'd been to only once. There was a celebratory beer in my pack for the occasion.

Celebration finished, we descended the south side of the Monroe Loop, over Little Monroe, and ended up back on the Crawford Path. We climbed gently around the summit cone, soon finding ourselves back at Lakes, and onward to the Camel Trail junction. This is a lightly used trail, that hooks the Crawford Path to the Davis Path. I'm sure the views to the surrounding area are amazing, but being in the clouds as we were, limited our sightlines. The trail was a joy, and over too quickly, as most good things are.

We resumed climbing towards Boott Spur, and saw a strange cylinder on the slope below the trail. Since I'd already redlined this section of Davis Path, we headed off trail (rockwhacking) to check it out. It ended up being an emergency cache chained to the mountain, complete with a litter, a sled, and a mostly empty first aid kit (though it did have a space blanket and some bandages in it). Strange that it's in such an out of the way, off trail location, and can only be seen while coming south on Davis Path. From a small promontory nearby, there's a fantastic view down into Tuckerman Ravine.


We then sallied forth, and soon found ourselves on the summit of Boott Spur, in the fog, where Mike found the pin. Here's where my troubles began. I've narrowed down my knee issues to my left knee, and on this hike, finally brought a brace with me. I'd had it on since Washington, and it seemed to be doing its job. Now descending steeply off Boott Spur, my knee became aggravated. I even managed to roll my right ankle, nearly sending myself tumbling. Awesome.

The "view" from Boott Spur

Upon reaching a slight plateau, and the junction with Boott Spur Link, we decided to take that to the floor of the ravine, instead of continuing on Boott Spur Trail. This wreaked more havoc on my knee, as it's short and extremely steep. Monica lent me one of her poles, and it helped a bit, though the pain was pretty intense. There were some nice views along the way, especially up to the bowl, and in a boggy area just before the shelter.

From the shelter, I gave Monica her pole back, and we started down Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The knee was feeling better, thanks to the lessened gradient, and we made quick time through many of the junctions along the way. Partway down, Monica let out a shriek unlike any I've ever heard! Both Mike and I thought she had hurt herself, but then she yelled "snake!". I saw the snake, as it slithered quickly into a cavity under some rocks. We laughed about it most of the way back down, and soon found out that if we were to play a trick on her, we'd likely get punched in the face!

I felt a couple sprinkles down low, but never anything worrisome, and we soon arrived back at the visitors center, and signed out. We then stopped at Margarita Grill in Glen, and had a delicious dinner. Just after parting ways, the sky opened up just outside of Conway, and it poured for a bit. All in all, a great day, with great friends. Can't beat it!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent story, photo's, clouds, flowers, waterfalls, and mountains.... just beautiful Bill. You always have awesome photo's and hikes! :)) your fellow hiker and mountain lover, Joyce W.