Quick trip to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire

I had to go to our branch office in Bedford, New Hampshire on Friday, which gave me a chance to have dinner with my sister Liz and her family in Lee.  It also allowed me to make a trip to Mt. Washington the next day to do some hiking for the Longest Day with coworker Jason Lynch and his team.   I had never been to Mt. Washington before, but I have wanted to climb it for years.  So I finally had my chance.

It was one of the toughest hikes I have ever done in my life.  I am not in the shape I was when I was in my teens or twenties, when I was hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail.  I honestly wasn’t sure I could do it, and there were definitely a few times I asked myself what I was thinking when I decided to climb this mountain.  There is a reason this hike is known as one of the most dangerous in the country.  But I am glad I did it.  I am proud for having accomplished it, and at 43 in what could best be described as “meh” physical shape to boot.

The views made it oh so worthwhile.

20140621_090133Everywhere there were these beautiful little running streams, and the woods were old and beautiful.  And as I climbed higher, the views got more and more spectacular.

I saw more waterfalls than I could count.
I saw more waterfalls than I could count.

Apparently the definition of “trail” is a bit fluid there.  Definitely needed some good shoes with some padding on this hike.

Nice neat little gravel trails with wooden steps?  Not so much here.
Nice neat little gravel trails with wooden steps? Not so much here.

I did not arrive early enough to leave with the first group from Jason’s team (they left at 4:30 AM or something) but I tried to meet the second group before they left.  I failed, sadly.  I had never met them and I could not get a text message to their leader.  So I went up on my own, but met many wonderful and friendly people along the way.

20140621_111359
Looking up Tuckerman Ravine towards the remaining snowpack.

Yes, there is still some snow there, even in June.  At that point we are heading above the treeline into some weather that even on good days can be scary.

Alpine indeed.  With the wind blowing it got a little chilly.
Alpine indeed. With the wind blowing it got a little chilly.

Spring arrives a bit late here.  So there were lots of blooming Alpine flowers.  Most of those photos got messed up due to user error (my big tired fingers got in the way of the lens) but Kelly managed to save part of this one.

Edelweiss?  Simbelmyne?  No, diapensia lapponica, I think.
Edelweiss? Simbelmyne? No, diapensia lapponica, I think.

It’s supposed to be a really good year for the Alpine flowers in the Presidential range.  The lingering winter apparently has benefited them. As an example, the temperature on Saturday at the summit was probably low 40s at its peak, and with the strong (not for Mt. Washington but for normal places) wind blowing it felt much colder.  And it really is pretty dramatic how different the weather at the summit can be.    I finally reached the snow area, which was a heck of a climb in itself but we still had to climb to the crest and then to the summit.

The snow is melting but it's still there.
The snow is melting but it’s still there.

It’s probably a good thing I was so tired because then I could not pay as much attention to some of the scary heights I was near.

20140621_130719By this point I was expecting to see the beacon of Amon Din at any moment.    Many days it is just too foggy at the top to see anything but I lucked out and had great visibility.  Visibility was just astonishing.

That may not seem like much distance, but believe me, it's FOREVER.
That may not seem like much distance, but believe me, it’s FOREVER.

It was the longest six-tenths of a mile in my life.  Just heartbreaking.  I had to stop every fifty feet for a while.  There were these cairns set up to mark the trail and I would just try to go from one to the next one.

It might be time to signal Rohan for help at this point.  Build a fire on this thing.
It might be time to signal Rohan for help at this point. Maybe build a big fire on this thing.  A ride on a horse would be lovely.  Maybe even a burro.  I’m not picky.

Finally I scaled the last part of the rocks and arrived… in the parking lot.  There were lots of bikers around and interestingly enough, some Minis too.  But it was growing late, and by the time I arrived at the summit, I just wanted to get back to my car and drive home.  So I snapped one photo at the top on my way to the shuttle to take me back to my car, parked at the Visitor Center at the bottom of Tuckerman Ravine.

That cog railway may just be the next way I do this, if I ver do it again.
That cog railway may just be the next way I do this, if I ever do it again.

Besides, the wind started to pick up dramatically and dark clouds were blowing in, and I could not wait to get back to my comfy Mini and drive home.   There were large gatherings for both bikers and Mini owners going on this weekend, and I sort of stumbled into both. Driving home I got waved at a lot in my Mini by other Mini drivers, which was kind of cool.  Almost made me wish I could go hang out with them.  Maybe one day.

Scratch one item off my bucket list.

-Geoff

 

 

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