Jenn and I had some unfinished business from last winter: summiting Mount Washington. Last February, the conditions made us turn back just before the summit. 70-80 MPH winds and a wind chill of -50 did not make for easy going. Yesterday’s conditions were much more favorable: average wind of 21.5 MPH, gusts only up to 42, and temperatures in the mid teens. There was wind less than half the time though. The majority of the hike was spent in absolute calm. Skies were cloudy, but the clouds were high enough we still had great views. I had been to the summit on my thru hike, but I wanted a winter ascent.
We got a late start up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. It was 3.1 miles to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and the first half of that was pretty level. Then we started going up. We were both in snowshoes but there were people barebooting it ahead of us. On most of the trail that was fine, but on some really steep sections, that made for some postholes that my snowshoes could not fit in, so I was sliding around a little bit trying to get up.
At one point, I sort of noted some other footprints going off to the right, but the main trail seemed to very obviously continue straight, and so we did too without thinking about it. We stopped and had lunch and then continued. Just as we started getting to the edge of treeline, there seemed to be fewer tracks and more spruce traps than normal. That can happen at treeline though, where the wind sweeps the trail clean and drifts snow easily. We caught up to the two guys in front of us only to realize that we are all completely off trail. Oops.
Getting back down to the fork was much quicker than getting up to the point we had reached since we could do some glissading. Then we had to regain the elevation we’d already gained and lost on the wrong track, but we were definitely on the right trail at that point. We eventually made it above treeline again and stopped for a break at the hut.
I switched to crampons at that point and Jenn switched to spikes and we hopped on Crawford Path to continue. After five minutes of hiking, I could see that I really didn’t need the crampons so I switched to spikes too. We could see the summit for the rest of the mile and a half hike up to it, and it always looked so much closer than it actually was. The wind started picking up as we got closer, and a cloud closed in right at the top so there were no views.
We spent just enough time at the summit at 6288′ to take some photos, and then booked it back down. It started snowing very lightly as we descended. After half a mile or so, the winds were not as bad, and the cloud lifted so we could see again. It was a very easy hike back down.
It was a little less than six hours of hiking up, including the detour, and only a little over two hours to get down. We both kept our spikes on for the whole way. There was some excellent glissading: really long stretches, steep enough to go fast but not feel out of control, and the sides of the trail up enough to feel like a chute.
We made it down before 6:45 PM, the spring equinox, so it counts as a winter summit! We were back at the car an hour ahead of time and it sure felt like we were walking into spring: sunshine and warm temperatures at the bottom.
See more photos here.