I have wanted to climb Mt Washington in in White Mountain ranges in New Hampshire ever since I heard of it. The 4,000' elevation over a 4.5 mile hike to the summit is in moderate - difficult terrain, steep and slick in some places. The weather has a very large part to play, some rain or high winds can quickly turn a perfectly normal hike to a dangerous one.
Mt Washington is marketed as the home of the world's worst weather. I would like to call the weather fickle - especially for us city dwellers, who find it difficult to understand the effect of altitude and vegetation on the microclimate. It has recorded wind speeds of 231MPH and we have infamously driven up to the summit on a foggy day with under 3' visibility and winds gusting to 60 MPH; but that's a part of the allure of the mountain!
|Warning sign above treeline; about 1.4 miles from the summit.|
|The group, just as we started the climb|
|Plaques to remember those who died trying to climb up|
|Gem Pool - there were people swimming and (literally) cooling their heels|
|This was just like climbing stairs - except each riser was 14-16" high|
The Ammonoosuc trail leads to the Lakes of the Clouds hut, which is a Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut. It is a welcome warm break, with hot soup, chocolate chip cookies, restrooms and plenty of fellow hikers for company.
About a 1/4 mile below the hut we reached a beautiful outlook, with dramatic panoramas of the white mountain ranges and waterfalls cascading at different angles. The climb up form here on was slick and steep, requiring us to be on all fours quite often, thanking our stars that it had not rained enough to make the rocks slippery. We also got our first view of the hut not too far from here, which was encouraging.
|There was not a lot of water, but it was refreshing to touch and see|
|I felt like a seal - soaking in as much sun as possible while sitting on the rocks|
|About 1/4 mile from the hut - it only took us |
about 20 minutes of hopping and crawling on rocks
to get to the hut from here.
|This was also the beginning of the alpine zone that I was fascinated by|
|Lakes of the clouds and AMC hut as seen from trail above|
|pic courtesy: nationalparkstraveler.com|
We were now above treeline and the hike was essentially hopping on rocks, surrounded by alpine vegetation. Magnificent views silently cheered us on; the ominous looking dark clouds ensured that we didn't waste any time looking. The temperature had dropped into the high 50s ( considered very warm for the mountain), and the wind had picked up (~15 mph: very normal) ; we added on the thermal layers.
|The clouds were starting to gather|
|Ten minutes later, it looked like this|
|From the summit|
|I was fascinated by the Alpine vegetation - plants and flowers in the most unexpected places.|
We didn't spend a lot of time looking at the views from the summit - this was more about the journey than the destination. After some hot tea, a lot of water and a souvenir magnet, it was time to head back down.More about that in the next post.
|The watermelon ! PC: fellow hiker|