Mount Washington

Yesterday I hiked Mt. Washington.

I spent the long Labor Day weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with Sarah, Constanza, (Other) Ben, Corinna, and Nick. It rained every night, and was overcast every day, but the temperature was perfect and our hike up the mountain, while lacking in views, was an amazing climb through the clouds.

The ranger station at Hermit Lake, where we stopped for lunch.

The ranger station at Hermit Lake, where we stopped for lunch.

The trail we took, Tuckerman’s Ravine, is a 4.2 mile hike with 4,000ft of elevation gain. It passes through four distinct ecological zones en route to the summit of Mount Washington.

Approaching the Alpine Zone.

Approaching the Alpine Zone.

 

Ascending 1000 vertical feet in the mountains of the northeast can be likened to driving hundreds of miles north. On average temperatures decreases 3 to 5F and precipitation increases by 8 inches a year with each 1000 foot elevation gain. As a result, the plant and animal communities change drastically as you hike up a mountain. (Source)
The Bens, playing explorer.

The Bens, playing explorer.

Nick and Corinna had hiked up Mount Madison the day before, and Sarah was more in the mood for exploring flatter terrain, so I did the hike with Constanza and Ben. The Visitor’s Station told us to expect a hike of 3-4 hours, and a guy who overheard told us it was closer to 5. We did it in 2:45 with a brief stop for lunch (and photo ops) along the way.

Nowhere to go but up as the fog rolled in.

Nowhere to go but up as the fog rolled in.

The last 1,000ft was through a talus slope along the exposed face of the mountain. Relatively clear skies gave way to intense clouds just as we approached the scree, and while it obscured the view, it made for some really incredible imagery.

Constanza and Ben refilling with clear mountain water.

Constanza and Ben stealing the clear mountain water.

The trail also got wetter as we climbed, and Constanza and Ben took advantage of the water cascades to refill their bottles.

As the trail got rockier, painted markings gave way to piles of stones.

As the trail got rockier, painted markings were replaced with stone piles.

I was nervous going into the hike, given a history of knee problems. But I had no complications on the way up. (YES!) I decided to play it safe, though, and opted to skip the knee-pounding hike down in favor of a ticket on the Hiker’s Shuttle – a passenger van that plies the 8 mile Mount Washington Auto Road down from the top.

At the summit in under 3 hours

At the summit in under 3 hours

We mailed some postcards, Ben and Constanza had some coffee, and we parted ways, meeting two hours later at the car.

Sarah, Constanza, and (Other) Ben at the campsite.

Sarah, Constanza, and (Other) Ben at camp.

That night we showered, cooked, and camped in the pouring rain. It was actually pretty great.

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