Hi! It’s Willow. I started winter hiking in the winter of 2016 and fell in love with the beauty of the high peaks in winter (read more about my entry into winter hiking here). Laying eyes on the snow covered Presidential Range is incredibly stunning and I wanted to get up there. Every hiker dreams of a Mount Washington Winter Summit. I share my story below….
My sights were set on Mount Washington for 2017 which I knew would be good training for Mount Katahdin in 2018. The challenge, of course, is the weather. With high winds most of the winter and the fact that I am confined to hiking every other weekend, picking a good day was challenging. I also needed to find a hiking partner or two who would be up for the spontaneity of it. Attempting a Mount Washington Winter Summit is no joke – it takes much preparation, and the weather is ever changing.
With snowy conditions and double digit below zero temps for most of my available weekends in February, I could feel winter slipping away and resigned myself that 2017 might not be my year. With the final days of winter approaching and another snowstorm dumping fresh powder on the mountains, I was sure that it wasn’t meant to be. As I watched the weather the week of March 13th, I saw a bluebird day on the horizon, I knew I was going to hike and I rallied my hiking crew to join me in the Presidentials. Because others in my crew weren’t interested in Washington, I convinced them to hike Monroe. At least I would get some decent training under my belt and enjoy a nice day above treeline.
The lots by the Cog Railway were starting to fill up as we hit the trail at about 9am. Snowshoes were essential after the fresh powder that had fallen earlier in the week and I was thankful for all of the folks who broke trail in the days before us. I purchased my MSR Revo Ascents in 2016, but 2017 was my first year really using them. I love the televators and on a steep trail like the Ammo, they came in handy!
On the way up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, I noticed how light the winds were. The forecast that day was calling for winds to die in the afternoon and for skies to remain clear. We were making good time so I turned to my friend and said “If the winds are still this calm when we get to the hut, would you consider bagging Washington with me?”. She smiled and said that she would as long as she could get a text to her husband about the change in plans. She did and we convinced another in our party to join.
At the hut, we had a brief snack, put our crampons on, and bid farewell to the other members of our party who were headed to Monroe. Jim and Deb have helped me come a long way as a hiker and I thanked them both for guiding me on my journey before we parted ways.
The winds remained light as we made our way the 1.2 miles from the hut and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. We arrived at the summit shortly after 12:30pm, refueled and enjoyed the company of all the other hikers and skiers who were basking in the sun that day.
Shortly after 1pm, we departed and headed down the Gulfside Trail to the Jewell Trail. This trail offers sweeping views of the Great Gulf and northern Presidentials. When we connected to the Jewell Trail, we swapped our crampons for microspikes and then put on snowshoes. Skirting along the edge of Mt. Clay and Jefferson, we encountered several groups of hikers coming from the northern summits. Among the groups was Schorman and Lady Di who I had met on South Crocker in the fall of 2015. We chatted for a bit about what a small world it is and Schorman remarked on how far I had come. Folks like these are what make the hiking community so special, treasures found on the Jewell Trail.
After talking trail with this group, we headed off and found treeline. There we took a quick celebratory break where we remarked on the permagrins we were still wearing and about what an amazing day it was.
Cruising down the trail in the fluffy snow felt effortless after the long climb of the earlier part of the day and we were back at the car in no time.
We picked a truly superb day to summit and we were incredibly lucky to be up there. Many people have to bear high winds, clouds, precipitation and have to turn back before reaching their goal. I cannot wait for more above treeline training next year as I set my sights on Katahdin.
Have you climbed Mount Washington in winter? We would love to hear about it.
Wishing you bluebird skies,