Mt. Washington via Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail Trip Report, August 27 2013

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For much of the 20th century, the summit of New Hampshire’s 6,200-foot Mount Washington was the site of the highest wind speed ever measured at the Earth’s surface — a 231 mph gust recorded in April 1934. That a peak just over a mile high in the relatively cozy confines of New England should be home to some of the planet’s most erratic, violent and downright crappy weather strikes many people as astonishing. For meteorologists, meanwhile — not to mention hikers and campers who have suffered its extreme mood swings — Mount Washington’s weather is a source of constant, and occasionally terrifying, wonderment. [1

Luckily, we did not have to endure any of the nastiness that the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather’ is know for. I did however get a much needed wake up call and realized that I needed to be more respectful of the NH 4,000 footers. The week prior to hike, I had spent a few days @ 10000+ ft in the Sierras. I had also spent the spring and summer training for Mt. Whitney and as a result, was more confident in my abilities than I should have been.

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The Plan

We were planning on starting the hike before sunrise with headlamps, in the hopes that we’d be back around the time our family had to check out the hotel. Since we were ‘only’ hiking 9 miles and ‘only’ climbing 3800 feet, I figured we’d easily complete the hike in <6 hours.

The Outcome

This is what the weather conditions were when we started the hike, per MWOBS:
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Conditions at 5:07 AM
Weather: Intermittent Fog
Temperature: 50°F
Wind: NW 24 mph
Visibility: 200 feet
Relative Humidity: 100%
Station Pressure: 23.87" steady
Ground Conditions: Damp rocks
The key items above are the relative humidity, temperature and ground conditions.

We started the hike a few moments after sunrise and spent most of the ascent walking through fog and mist. The first two miles went very quickly, until we reached the Gem Pool. For the next mile, I would describe the trail as a granite staircase built for someone 7 feet tall. This is where the weather conditions really started to affect me. Keep in mind that the conditions above were at the summit, so I would guess that the temperature at the trailhead was 15+° warmer. The ‘stairway’ was slick and the warm, humid air was very heavy. I felt as though I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs. A few minutes after we started the climb, I was on the verge of getting cramps in my quads. This continued until we reached the Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

By the time we reached the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, much of my gear was wet. We lost the trail just below the hut and ended up doing some bushwhacking. As a result, my pant legs were dripping wet. We spent a few minutes resting at the hut and at that point, the mist and fog started to clear. After digging my camera out and taking a few pics, we continued along the trail to the summit. We ate breakfast, then headed down the way we came.

Due to the steepness of the Ammonoosuc Ravine, hikers usually descend via the Jewell Trial instead. We did not know this until we had committed to descending the way we came up. We had a hard time staying on our feet with the rocks being so slick. Although we finished the hike in less than 6 hours as I predicted, the hike was much harder than expected.

Geek Stats:

Mt. Washington (NH) via Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail || Distance: 9 miles RT || Duration: 5 hrs 45 min || Elevation Change:  ±3800′ || Difficulty: Very Strenuous

    • Notes:
      • Trail Head to Gem Pool = 1,000 ft over 2.1 miles = 9% incline
      • Gem Pool to AMC Hut = 1500 ft over 1 mile = 28% incline
      • AMC Hut to Summit = 1300 ft over 1.4 miles = 17.5% incline

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