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Ascent of Mount Washington on 2012-10-26

Climber: Matthew Gray

Others in Party:Erin Gray
Ellie Gray
Rachel Gray
Date:Friday, October 26, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Summit:Train
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Washington
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:6288 ft / 1916 m

Ascent Trip Report

Dave & Jess invited us out for Thanksgiving. However, since we already had plans with Jeremy & Elizabeth in MT, we decided to go visit Dave & Jess in Groton, MA at the end of October. They were in school and Dave had to work all week but we decided to visit anyway and keep ourselves occupied during the days. On Tues, Oct 23, we went to the Children's museum in Boston and then met up with Dave after lunch. We walked part of the Freedom Trail and saw Boston Common, Phanuel Hall, the site of the Boston Massacre and several other notable landmarks. One of the activities I had planned was to drive up to New Hampshire on Thurs, Oct 25 and drive up the Auto-Road to the summit of Mount Washington. We left around 10 in the morning and I unfortunately picked a circuitous route that took 4 hours instead of a little over 3. We drove up to the start of the Auto Road and the lady at the gate said they had just closed the previous weekend. Agghh!!! Looking at the website in preparation, it said that it closed in November or when it snows but it wasn't very definite. I should have called or something but just didn't take that step. Also, there are shuttles that go up in the winter so I assumed there would be someway to get there. We had driven 4 hours, plus the trip from Minnesota to get there. We could try to hike the 5 miles but it was already about 3 in the afternoon so that wasn't going to work and we had the two kids. There was no way the kiddos were going to last after that drive! There was a cog train that goes to the summit but it was an hour away on the other side of the mountain. Unfortunately that had closed for the day already so we were stuck. Erin knew how much I wanted to go up the mountain and suggested we stay the night somewhere nearby and go up the next morning. She wasn't super excited about the trip to begin with but put up with it since it was something I wanted to do. The drive was longer than expected and now we were going to blow another part of a day to get up the mountain.
So, our first attempt at Mt. Washington failed but we were determined to get there the next day. We found a really great place to stay (I asked a woman at Wal-Mart where a fancy place to stay was and she recommended it). I don't know about fancy but it was reasonable, had a pool, a restaurant and allowed us to stay about 30 minutes away from the cog train. The place was pretty much empty since it was way past the summer season. We bought some "swim" clothes at Wal-Mart, stocked up on a few things, had dinner at the hotel and swam for a little while.
We got up and got going pretty early. On the way to the cog train, we saw a moose in a clearing and got some good pictures. It was pretty cool because it was moose country but some people try really hard to find them and can't. We just saw it on the side of the road!
We boarded the cog train with our Wal-Mart winter clothes purchases since it was supposed to be fairly cold on top of Mt. Washington. The summit has actually recorded some crazy weather. At one point, the highest windspeed recorded on earth was on top of Mt. Washington at over 225 miles an hour! There are three air masses that all collide at the top and it creates some extreme weather. Winds speeds of over 100 miles/ hr have been recorded every month of the year and the average windspeed is over 35 miles/ hr.
Anyway, the cog train was pretty cool (slow) and took about 45 minutes. I only cared about getting to the top but the train really just cared about focusing all the descriptions and attention on the history of the train itself. For me, it was just a shuttle to summit #7.
We got to the top and summited with the family at 10:15am. It was me, Erin, Ellie and Rachel. Ellie and Rachel really didn't care much about being there. Rachel slept part of the time in her big white snowsuit. Ellie was happiest when we sat on a staircase near the summit and fed her goldfish crackers. It was relatively chilly and we had to be careful on the ice that coated a lot of the rock pile that formed the summit. It was a little uncomfortable and slightly hard to manage bringing the kids up there. They did really well on the train and it was probably neglect to try to carry them up the icy rock pile on less-than-ideal shoes but we all got to the top and took some family pictures. Ellie has now been to the top of 3 summits (NC, SC & NH).
I brought my sierra cup and snapped several pictures. I sent one to Justin Dittmer as is tradition. I bought a bunch of trinkets at the summit store and re-summited and took pictures with those trinkets (pins, stickers, etc.).
While it took two attempts and an extra half day of vacation, it was worth it in the end and hanging out together in the town near the summit was a fun little getaway.
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