Ascent of Mount Washington on 2019-10-05

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Artski
Date:Saturday, October 5, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Washington
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:6288 ft / 1916 m

Ascent Trip Report

Artski and Jennifer were visiting and we had planned for a few months to hike Mt. Marcy. However, the weather was looking frosty and the Marcy stats seemed daunting to them, so we explored other options. Was it better to have more of a shoe-in at lower altitude but farther drive Greylock, or go for the big one at the same drive time as Marcy, Mt. Washington? Washington also received freezing fog and possibly other precipitation the two days prior to our one day window. We ended up deciding on Washington and woke up very early to leave Burlington and get to the Ammonoosuc TH just after sunrise at 7am.

The weather report when we left said it was 18F on the summit, but we hoped it would warm up by the time we got there. We began hiking up the Jewell Trail which we heard was the easiest trail to the top. It was a bit chilly and damp in the woods, but if we kept moving, we were warm enough and dressed properly. Mom was afraid of stepping on slippery roots, but no one fell the whole day. There were a couple of bridges low in the woods, and eventually the leaf covered ground turned to dirt as we got into a higher pine forest. The trees got short and then tall again, tricking our minds into thinking we were just about to "treeline". I learned since that the zone of trees 8' and shorter is considered the alpine zone here. Unfortunately, they didn't have a sign warning us that we were entering the area with the worst weather in the country like we saw on Mt. Adams. Finally above the trees, we began to pick out the cog trains working their way down the steep tracks. We didn't realize there would be more than one. A fleet of colored cars attached to cogs made its way evenly spaced in the descent. The trail began to get rocky and at times there were conflicting social trails and minor cairns that got us off of the main route. The rocks also were slightly slippery due to a heavy frost that made the top look snowcapped, and the north side of the rocks hold onto the hoar while the south sides burned off. At the junction with the Gulfside Trail, we met a man hiking alone who was doing the whole Presidential Traverse out and back today. He had started at 3:30am and seemed really anxious to talk to someone, so much so that he tried to hike with us a minute before we made him pass since his pace was about three times ours. Next up we approached the saddle over the Great Gulf Wilderness where we got our first views to the east. It was spectacular, and it looked like there were some hair raising couloirs down to some tarn lakes. We could see the summit house, a giant building with many windows, and we guessed at how far we had to go. The trail here had a couple points with some exposure over the cliffs into the Great Gulf. Next, we reached a junction which I guessed was the wilderness highpoint. It turned out that I was right. We took a right and then crossed the cog tracks. We were surprised that they hadn't made a more established way to cross them other than just clamoring over the tressles which were a couple feet off of the ground. The trail was getting more and more slippery, and we decided to finish the ascent staying on the Gulfside Trail instead of taking the short cut up Trinity Heights. The frost was about an inch thick! Nearing the top, and the crowds of people, Katrina got summit fever, so we hustled over to a switchback ADA ramp next to the summit rocks. There was a line of around 20 people that were waiting to take photos with the summit sign. We waited for 10-15 minutes, then got our turn at the top. It was a bit agravating to stand there behind everyone else who had just taken the train or driven up the road while we had hiked over four hours to be here. Luckily, the wind was under 5 mph and the view was 99% cloud free. The temperature was around 30F and this caused the frost to melt considerably by the time we began to descend. We touched the top rock, got the photos, and then went to the big lookout platform to take in more views. This mountain is truly and incredibly unique, if only because it feels like an average western mountain, but in the east.

For the descent, we decided to take the short cut on the Trinity Heights Trail and made our way slowly through the slippery frosty rocks. I made sure to walk off each side of the trail where the White Mountain National Forest Highpoint was supposed to be. It was pretty anticlimactic due to it being a liner, though. Once we got past the cog tracks, we were basically done with the frosty rocks, as they all had dried out. Mom was getting tired and thought she should have taken the train down, but we encouraged her that she could make it. We took more breaks on the way down, partially because we were warmer on the way up, but also because the hike got tiring. Katrina and Artski didn't think so, though, and stayed in good form all the way down. We began passing the "not gonna make it" crowd on the Jewell Trail near treeline. One group asked us how far they had left, and once we told them they were only half way (it was near 4pm) several of them immediately started heading down. Two women that did not look like they had been on a hike before were just downhill of them working their ways up through the trees and asked us the same. They kept on going, but either common sense or nightfall hopefully turned them around soon after they got the great views above treeline (which were worth it in and of themselves). One of them had white jeans and sneakers on! Lower down, we were getting tired, but kept on pushing on. Mom said it was a good thing that she didn't carry a pack (Artski and I split her things between us), because otherwise she would have gotten too sore to make it. Back at the car, we enjoyed our success and our safety! None of us were injured and we hiked up a major peak in what turned out to be great weather. On the way home we ate in Littleton at the Little Grill. It was my parents' first time in NH, so it was fitting to enjoy it a little bit longer.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4093 ft / 1246 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4093 ft / 1247 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9.1 mi / 14.6 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3943 ft / 1201 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3798 ft / 1158 m; Extra: 145 ft / 44m
    Loss on way in:145 ft / 44 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Route:Jewell - Gulfside Trails
    Start Trailhead:Ammonoosuc Ravine TH  2490 ft / 758 m
    Time:4 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3948 ft / 1203 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3798 ft / 1158 m; Extra: 150 ft / 45m
    Gain on way out:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:4.5 mi / 7.2 km
    Route:Trinity Heights - Gulfside - Jewell Trails
    End Trailhead:Ammonoosuc Ravine TH  2490 ft / 758 m
    Time:3 Hours 59 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Washington

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Great Gulf Wilderness High Point2019-10-05 a 
2Mount Washington2019-10-05 b4093 ft / 1248 m
3White Mountain National Forest High Point2019-10-05 c 
Total Trip Gain: 4093 ft / 1248 m    Total Trip Loss: 4093 ft / 1248 m

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