Mount Washington

8:40 p.m. on November 8, 2008 (EST)
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I am thinking of getting a guide to take me up to the top of Mount Washington and I plan on doing this in Feb or March. Anyone ever been, any input?

10:32 p.m. on November 8, 2008 (EST)
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I suggest going to VFTT (Views from the Top) and reading the Mt. Washington posts there. I don't think the site is taking new members, but I could be wrong, but you should be able to read the posts, even if you can't post.

6:52 p.m. on November 9, 2008 (EST)
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It's been my dream now, and I want to do it sometime between Jan-Mar. I want to do a winter ascent. Not sure when the best time is. Also, I am not in the area, I'm down south, in VA. I'm an experienced hiker and used to much higher elevation gains. I recently started a fitness program to prepare me and continue to hike regularly. I do have some winter gear and I'm used to the cold, but a winter in the Blue Ridge here probably doesn't compare.

I was considering getting a guide in the area, since I don't have anyone besides my husky who would go with me, and I don't think I'll actually be bringing her, even though I have seen others take dogs.

I'm hoping some people can help me plan my trip. I was viewing the Views From The Top forums, but since new people can't register all I can do is read and not ask anyone. So I'm trying here for advice and information on trip planning.

7:45 p.m. on November 9, 2008 (EST)
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Do you simply want to do a one-day winter ascent or also learn winter mountaineering skills in a multi-day format? Are you interested in doing it via the standard Lion's Head route or do you want to try something technical in Huntington Ravine?

Depending on how much and what technical stuff you want to learn and what your goals are, check out:

Mark Synnott:

Marc Chauvin Guides:

IME's International Mountain School:

EMS's climbing school:

Most places offer a basic one-day ascent, but they all also offer numerous courses with more depth to actually build skills. Of the ones listed above, I only have personal experience with Mark.

It can be pricier to go with an individual guide, so you'll need to decide your budget and goals, but an individual guide can cater to what you want to learn.

Hope that helps a little.

12:58 p.m. on December 20, 2008 (EST)
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Forget hiring a guide. It is best to simply find a trailhead and get moving. I recommend any of the routes on the Tuckerman Ravine side.

-- Roger Roots

10:27 p.m. on December 21, 2008 (EST)
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I've never hiked over ice/snow, so wouldn't that be kind of like, risking my life, considering the number of people who have died up there.

11:57 a.m. on December 22, 2008 (EST)
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mikekey -
Since you have never hiked over ice and snow, I would suggest you disregard Roger Roots "super macho man" advice and go to one of the guide services that Alicia lists. Remember that Washington holds the world's record for recorded windspeed, and is noted for its brutal weather in all seasons. I have gotten snowed on up there in all seasons, and encountered 60-70 knot winds in summer. Winter weather there is much harsher. It can be a beautiful day, then have the weather turn sour very quickly, especially in winter. Not a place for someone who has not hiked over ice and snow before.

I am acquainted with Synnott and have participated in IME's ice festival, so would recommend either as a good way to get the basics. Take the training courses so you can learn safely for future winter treks. They cost some bucks, but it is worth it.

IME's Ice Festival is in February, by the way. Look into that, since it is a less expensive and fun way to get the instruction. There are a couple of 1-day climbs of Washington included in the schedule (3 days total, if I recall correctly).

Washington can be an easy and fun trip for a winter ascent by one of the summer trail routes (well, with the snow and ice, you don't actually follow the summer trail, but close enough), or by the auto road (a long slog, but easy), IF you have a good weather break. But it can be challenging for even the most experienced mountaineer with the weather as it often is. When Barb and I lived in New England, we slogged up the road in slightly murky conditions and we did Lion's head on a perfect day. We were somewhat familiar with several of the trails from spring, summer and early fall treks before the winter treks. But we also had a fair amount of winter backcountry experience before we got to New England.

4:26 p.m. on December 22, 2008 (EST)
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Thanks Bill, I have been actually talking to Mark Synnott via email who is a really nice guy, and his prices are really good. He is also the only guide who can fully equip you with gear for the included price, I'm guessing thanks to his North Face sponsor ship. Which is a major plus for me.

I'll look into the Festival, sounds interesting.

12:32 a.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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I might just skip all of that and go to this:

Mount Washington Winter Ice Festival.

8:30 p.m. on January 16, 2009 (EST)
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You may want to talk to your local chapter of the AMC. They have trip and traning groups in the Whites all the time and they love to work with new members. E-mail the local chapter and they could even help with a guide if that is the direction you want to go.

As Bill stated, do not take Roger Roots "super macho man" advice. You could realy get in trouble up there or even die. This is not a game you want to play...

12:37 p.m. on January 17, 2009 (EST)
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If you check in on the "high altitude party" discussion you'll learn that Mt. Washington is heavily developed. Have you though about settling for "second best", Mt. Adams? It's got a lot of the good aspects of Mt. Washington, including spectacular views, without any buildings, roads, trains, snow cats. King Ravine isn't as big as Tuckerman or Huntington, but it shore is purty. There are a couple of winterized lodges near timberline on the north side. If you learn the basics of handling an ice axe and wearing crampons, pick a good day, get a buddy or two to come along, and are ready to turn back if conditions are bad ("Det er ingen skam å snu" -- there's no shame in turning back, the last of Norway's "Mountain Sense Rules") then I honestly think you can do Mt. Adams at least without a guide.

11:28 a.m. on February 1, 2009 (EST)
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I don't know about winter, but I have been there twice, both times at the end of august. The Southern Presidentials are ABSOLUTELY FANATASTIC in late summer(despite the massive overcrowding).

10:12 p.m. on February 4, 2009 (EST)
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AMC Boston with emphasis on the Whites.

Lion's Head is the standard winter trail that goes along the edge of Tuckerman's Ravine. Crampons are a must.

(summit pics are missing because my camera froze up.)

There are cloudless windless days in winter! There are days with temps well below zero at Hermit Lake, too!

The pictures show you how much of the trail is out in the open, exposed to weather. On a clear day you might wonder why the cairns shown in the last photo are so close together. Caught in bad weather, you might wish they were closer together. They are not far from the steep slope of Tuckerman's ravine. You can imagine the dangers of such terrain in a winter storm or high winds. Even in good weather it is very difficult to find the trail on the last climb to the summit. That does not really matter as long as the summit is visible. If the weather shuts down, however, it is easy to get lost fast.

Enclosed shelter at Hermit Lake:

Two other summits with great views, but much more protection on your hike up would be Eisenhower and Mt. Hight.

MT. Hight summit: (Washington in background, left)

9:58 a.m. on February 6, 2009 (EST)
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I've climb Mt. Wash. a few times in the winter. One time we've experienced a temperature inversion where the valley temperature was colder than the summit of Mt. W. Unfortunately no views to be had.

Another time in January we were camped in Tuckerman Ravine, the next day we came up the Lions Head Trail ( very steep and icy towards the top of the ravine). The conditions on the trail was deep snow and cold temps (20's) and sunny. When we broke out above tree-line, the conditions went from a typical winter day to being very artic.

We were on wind blown icy surface. The trail parallels the ravine for a while then heads for the summit cone. Along the ravine we were leaning into the sw wind, 30-40 mph with gust up to 50 and 60 mph. When the wind would shift, we stumble forward close to the edge of the ravine (5-7 ft) where we normally be 20 ft. Given windier conditions presents greater possibility of being blown over the edge. At times I had to crouch down behind a boulder to scrape ice off the inside of my ski goggles.

Walking with crampons on wind blown icy surface littered with rocks can be a challange and dangerous especially in windy conditions like we've experienced.

This particular day had a cloud cap on the summit, knowing the conditions would get worse higher up we turned around.

We stayed another night in the ravine in hoping to try again the next day but got up the to a bitter cold morning. We decided to bail, when we arrived in North Conway around 1:00 pm the bank thermometer read -17 F, night time temps had to be -20 to -30 F.

The point I'm making is Mt. Washington in the summer can be bad enough but in the winter, you're dangers and hazards go up exponentially.

I agree 100 % with Bill S., to go with a guide if you haven't done winter climbing.

I hope this gives you another reason to go with a guide.

April 20, 2018
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