Hike New Hampshire
Trips in NH

A Challenging Hike for a Great Cause

First View of summit In early July, Rob came across some information about the NH Breast Cancer Coalition and a fund raising event they were holding to benefit breast cancer research. The short of it was, you collect pledges and hike up Mt. Washington. Being the civil-minded dudes that we are, we thought it would be a great opportunity to hike the notorious mountain and raise money for a great cause.

Things started out rocky when we almost didn't make it into the event. By waiting a little too long, the Peak Hike '99 up Mt. Washington filled to its 300 person capacity in a few short weeks. So after a little begging, a little pleading, and some more volunteering, we actually got ourselves into the event, ready to climb the Northeast's highest peak.

We started VERY early on the morning of September 12. Over the course of pre-registration, Rob and Chris had volunteered to act as hike leaders, meaning we would each lead a group of hikers out from the Pinkham Notch Visitors' Center. From there, everyone would span out and we'd just be available to assist where needed along the trail. Unfortunately, this meant that we would have to be at the Visitors' Center at 6:00 AM!! Rob and Chris subscribe to the theory that if God wanted us up that early, he'd never had made us so lazy.

First waterfall near Pinkham Well, we made it to the center a little late, but managed to get our $1000 in pledges to the registration table, and before long we were on our way. The hike was planned to follow the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from bottom to top. Having looked at the topo of the hike, we were a little apprehensive. That's a whole lot of up! The Tuckerman Ravine Trail covers 4.2 miles and 4,300' of vertical gain. Not what we'd call a leisurely Sunday stroll. Especially since we didn't have a good idea of the other types of people that would be on the hike.

The first section of trail is pretty wide but rocky. After only a few hundred yards, the trail offers a gorgeous view of a waterfall off to the right. The Forest Service was nice enough to build some stairs and a medium sized observation platform to make viewing the falls easy. From there, the trail stays wide and rocky until it reaches the Hermit Lake Shelter at about 2.4 miles. The Hermit Lake Camp is a nicely maintained shelter that caters to hikers all year round, and can be reserved by contacting the AMC.

Hermit Lake Shelter Once past Hermit Lake, the hiking starts in earnest. The trail narrows and gets steeper, but the beauty of the ravine is easily viewed the whole way. As we moved up the rocky trail, more and more people started to fall behind. This is truly a tough section of trail. Although we would say the slides of Flume or Tripyramid will give the ravine a run for its money, the trail is very steep and difficult.

At the top of the headwall, things get a little easier to digest. There were unbelievable views from the top of the headwall, including Lion's Head and Hermit Lake. After a short rest here, the summit lies less than a mile away. But have no delusions, it's a tough mile. Thousands of years of granite have broken and scattered themselves around Washington's summit. The top of the headwall also marks the treeline, which leaves very little besides rocks to walk on. Some careful stepping took us to the summit, where we rested with about 500 people scampering about.

A long line to the summit
Click and look for the line of people
The summit of Mt. Washington is really very interesting. For those of you who have never been there, allow us to paint a (cynical) picture. Like many places in the WMNF, since the summit is accessible by car, it is quickly becoming a wasteland of touristy garbage. There were looks of disbelief from the gapers in their cars on the summit, and many of them almost dropped their Twinkies. A quick look around will offer a hiker various scenes of horror. Bratty kids, choking exhaust from cars, trucks, four-wheelers, motorcycles, vans, mopeds, scooters, and anything else people could possibly motor up to the top on were all a little too much to take. I think one moron expressed it best when I overheard him say (on his cell phone) "Yeah hi. Guess where I am? On the summit of Mt. Washington! Yeah! . . . . .Hell no I didn't hike it! I rode the four-wheeler up. Yeah, we're gonna pop a few beers then head back down." Well, of course he didn't hike it!

Basically, it's a sad scene at the summit of Mt. Washington. Commercialization, open access, development, and poor management has allowed this peak to deteriorate into the Toys R Us of every lazy moron in New England. People don't have to put any effort into getting to the top, so they don't care what it looks like, or if it's even clean any more.

Highest Wind Speed Sign at Summit At the Summit Sign

Mt. Washington is one of the few places where it really is still all about the journey. Standing at the summit with its acrid sulfur smoke from the Cog Railway, the speeding Mt. Washington Stage Vans, the motorcycle riders wheelieing up the final slope, and the hundreds of people who drove up the mountain in their family trucksters, and knowing that you walked up gives you a powerful sense of pride. Everyone else may be on the summit of the mountain with the world's record wind speed, but knowing that you walked those four or five exposed miles when they didn't makes it absolutely worth it.

Next, we do it again . . . in winter!

Waterfall at the Headwall The Headwall Rob at the summit


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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy