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MAAD: Mt. Washington attempt
posted by John : November 23, 2010


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It's about time!


Thanksgiving planning had me scheduling a couple of night trips before winter really arrived. And then winter really arrived. With Snowmageddon, we suddenly had real snow in the mountains. Heck, we had real snow in the lowlands. So instead of a couple of "Aw, look at the cute inch of snow," trips on Tuesday and Wednesday nights I was faced with a "Whoa, do you think we can get to the trailhead?" trip on Tuesday.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one stupid brave enough to head out when temperatures are predicted in the single digits. Scott and Eric were both available and willing. (It helps when you're all just a few minutes from the mountains.) We met at the Exit 38 trailhead for a quick trip up Mt. Washington. Last time we were about 1:30 to get to the top. This time I figured perhaps two hours, maybe two and a half with snow.

We started with snowshoes though probably didn't need them early on. We easily found the rocks beneath the snow and the Iron Horse had been recently plowed. (Seriously? Why are they plowing the Iron Horse?) However, by about the Owl Spot we were in real snow and following a recent trench with no sign of bottoming out.

Along the way we had great conversation. We talked about... oh... probably not appropriate for this site. Well, we talked about... hmm... not that either. Maybe it's best you take my word that we talked a lot. The safest thing we talked about was the new Windows 7 phone, but that's bordering on both politics and religion so I'll skip that, too.

I tried to get the team to head over the Great Wall, but the lack of a defined trail scared the less robust among us. They convinced me of the foolishness of that endeavor so we crossed the creek and continued up through the valley. At the next creek Eric noticed that his shirt was literally frozen solid. Good thing he had a spare. Perhaps it's telling that he said he was warmer with the shirt off. I guess it was a bit cold. Scott's thermometer read about 10F at that point.

At the pond we found the trailbreakers who had gone before us had not gone before us any farther. Now the real work began. (There was more mutinous talk, but I defeated it by pointing to the moon shining on the snowy slopes a couple hundred feet above us. Also, I broke trail.)

Suddenly, the good pace we had slowed. A lot. In places the snow was waist deep and each step was an effort. But it was very light snow (dare I say, powdery?) so we were able to continue climbing. When we finally saw the moon it was nearly full and boosted my energy. However, rounding the shoulder with a view to the west showed us the 500 feet still above us and that was about it.

I tried for a few long-exposure shots, but they didn't really turn out (as you can see since they're included for reference). In the meantime, we got colder and colder now that we weren't moving. RETREAT! Eric took off like a shot to try to warm up. We caught up, but then I stopped to put on different gloves and tell Amy of our change in plans:

A ranger called? Worried about us on the trail at night? We are breaking the law?

(Cue Beavis and Butthead: Breakin' the law! Breakin' the law!)

Great. Now we had tickets likely waiting on our iced-over windshields at the parking lot. Lovely. Eric and I worked on elaborate plans for how we would fight the fines to the Supreme Court. We had it all worked out until we got to the trucks and found no tickets. All that grousing wasted. How dare they?

Although it had taken us a solid three hours to get to the shoulder it was only and hour back to the cars. Total distance was about 6.5 miles and 3,000 feet. I tried to get extra credit for breaking trail, but Scott insisted it would come with an asterisk so I abandoned that plan. I guess he fears a sudden winter surge that would get my totals up to his for the year. Yeah, that's it. A 100,000 foot month. Totally doable.

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