My climb of Mt. Washington
...submitted by a K.H., a resident of Twin Mountain, for over ten years. This story is a great example of how even experienced hikers are prone to the wild weather on the Whites!
My friends and I had been talking about climbing Mt. Washington for years. We decided that the year we all turned 40 would be a great time to give it a shot so we planned a weekend in Twin Mountain in June. Of the seven in our group, only one couldn't make the trip to Twin - she happily informed us that her daughter had a dance recital - wimp! That left us with six -of that group, we found two more wimps among us so 4 of us set out for the hike. We had other friends and husbands join us so our group totaled 8 when we left.

Prior to heading out, we made sure that we all had backpacks with food, water, pants, windbreakers, extra shirts and socks. It was in the 60's and sunny when we left from the Cog Railway base station at around 9AM. We chose the Ammonoosuc Trail as we heard it was nice and direct. The guy at the Cog who told us where to park (after paying the $5) informed us that he made the hike in 3 - 4 hours. Nice guy - wished us luck.

The first hour of the hike was nice- the weather was good, no bugs. Two of the guys with us wanted to go at a faster pace than we did so soon after we started they were gone, hiking ahead of us. We expected to catch up with them but we never did. The second hour got a little tougher and it got a little colder. Clouds began to roll in so even when we got above tree line, we could see no view at all.
We made it to the Lake of the Clouds Hut and it was getting pretty bad out: howling winds and no visibility. We tried the door on the hut but it was locked. We assumed the whole building was locked up so we didn't try any other doors. Come to find out, there were doors that were unlocked and we could have gone in to warm up.
The wind was loud that we could hardly hear eachother, much less anyone in the building. There is weather equipment on top of the hut - an anemometer that gauges windspeed was spinning so fast it sounded like a very loud weedwacker.

Having gotten that far, and seeing a sign that says Mt. Washington 1.4 miles we figured we'd go for broke, even though the weather was not great.
This could have been a devastating decision except for the fact that we had 2 experienced hikers with us. Had I been without them - and just with people of my hiking experience (which is just about nil!) I would have been in real serious trouble. The visibility was so bad we couldn't see the lake until we almost walked into it!! We had trouble finding the trail markers, which are splotches of paint on the rocks, and several times we had to go in different directions looking for it.

I'm hoping that this situation was only because it was so early in the hiking season, and that the AMC people go out before the summer and repaints all the markers as the weather really does a number on them. Those markers are vital to anyone who would like to stay on the trail and not get lost! Above tree line, when you are walking on rocks, it's much harder to know if you are one the trail than when you are in the woods and can easily see the well worn path.
We stopped a few times for very brief water stops, no more than 3 minutes each, and we never sat down. Then, after the Lake of the Clouds Hut (that was about a 5 minute break to take pictures) we had one stop of about 10 minutes where we ate our trail mix and drank more water. We were pretty cold by then so we didn't need as much water. Plus, as we were hiking in the clouds, we were pretty wet. Thankfully it didn't rain. Even for this 10 minute break, we didn't sit, which probably saved us as getting going again after sitting would have been tougher I think.

During the last half hour the weather really got scary. Visibility was like 5 feet. The 6 of us would yell at each other if we could hear one of the people from the pair. Obviously we really couldn't see eachother so we had to rely on sounds. It would have been so easy for one of us to walk in the wrong direction and get lost and without keeping tabs on eachother we wouldn't have known it until we reached the top!

By now I was freezing. The only thing I didn't have that I should have brought were gloves. My hands we so cold that when I put one down on a rock to steady myself to climb, I had to look down to see if it was on the rock as I couldn't feel it! Not too bright on my part! During the last 20 minutes or so I was really concerned for our safety. Even though we had 2 experienced hikers leading, they had never climbed Mt. Washington before either and the weather was so horrendous that I really felt that if we didn't hurry up and get to the top and get warm and dry we could be in trouble.
Luckily we did make it to the top, but the next problem was finding the Observatory as we could see it!! All we could see were the big antenna towers as we were standing right next to them! It was so surreal being on the top with the wind screaming around us and not being able to see anything but eachother because we were standing so was like being on another planet - totally alone - just our little group of 6 tired, wet and cold hikers.

We felt our way along until we came upon the building which we were so happy to see!! The entire climb took up 3 hours and 5 minutes - pretty good time I thought.

We thought we'd meet up with the two guys who went ahead of us but they weren't in the building. Their wives, 2 of the six from my group, were getting pretty frantic. The Ranger at the information desk was really nice and called down to the Cog to see if they had turned up there. No luck. After about and hour of worry, one of the two showed up and told us that they had been waiting for us in the Lake of the Clouds Hut. Apparently there were about 30 people in there and our friends were eating pancakes as they waited for us!!
When we didn't show up (we tried the door but it was locked) one of the husbands assumed that one of the six of us must have gotten hurt so he went back DOWN looking for us. The second husband continued on to the summit alone. We should have had a better plan for this potential problem.

When we got to the top we learned that the temp. was 45 degrees with a 45 mph wind making the wind chill about 23 degrees. We had no intention of hiking back down the mountain so we went looking for the Cog. We couldn't find that either so we had to go back inside and say "where did you say the train was?" It's about 30 feet from the front door! Once we found it we got on and took it down which made for a nice relaxing trip back. Once we got to 3,500 feet we came out of the clouds to a beautiful sunny day - we were thrilled!!

The last member of our group, the one who left the Lake of the Clouds looking for us, was waiting in his car when we returned so all's well that end's well I guess. Everyone at the Cog and at the top of the mountain were very helpful in our efforts to locate our missing friend - calling and leaving messages for him as to where we were. Next time we'll have a better plan if part of a group wants to go a little faster than the rest.

The hike was a great experience and I'll do it again, hopefully many more times. But, I'll never do it in that kind of weather again unless I'm with other people who are more experienced than me. Other than that, I was prepared with plenty of warm dry clothes, food and water. That mountain is no place for people who don't know where they're going or for people who are unprepared. Had I not been with my friends who were avid hikers, I would have turned back at the Lake of the Clouds, when it really started to get bad weatherwise. But, seeing the sign that says Mt. Washington 1.4 miles - it's so tempting to say "let's go for it - we're almost there".
But that last stretch is not a walk in the park!

Happily, I had no aches or pains after the hike. A few bruises on my legs
but that's about it!
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