Sunday, February 21, 2016

Warm and Rimey

O.K. I can take Mt Washington-in-Winter off of my bucket list! All it took was 12 hours of  AMC Winter Hiking classes in the Fall, hiking every weekend this Winter to get in shape, skills training for a full day with crampons and ice ax, unseasonably warm weather, great leadership, and 1" of skin off of my right shin.

A Little bit of Craziness- So I'm on the summit, huddled behind the weather station with the group, temp is in low 20's F, wind is 50 to 60 MPH whipping around the building, everything is white, covered with blowing snow and rime, including us, no visibility. It feels like we are on some distant hostile planet. I have a moment of inner clarity. I can suddenly see how this whole venture might look to others. I can see how some people might think that climbing up here for fun is a little tiny bit crazy. Yeah, I can see that now. I'm glad I don't feel that way.

Our Group Sheltering on the Summit
Lots of boring details for my future reference-

Warm and Windy- We're very lucky. It's a balmy 50 F in Boston, 40 at base of Mt Washington, low 20's at summit. That's 10 degrees above average for the peak! Some hikers turn back, including 2 from our group, (accompanied by 1 leader), because they're getting knocked around too much by the wind. I think if it's any colder or any windier, we'll all have to turn back. If we had last weekends weather we wouldn't have even gotten close to the summit. Such luck!

Front Pointing- The thing that most pushes me to my limits is climbing a short icy vertical section on the Lions Head Winter route. The only way up is to use the crampons and ice ax, kicking the front points of the crampons into the thin ice and rocky wall and trusting that those tiny little points of metal will hold my entire weight, then climbing straight up. I'm sure that 1 little break out in the ice and I'll be falling through air but it holds. This section is a bottleneck that slows all groups down for at least a 1/2 hour wait. Pro guides set up ropes for their groups, (for insurance requirements?). 

Mountaineering Boots- Little torture chambers for my feet. This is how I lose 1" of skin from my right shin. We're required to have mountaineering boots because the stiffness of the sole allows for front pointing with crampons, and they're the warmest boots made. But for 3 weekends in a row I rent them to try to get a good fit and for 3 weekends in a row I get blisters and painful hikes. At least this weekend is the least painful of the 3. Boots are Koflach, Arctis, size 11. The fit seems good but the front of the plastic boot is crimping and digging into my shin as I walk. This is the only really unhappy part of the climb. Next time I should try renting Scarpa Inverno's from MIT Outing Club.

Future Hikes with Crampons and Ice Ax- I was told that Washington, Madison, Adams, are most likely to need crampons and ice ax. They may be useful for a few other isolated spots in the Whites but probably not as necessary. That's good because the thought of wearing those rental mountaineering boots again is very scary.

Best Gas Prises Ever- Ossipee.

Hiked, Mt Washington, 8.5 miles, 9 hours, with AMC Winter Hiking Program/ Above Treeline Workshop. Leaders- Larry Takiff, Elizabeth Ryan, Joe Comuzzi, Joe Danaher. 17 total hikers.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Embrace Your Inner Warmth

Record Breaking Cold in Boston- Yeah, it's a cold morning. My windshield washer anti freeze fluid is frozen. My GPS won't turn on until I warm up the car for a while. Signs on the highway read, "Extreme cold Saturday and Sunday. Plan ahead." I'm planning.

The top of Mt Jackson is 4052 feet, temp -10 F mid day, 30 to 40 MPH gusts. I'm planning to reach the top. I'm not planning to stay there for more than 3 seconds.

Any issues in the cold?

Frozen Eyelashes- Tiny ice balls are forming on my eyelashes. It takes me awhile to figure out what I'm seeing and feeling on my face. Then I get a kick out of it!

Frozen Hands- I can only take my hands out of my mittens for about 1 minute before they get seriously cold. I'm using massive down mittens, glove liners, and hand warmers. I have 3 extra sets of hand warmers just in case. If my hands get too cold it's dangerous because it becomes harder to adjust layers, hydrate, fuel up, and do the self care that's needed to stay warm and moving.

Frozen Wind- Above treeline is intense! I can't face into the wind for more than a minute before I have to turn away. The tiniest gaps in my layers of face protection create slivers of numbness almost immediately. Below treeline the wind is mostly blocked, totally different.

Disclaimer- My above treeline hike for Sunday with the AMC was canceled in honer of the record breaking cold and strong winds. So I hiked solo but I picked a quick, easy, 5 mile hike, mostly in trees, on a very popular trail, and I didn't start until mid day to hit the warmest time. Very sane if I do say so myself.

I obeyed the highway signs. I planned ahead.

Hiked, Mt Jackson, 5 miles, 4 hours, Temp 0 to -10, strong wind, sunny, solo.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Head in the Clouds

Final Approach to Summit

We bumped our heads on the clouds as we approached the peak. But we still had views! And views are what it's all about.

Hike, Moosilauke, 10 miles, 7 hours, with Boston AMC Winter Hiking Program. Leaders-
Alex Nedzel, Robert Knudsen.