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 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. I have a moment of clarity. I can suddenly see how some people might think of this as a little tiny bit crazy. Yeah, I can see that. 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, (just 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.


Christophe Lemaire said...

Congrats Steve! Awesome achievement! Only been to the top in the summer. This sounds like a serious adventure, with lots of training and preparation.
Sorry that you had to endure those painful boots. For what it's worth, I have Scarpa's, and at least to me, they are fantastic, extremely comfortable boots. The model I have is a few years old. They have several models for both summer and winter climbing. Check them out.

scooper said...

Christophe- Hey thanks! Mt Washington is an adventure any time of year. It's pretty cool that you own mountaineering boots!

Yeah, I need a wide mountaineering boot. Scarpa's tend to run wide from what I've heard. Scarpa Inverno is next on my list to rent/try.

I hope to see you on the water soon.