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TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux
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Partner kimgraves


Mar 20, 2006, 5:17 PM
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TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux
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I tell a friend Iím going to Mt. Washington for the weekend. She lives in Vermont and the summit weather is broadcast every morning over breakfast radio. ďKimĒ she warns, ďitís minus a hundred degrees and blowing a so hard you canít stand up. Why do you want to go there?Ē I stammer out (an inside joke Ė I am a stutterer) a feeble answer Ė ďItís about bearing witness to the beauty of a place that doesnít care about me.Ē This trip report is not about that - well maybe a little.



After cancellations for weather, sickness, work, and travel (Matt had to go to Italy on business! He has no sense of priorities?) Matt and I finally got our second trip to Mt. Washington of the season. During the first trip we got schooled. Taking the lessons from the first we again start out from the Pinkham Notch visitorís center. Matt (R) looks drunk, but is in actually perfectly sober! Maybe itís the magic of the place or the fact that he's just driven six and a half hours?

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, is the highest point on the East coast. Though only 6000 feet high, it is known for its very severe weather. The summit has the highest recorded wind speed on Earth of over 200mph. Weíre expecting 0įs with 40mph winds and wind chills of -40į. Iíve given up on using my ice boots for this trip because of the expected colder temperatures. I stop in at IME and rent a pair of Koflach ďDegreĒ boots Ė a plastic shelled double boot suitable for hiking with crampons.



Our plan was the same as the first trip: Up Tuckermanís Ravine trail to spend the night at the Hermit Lakes shelters. Then up the Lionís Head trail the following day to summit. This is the standard route to the summit in winter and is relatively free of avalanche danger. The trail up to Hermit Lakes was well groomed this time by a snow cat that delivers supplies to the ranger station there. Though well groomed the trail is steep and a work out. Though still full winter conditions on the mountain, the valleys were 30į with almost no snow on the ground. This has been the winter that wasnít!



Winter camping means a big pack, though not necessarily a heavy one. Below zero synthetic bags and belay jackets at the ready take up a lot of room but weight relatively little. Matt weighed his pack on the way out. Sans food and water Ė 21 lbs.



A self portrait with a hose coming out of my ear. No I donít really have my nose in the air. Us old guys have bifocals (actually progressives) and so have to look through the bottom of the lens to see what weíre doing.

Spending the night at the Hermit Lake Shelters itís pretty cold. The forecast is for -10į with 50mph winds. The shelters are four sided and pretty tight so wind chill wonít be a problem. But my bag is only rated to 15į. Staying warm may be a problem (more on that later). But the CamelBakís we had such a problem with last trip we dial in. The trick is to fill them with boiling water (yes boiling) and then blow air back down the hose after drinking to seal the hose. The air bubble in the hose keeps the water from coming back up and freezing. We find that the valves still freeze, but can be unfrozen by holding them in our mouths (nice and warm in there). If the hoses freeze you can tuck the hose into the insulated sleeve and it will free up. Finally we learn to travel with the valve tucked into our jacket where it stays warm enough to remain unfrozen.

Once again we shed our layers and climb in base layers and wind proofs. By not sweating we stay nice and warm. Arriving at the Hermit Lakes ranger station we check in. I remember to put on my belay jacket before I cool off and so donít flash cool. Weíre in control! Once again Huntingtonís Ravine and the Lionís head tower over us. Snow is blowing over them in a waterfall. Itís still light but we head down to the shelter Ė it will be dark in 30 minutes and we still need to get water.

Mattís roommate gave him a JetBoil for Christmas. So despite my misgivings about using propane in the cold and because there is flowing water available at Hermit Lake, I leave the big snow melting pot and MSR at home and get a ďcompanion cupĒ for the JetBoil. The JetBoil turns out to be a complete bust in the cold. Even with 4-season gas canisters weíre forced to prop the stove over a candle to get it warm enough to perform. Weíve heard about wrapping copper wire around the canister and putting the wire into the flame to warm the whole unit, but this seems to us to defeat purpose. Using gas to heat the unit steals heat from heating the water. So for winter, the JetBoil is a good idea that doesnít work. But I hate the MSR Ė Iím still looking for a solution for this one.

We eat Ė a lot. Iím worried about staying warm with my questionable bag. Ramen followed by Tasty Bites tastes mighty good. Iíve forgotten the butter Ė itís in the car. But this time I remembered to bring a tea bag. Matt turns in and turns on the snoring machine. I stay up drinking my half liter of tea. I go out to pee Ė The wind is howling in waves that shake the shelter. Itís snowing heavily. The thermometer reads 3į inside the shelter even after having the stove going for an hour. The trip has now begun.

Unlike Matt who can sleep anywhere Ė he once fell asleep at the table in a restaurant where he had gone to meet his girlfriendís mother for the first time Ė I have a hard time sleeping in stressful conditions. I talked to my doctor about this and the prescribed a new class of sleeping pills that I can take for those times when the bed isnít soft, I have a big day coming up and Masha isnít by my side. They work by inducing a hypnogenic state where you can fall asleep naturally. There is no hangover, zero risk of dependence, and unlike the standard insomnia medications, can be used periodically rather than everyday. So unlike last trip where I was operating on four hours of sleep the night before, this trip I got a good sleep both nights using this medication.

Keeping warm enough in my bag is another problem. The idea is that since Iím carrying all this insulative clothing I should put it to use rather than carrying a heaver bag. I dry my feet and put on clean socks. I put on a second layer of underwear top and bottom, a fleece jacket and finally my belay pants and jacket and crawl in. I set the alarm on my watch for 4:30am to give us time to eat and hydrate before first light and am asleep in seconds.

I awake four hours later to eat a Clifbar and pee. A third person has come into the shelter. The snoring machine is now a duet. Iím awake for an hour listening to the wind before falling back to sleep.

Matt shakes me awake at 5:30. ďI heard the alarm go offĒ he says, ďand thought Iíd just keep my eyes closed for another couple of minutes.Ē We cook and boil water for the CamelBaks. Weíre on the trail by 7am but are an hour behind. Itís three miles up and another four down. We had hoped to be out by 2pm, but it looks like weíre not going to make that.

We hike back down the Tuckermanís trail to where the Lionís Head trail veers off. We cache most of our gear. We take water, food for the summit, belay jackets, and one sleeping bag. A guided group of 10 goes into the woods just before us. Weíre putting on our crampons and they ask about that. Matt tells them that the trail steepens quickly and itís easier to put them on now. But they say theyíll wait. We finish putting on our crampons and climb up the narrow trail through the woods. Within a couple of hundred yards the trail becomes very steep. The guided group has all stopped and is trying to put on their crampons on a 45 degree slope on a narrow trail. We canít pass - there is nothing to do but wait for them. Matt and I are still climbing in light clothing so as not to sweat. Weíre fine if we move, but cool down quickly. We wait and then move slowly behind the group as they struggle up a 3rd class section that Matt dubs ďThe Hillary Step.Ē Everyone laughs. Once again we back up behind the group getting cold. The guide even ties one sport in but then short ropes him rather than offering a true belay. Itís purely physiological. The guide is taking picture of his group as they exit the section further clogging the ďStep.Ē One person in the group is so impatient that they end up climbing directly under the frightened roped climber Ė crampons inches from his head. I can see the blood in the snow and the rescue to come!

Finally itís time for Matt and I move up the step. Itís easy. Itís fun. Itís real climbing Ė one crampon on rock the other on ice. We get over ďthe stepĒ and the group lets us pass. But I realize that weíre now way behind schedule and weíve lost our edge. If I hadnít slept through the alarm we would have been an hour ahead of all this nonsense. I realize this not in anger or frustration but just as ďnote-to-selfĒ for the next time. So many little things add up. The trick is not to sabotage yourself.




I find a rhythm and keep climbing up to the tree line. Even though I feel like Iím moving very slowly I pass other even slower moving parties. Iíve lost Matt. Heís moving slower than I am and I canít see him. I descend to make sure heís okay. He looks like heís obviously struggling. When we get over the steep section and the angle eases. I try to lengthen my trekking poles and find the lock has failed on one of them. It flops around uselessly. I stow it in my pack and take out my ice ax. Without both trekking pole Iím worried about descending with my bad knees. One little setback is piling on another. The rocks that comprise the ďLionís HeadĒ lie ahead with the summit looming high, large and a long way a way over our heads. The physiological edge is gone. I realize weíre done Ė Iím done Ė but donít know how to bring it up to Matt. The wind comes in gusts that knock me around. Itís a beautiful day actually. The colors of the lichen are vibrant. The snow is blowing off Tuckermanís Ravine obscuring the the ice climbing lines in clouds. I stop and eat, waiting for Matt, hoping the food will bring me back over the edge.



We take shelter amongst the rocks of the Lionís Head and try to fix the trekking pole. Itís useless. Damn thing! I realize itís just an excuse. That the real problem is that the wind is freaking me out and Iím not in good enough shape to feel safe getting myself out of here. Iím not at the limit of my being able to take care of myself, but Iím 75% of the way there. Maybe Iím just not cut out for this alpine shit.

Matt is having trouble with keeping his glasses from fogging. He canít see. We decide weíre done. Hereís Matt coming off the Lionís head. The setting is spectacular.



Without the trekking poles my knees start to hurt as we descend. And my toes are being hammered into the front of my boots. The "Degre" boots, that have worked so well on the ascent, are now killing my feet. Matt shows me how to glissade down on my butt. This saves me hundreds of steps. But we do it in crampons. This is a big NO NO. Itís very easy to catch an edge and snap an ankle. I donít know this and only learn it from someone we pass. Do I save my knees, save my toes, or take the chance. I go slow and luckily nothing happens. The problem is that our crampons take too long to take on and off and it canít be done without taking our gloves off. Next time I vow to have a crampon that is easy to take on and off and a boot that really fits.

We finally get down to our cache. Climbing down the steep part was a lot of fun. Climbing is more fun than hiking Ė thatís it. We break out the stove and use itís musicale flame to warm the little plastic lock that locks the trekking pole to length. With two functioning poles my knees find immediate relief. But my toes are killing me. It takes the deep and even breathing I learned in yoga to deal with the pain as I walk out. I realize that if I had gone higher I would have been in real jeopardy of being able to get myself out by dark. Boots that fit Ė make, model and cost mean nothing - are the key to everything.

What did I learn in school today? Boots; fitness; making a plan and don't sleep through it; keep looking at the beauty even when it all goes to shit Ė after all that why I go.

They say third timeís the charm.

Best, Kim

Edit: Masha reads my trip report and says she still doesn't understand why I go.

No denighing, climbing is selfish.

(This post was edited by kimgraves on Dec 31, 2006, 12:45 PM)


marc801


Mar 20, 2006, 5:58 PM
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Re: TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux [In reply to]
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Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, is the highest point on the East coast. Though only 6000 feet high,...
No, it isn't. Mt. Washington is actually 6288'. There are over a dozen higher mountains in North Carolina, a number of them over 6600'.


Partner kimgraves


Mar 20, 2006, 6:48 PM
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Re: TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux [In reply to]
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In reply to:
In reply to:
Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, is the highest point on the East coast. Though only 6000 feet high,...
No, it isn't. Mt. Washington is actually 6288'. There are over a dozen higher mountains in North Carolina, a number of them over 6600'.

Opps, you're right.

Kim


tavs


Mar 24, 2006, 12:02 PM
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Re: TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux [In reply to]
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Why go? Because, as they say, fun isn't always fun. Alpine will almost inevitably involve some degree of suffering that must be embraced, while remaining safe.

Good luck next time!


Partner kimgraves


Dec 31, 2006, 12:45 PM
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Re: [kimgraves] TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux [In reply to]
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Edited to add embedded images lost after the system migration.


cimplify


Jan 12, 2007, 4:50 AM
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Re: [kimgraves] TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux [In reply to]
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kim

awesome reports. I just brewed another cup of joe to read the second report. I find your style of writing very candid and honest thanks. Myself and a bunch of buddies are heading up to do the tri pyramids next week.

gotta ask why you didn't go with a nalgene bottle 2nd time around?

Take care
Keith
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Partner kimgraves


Jan 13, 2007, 7:51 PM
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cimplify wrote:
kim

gotta ask why you didn't go with a nalgene bottle 2nd time around?

That's simple. It's been my experience that the only way to stay hydrated, is by using a bladder. So the problem was to figure out how to use the stupid thing rather than abandon it. The difference is that you don't have to stop to use the bladder while you do with a canteen. When it's shitting around you you really don't want to stop. Bladders are far from perfect. But hydration is something you have to stay on top of. They allow you the best chance to do that.

On another topic, I had an insight the other day. I've been injured for the past month and so the other day I went for a long walk: a couple of hours carrying 20ish pounds in my pack. At an hour and a half I realized that I was boinking. I had to get something to eat. Luckily I wasn't on some wilderness trail, but in Chinatown. There were great spring rolls as street food. But I realized that one of the reasons part deux failed was that I didn't eat enough. I have to eat every hour on the hour in order to keep going.

Best, Kim


redpoint73


Mar 13, 2007, 7:29 AM
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Re: [kimgraves] TR: Mt Washington Schooling Part Deux [In reply to]
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kimgraves wrote:
cimplify wrote:
kim

gotta ask why you didn't go with a nalgene bottle 2nd time around?

That's simple. It's been my experience that the only way to stay hydrated, is by using a bladder. So the problem was to figure out how to use the stupid thing rather than abandon it. The difference is that you don't have to stop to use the bladder while you do with a canteen. When it's shitting around you you really don't want to stop. Bladders are far from perfect. But hydration is something you have to stay on top of. They allow you the best chance to do that.

Best, Kim

Camelbak has a kit that includes a neoprene insulated tube, and a cap that covers the valve. Obviously, you will still get some freezing with colder temps, but the kit helps greatly.

http://www.rei.com/..._category_rn=5760730


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