At 6,288 feet, Mt. Washington is the tallest peak in New England and the second tallest on the Appalachian Trail (about 350 feet shorter than Clingmans Dome in Tennessee). And I think it goes without saying that this was the tallest peak that I’ve summited. And the most rewarding.
We started our day very early (woke up at 4AM and left the house at 5:15), and made it to Pinkham’s Notch (the base of the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail) at about 8AM. And for those that may be wondering, if they’re familiar with the hike, we did leave Eleanor with my in-laws. I knew it would be too much to have her with us.
We are ready to go!
The plan was to hike the Tuckerman Ravine trail from Pinkham’s Notch, but they were doing some work on the bridges and had us detoured. Where do you detour hikers without having to create a whole new trail? Up the ski slopes of course! Way to start off the hike with insane up-hills! That certainly got my legs and lungs burning.
But the views along the way were amazing. About a mile or so up, we were joined back up with the trail and every turn and elevation made me gasp (both from the climbing and the scenery. )
After about an hour or so, we reached the Hermit Lake Shelter in the base of the ravine. It’s open to hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter, and at 3800 feet it had flushing toilets! We ate some of our snacks (gummy fruit and Clif bars) and refilled our water bottles. This is where the hike got really tough. We were starting to get above tree line and it became more of a rock scramble. We were hiking up and up, then it switched to switchbacks as we were starting a steeper incline.
I have to say, I was beyond impressed with myself for actually making it up these rocks without freaking out. There were some slippery moments but I was confident in my footing (by taking it slow) and knew that I could reach the top of the ravine.
Once we were in the alpine region (which is home to rare species of plants and wildlife due to its elevation and weather) it started to get really cold and windy. Up until that point I had enough adrenaline to keep me warm but it was time to load on the layers and the hat. We had about .6 miles to go until the summit, but this was the entire .6 miles:
Beyond the rocks it was just blue sky. Every time I look up I thought the mountain had risen another 10 feet. It started to become draining, feeling like I was so close but it being so far away. I just told myself that I had no option but to forge along. So I took my time and I made it to the top. (It’s such a tease when you can see the headlights of the parked cars and hear the whistle of the Cog chugging up the mountain.)
And after 3 1/2 hours of hiking, we made it…to the parking lot. Wouldn’t you know, there’s a long staircase and then a line to actually get to the summit? A little bit of a letdown, but we weren’t going to let that dampen our spirits.
We stayed at the summit for about an hour to eat lunch, check out the Tip Top House (used to be a hotel) and to take some more pictures. The summit is usually covered in clouds, about 300 days a year. We lucked out on one of those 65 days. The views were clear and the wind was about 20 miles an hour and 38*. That’s brisk, baby!
We decided to head back a different way, since the trail we went up tends to be the most popular; we were hoping for less crowds. And luckily, that’s the way it happened. We followed the Nelson Crag before it joined up with the Alpine Garden trail. The coolest part of this trail was that there were pine trees that tried to grow vertically but the constant winds would knock them down.
After the Alpine Garden trail, we joined up with the Lion’s Head Trail. It was far more rocky and was a very difficult descent to the car. It did a number on my knees but I again took it slow and easy.
We made it down to the car around 5PM so the round trip was about 8 hours. We stopped at a restaurant in Albany, NH called Almost There and had the most delicious burger and beer combo. The best way to end the day.
I am so incredibly proud of myself for completing this hike. I was never nervous about the peaks or steep inclines, and dare I say, I think I’m ready to tackle the Appalachian Trail! David did say that if I can get through that hike, I can get through the challenges of the 2200 mile trek.
Have you ever hiked Mt. Washington? What was your experience?