Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Taste of Winter

Bitter it was, my first taste of the winter to come. Before too long, I felt the blister forming on my Left heel. After a two hour hike, I was at the floor of Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington. Freshly fallen snow covering all the rocks on the trail made for difficult hiking. I have wanted to climb the hiking trail up through the Ravine all summer and it just never happened. The first section through the huge boulders on the floor of the ravine was quite spicy and the caverns seemed 'deeper' to me since the last time I climbed through. Quite deep, when I think of the snow pack that develops in that section during a good snow year. Moving up higher through the massive boulder field known as the "fan", I suffered with the pain of the out of touch muscles used on this type of terrain. I always seem to wander up my own path here and it's never easy!

Approaching Central Gully and rock slab section of the Hiking Trail.

Arriving at the first rock slab at the base of the head wall, I stopped to put my crampons on and pulled out an Ice axe. I tried to envision the difficulties above, knowing that after this first bit of rock slab, I would be on the 'trail' to the next crux. I guess I forgot just how much scrambling on rock slabs there was on this trail, add fresh snow and this is technical climbing! Feeling kind of sketched out, I also felt lured to the climb and committed to the amount of risk I was taking. Tiny blue patches of sky appeared through the falling snow and fog, tempting me to push on. Winds were light and the Ravine was eerily silent and gravity was very heavy, or maybe that was my pack? At every hard looking section, I gained composure and climbed the least line of resistance with great confidence. At one point, thinking this whole time that I had the ravine to myself, I looked down and saw another climber below. We acknowledged each other with a quick wave.

The top of Huntington Ravine looking across the Alpine Garden.

I topped out at 1:00 which was three hours after I started from the floor of the Ravine! A long time for sure, that definitely ruled out going to the summit. I was beat and knew it would be a long descent. The footing was horrible walking across the Alpine Garden. The light snow that covered the rocks on the trail and poor visibility made it tough and I met the ground a few times. Quite a few people had gone to the summit when I got to the Lion Head junction or so it appeared from the tracks in the snow. I headed down thinking how nice it would be to just descend straight into Lobster Claw gully to Tuckerman ravine. Battered and bruised, I continued on. In the end, it was really enjoyable going through the summer section of the lower Lion Head trail plus, I was glad to be back in the trees. From the top of the Ravine to the car, was done in two and a half hours. I was on the trail seven hours and a half hours car to car.

Pinnacle Gully- Building fast with the huge flow of water.

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