Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Six More

The Ice Axe does not lie! Look forward to six more weeks of winter as my infamous Grivel Mountaineering axe saw it's shadow yesterday just as I emerged from the tree line on Mount Washington. I made the decision to go for the summit on Sunday afternoon. I analyzed the weather and thought Monday would be a good day, which it was. Just before I got out of cell phone range on route 16, I called in 'well' to work saying I would feel even better after a day of playing in the mountains. Arriving at Pinkham Notch, I checked out the summit weather which called for tempratures around 15 and 50 mph winds, predicted to decrease in speed as the day went on. I left the car at 7:30 am after a pretty quick drive up from the seacoast. The first part of the hike went quickly as well and before I knew it, I was on the Lion Head Winter trail. I stopped just before the steep climbing begins and pulled out the Axe and installed my crampons. Rolling terrain leads to a few very steep sections and then to more straight forward climbing with minimal difficulty. The temprature was quite warm for Feb 2nd and I could not hear the wind howling up high.

The Double Top Peaks and Mount Kearsarge with an Orange Sky.

There sure is a lot of snow on the mountain right now! It's looking to be a great spring skiing season in Tucks after the snow pack settles out. I have been reading the avalanche reports daily and the current snow pack is making history with the complexity of it all this season. Looking into the bowl from the Lion Head it's hard to tell, but the snow looks dreamy for skiing. Looking up at the East Face Snowfields, I pondered making a b line up through to the summit, but they looked wind loaded and I wanted to play safe. The wind knocked me around a bit at the Lion Head summit as I thought it would. As I hiked closer to the summit cone, a few climbers were descending from the top and I paused to take a picture of the cloud / sun line over the Boot Spur Ridge. I don't think the picture does it justice, but it was quite a sight.

The clouds winning over the sun beyond the Boot Spur Ridge

The Atlantic Ocean barely visible in the photo way in the horizon

I stopped just below the rocks at Tuckerman Junction to have some hot coffee and eat my tasty blueberry muffin. I devoured it like a wild animal and then sat in the shelter of the rock and reflected on my surroundings. Looking over at the Carter Range, my mind wandered to February 2nd 1996. I climbed my 65th and my last Four Thousand Footer on that day in brutal cold. My brother in-law Paul and I hiked all day in zero degree temps only to emerge on the summit of Carter Dome at dusk. The light from the mountains of white was incredible! I remember as I was hiking up the final ridge, I could see the summit sign and so many thoughts raced through my head. I saw myself on every peak I'd climbed, I saw myself as a child with braces on my legs being told I might never walk like a normal kid, I saw myself climbing this final ridge to my last summit...Such a huge accomplishment for me! I collapsed on the summit sign and cried like a baby! What a great memory!

The Summit looms above

I only had a half mile up from my break in the rocks and that went by quickly as I was moving with great determination! Just before I got to the auto road, I could see the tower on the summit and I quickly saw a Raven riding the winds and flying around the summit. A good sign I thought! I sought shelter near the State Park building entrance, grabbed my camera and cell phone a walked up to the Summit sign. The wind was whipping! I took a couple of photos and like a true amateur, I tried to send a photo text message of the summit sign to Steph. With my hand on a cold metal phone, and a 45 mile per hour wind, it didn't take long for my fingers to go numb, even with a light weight fleece glove on. I retreated back to my pack and had a quick drink of coffee and headed down.

6,288 Feet- 11 degrees and a 46 mph wind

Left to Right- Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams, Mount Madison

My last recollection of how many times I've reached the summit of Washington was over 40. I'm going to start fresh and say this was the 42nd time....Leaves a few give or take for lack of proper documentation and my failing memory! My retreat was quick to the rock I had rested under before and my fingers were coming back to life...The thawing pain was setting in. I sat for a while again and worked to get the blood flowing to the tips. I snacked a bit more a finished off my thermos of coffee and continued down the hill. The rest of the descent was uneventful and I made the car as I predicted at 2:30 PM. Seven hours to and from the summit! A great day to play!

Here is the GPS track from motion based.

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