Solstice Hike 2010
Mt. Washington, December 23, 2010
In the fall Bob and I began making plans for another winter of climbing the highest 100 in New England. At the start of this hiking season our count stood at 71. Each year we begin the winter hiking season with a hike either on the solstice or a few days following. This year we planned to climb Mt. Washington, 6,288ft. We had climbed Washington in winter several years earlier, but thought it fitting to begin the year with this most majestic peak in the Whites.
We were joined by our friend Steve Zimmer and a new comer to winter hiking Praveen Solanki, a native of India who recently graduated from Northeaster University. Praveen had leaned of our winter hiking exploits from our web site and wanted to join us .
Praveen met us in Twin Mountain and we drove to the trail head of the Ammonoosic Trail which is located at the Base Station for the Mount Washington Cog Railway. It was interesting to note that most of New Hampshire below the Notches had seen no snow. Brown was the prevalent color. However, when we got to Twin Mountain there was significant snow on the ground. When we got to the trail head and began to geared up to climb Washington, we were stunned by seeing more than 4 feet of snow on the ground. We met another hiker Wayne, who was planning to summit Monroe, but turned back because he didn’t have his snow shoes.
The climb up the trail was slow and arduous with 2-3 feet of new snow on top of a significant base. The trail was unbroken, but rather easy to follow. We started our hike late at around 9:00 am and soon realized that with the significant new snow and making the summit of Washington was out of the question. The goal then became reaching Lake of the Clouds AMC Hut, with a slight possibility of tagging Mt. Monroe.
About 2 hours into the hike we were joined by Wayne, who had dashed back yo his home in Glen, grabbed his snow shoes and drove back to the trail head so he could join us on the trail. Wayne caught up to us as we were approaching treeline. When we did break above tree line about 1/4 from the AMC Hut the visibility disintegrated with blowing snow and fog. The wind was gusting up to 50 mph, and wind chills were well below zero.
We made it to the lee side of the hut for a short respite and to snap a few pictures. I looked up a Monroe and was tempted to climb it, but realized that there was only a couple hours of daylight left and we must begin the hike down the mountain. The summit cone of Mt. Washington was hidden in the clouds, visibility was only a few 100 feet.
We made it back to the parking lot just as darkness was settling in around us. We quickly changed out of our gear, jumped into our cars and headed for the nearest pub for some brew and food. Our Solstice tradition continues to live on and Praveen had an extraordinary introduction to winter mountaineering.
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