“Spring” Ascents of Mt. Washington

This weekend we wrapped up our ice climbing sessions in the lower elevations. After all of the warm temperatures and rain, the ice is just about toast. We still have some options in Crawford Notch and of course Huntington Ravine. The groups who went out Saturday and Sunday for their Intro to Ice Climbing courses had a great time despite the very wet conditions.
On Saturday, myself and our new guide Nate took a group of 4 up Mt. Washington. The weather called for 30 degrees on the summit, clear skies, and 10-15mph winds. That’s a perfect day even by Summer standards! We made our way up to treeline in our base layers and enjoyed the sweeping views and warm temperatures. At that point I turned back with one climber and Nate took three onward. As they approached Split Rock a massive avalanche cut loose and ripped down the Southeast snowfields on the summit cone. This is amazingly rare but an excellent reminder of what Mt. Washington is capable of. The avalanche split two parties who were skiing and climbing those slopes and no one was caught in it. Nate and crew headed on to the summit and enjoyed the rewards of their hard work before heading back down. The clouds gathered on the descent and slowed things down as they descended through a foggy whiteout. They made it back to the cars without an issue.
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On Sunday I headed back out onto the rockpile with Mike and Brenden. We had 7 climbers with us. The forecast was for 100% chance of precipitation. It was looking pretty grim and we knew we would be soaked in no time. We headed out with avy gear and additional rain gear. As it turned out, the first half of the climb was in a light drizzle and mist. We sweated our way up to treeline as it was extremely warm but we were unable to take off our goretex layer. Once we hit Lions head, the precip pushed off and yielded a glorious day on the mountain. We headed across the alpine garden with zero wind. We reached the start of the traverse to Split rock and the two snowfields that guard the way. With the avalanche the day before in the forefront of our minds, we decided it was best to dig a pit and assess the conditions. We found good stability overall and pushed on to a rock band that splits the two snowfields. Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.32.36 AM We stayed spread out in this section to decrease the amount of people who were in the potential danger zone at any given time. We dug another pit in the second snowfield as the aspect changed. As expected the stability got even better so we made our way to Split Rock where we took a well deserved break. From Split rock to the summit had more snow than I imagined, but we made good time and even ditched our goretex shells. The sun shined through a thin layer of clouds and it got really warm up there. We made the summit in warm, windless weather that required only a baselayer and sunglasses. No gloves, no hat needed. We enjoyed the summit for about 45 minutes and began our quick descent. We could have called it off when we heard of high avalanche danger and a good chance of getting soaked but we decided to stick our noses into it, assess the conditions as we went and we were rewarded with one of the best summits of the year! Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.32.12 AM

As always, we are looking ahead and preparing for the upcoming Spring season. We are busy buying new gear, developing new programs, and organizing gear. April is the month for Spring skiing! We settle into a melt freeze cycle to consolidate the snowpack and warm days provide a perfect top layer for skiing. It is time to get out there for some back-country skiing! If you haven’t tried Waterfall Rappelling, it is a amazing adventure for the warmer months and we will be getting underway with that activity in May. We are also introducing our Wilderness Navigation course this Spring! Come learn how to navigate through the backcountry using a map and compass! Finally, rock climbing is always a blast. It’s time to start thinking about the warm, sunny, dry days ahead!

– Corey