Mount Washington Excursion

September 7th, 2016 by

When: Not Currently Scheduled 

Where: Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Mount Washington New Hampshire

Who: A guided excursion led by White Wolf of Element Mountain

Cost: $120.00 (this includes your personal shelter fee for one night)

~ For a two night stay the total cost is $135.00. You may choose 1 night or 2 nights

(White Wolf has climbed nearly 20 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet in the Rocky Mountain Range as well as over a dozen 13,000 foot peaks in all four seasons. He has traversed mountain peaks and trails all over the United States and been involved in a helicopter rescue on the peak of Mt Katahdin in 2001, as well as first aid rescues on eastern trail systems.)

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Mount Washington, the highest mountain in the North East United States. It dominates the New Hampshire White Mountains, the “Presidential Range” of the Appalachians. Standing at 6,288 feet (1,917 m), it claims the highest point east of the Mississippi and north of the North Carolina section of the Appalachians. Not only does it claim the highest point, but it also claims the “worst weather” and the highest ever recorded winds! In April of 1934 winds reached 231 mph during a record storm!

The White Mountains were formed over 300 million years ago and the classic cirque formation around Mount Washington is the result of the great glaciers of the last major ice age 14,000 years back. The mountain contains 3 major environmental zones; Northern Hardwood at the base, Coniferous between 3,000 and 4,000 feet elevation and the Alpine Zone above 4,000 feet. Over 110 species of fragile and some rare plants live in the Alpine Zone and many can be found growing in the harsh tundra of far Northern Labrador.

Agiochook was the name the local Native American tribes called Mount Washington and it means “dwelling of the Great Spirit”. Since it was a sacred mountain to them, they never climbed it. The first known person to ever climb the mountain was Darby Field in 1642. The Appalachian Trail traverses Mount Washington on its way south to northern Georgia and north to the end or start of the trail on top of Mt Katahdin on Baxter Peak in Baxter State Park Maine. From Mount Washington to Mt Katahdin is 332 and one-half miles. From the alpine top, on a very rare and idyllic day, you can see 60 miles east to the Atlantic Ocean and the Adirondack Mountains 130 miles west. It is said that at night you can even see the light glow from both Boston and Montreal! That is some view. I was lucky enough to be on top of Mount Washington on just such a day and can verify being able to see all the way to the great Atlantic Ocean.

The mountain is the only one north of the North Carolina Appalachians over 6,000 feet. The next closest is Mount Adams in northern New Hampshire standing at 5,774 feet (1,760 m) and Mount Jefferson at 5,712 feet (1,741 m). Mt Katahdin in northern Maine is also over 5,000 feet reaching 5,268 feet above sea level (1,606 m).

There are numerous trails up Mount Washington and all demand respect. The mountain, being a monolith standing higher than anything around it, “creates its own weather” and the weather can be erratic. One needs to come prepared for any weather at anytime of the year. Most of the accidents happen (like on most mountains) because a person or group failed to prepare properly, pushed their limits, and or did not respect the conditions. Our expeditions on this mountain take between 2 and 3 days.

The two day excursion hikes 2.5 miles into the Mount Washington Wilderness where we set up camp. The next day we ascend another 2 miles to Mount Washington’s peak, return to the shelter, pack up and hike out. This also gives us plenty of time to stop by and admire the incredible Crystal Cascades waterfall where the water plummets around 100 feet through boulders. It also gives us plenty of time to take in the wilderness and its many impressive beauties along the way without having to rush on by like so many hikers tend to do. Obviously one of our goals is the summit and back, but the summit does not always allow for climbing depending upon the weather (anytime of the year). Another goal of Element Mountain is the full experience of the journey, not so much the “end point”. Every step and sight along the way counts to us and so no trip, no matter the weather or how far we trek, is lost. We go for the complete experience rather than a single goal, a single point to reach. Disappointment then does not come into play in our wilderness excursions.

The three day excursion hikes 2.5 miles into the Mount Washington Wilderness where we set up camp. The next day we ascend 2 miles to  Mount Washington’s peak, return to the shelter and spend the second night. The third day we pack up and hike out.

This allows for all levels of hikers in the group to comfortably climb without having to rush, as well as allowing everyone to truly take their time and take in the full experience. People who try rushing to the top and back in one day miss so much and risk unnecessary injury. Ha, I know I am no longer 21 years old!

The total trip traverses 8.4 miles (13.5 km) and gains 4,266 feet in elevation (1,300 m). Total hike takes between 9.5 and 10.5 hours if you are in decent shape. Which is why we like taking more than one day to hike it. Autumn is our favorite time to climb. The summer heat is gone; the hordes of biting insects are gone. The crowds are gone as well. Spring you can run into deep snow pack to have to trudge through, summer you get mobs of people, heat and bugs and a winter excursion would only be offered to experienced winter climbers.

October is usually the targeted month, and late October at that. Can I promise sunny skies? No. Can I promise dry weather? No. Can I promise views to the Atlantic Ocean? No. The mountain and its weather are both unpredictable. It claims over 100 days a year of cloud cover. It can get over 20 feet of snow in winter. Actually it has been known to snow a bit in almost every month from time to time. Its average temp for the entire year is something like 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Though it can be quite warm as well.

Once registered you will receive an email containing equipment you will need to the hike and overnight stay.

Below you will find some photos taken from Mount Washington on one of my trips; from one of those idyllic weather days.

Dates for our next Mount Washington Excursion are posted above. REMEMBER IT IS VITAL YOU CONTACT US AND RESERVE YOUR SPOT AS SPACE IS LIMITED ON SUCH AN EVENT. Do not procrastinate. Element Mountain needs to make our reservations for the shelters in advance. That means we need your commitment.

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