Saturday, June 22, 2024

Gridding out Mt Washington and Mt Monroe in November

Philip on Mt Washington

Winter got here sooner than anticipated this November and I’d been hoping to climb Mt Washington and Mt Monroe early within the month earlier than it snowed and obtained winter-like above treeline. Sadly, I sprained my ankle on November third whereas climbing again from Mt Isolation and misplaced two weeks nursing it again to well being. I actually dodged a bullet with that damage: it might have been a lot worse. Nonetheless, I’ve expertise rehabbing a critical sprain and know methods to assess one and to get it again into climbing form.

There was some urgency to this as a result of I’m climbing a peakbagging checklist known as The Grid which requires climbing all the White Mountain 4000 footers in every calendar month of the yr. It’s one of many three most troublesome lists in New Hampshire: The Grid, White Mountain Information Redlining, and the NH 500 Highest.

The phrase “griding out” implies that you’ve climbed a mountain in all 12 calendar months. Earlier than this hike, I’d climbed Washington and Monroe in 11 separate months, someday a number of occasions, with simply November remaining.

Snapshot of my grid spreadsheet
Snapshot of my grid spreadsheet – as of 11/29/23

There are 48 peaks on The Grid checklist, so you should climb 576 summits (48 x 12) to complete. I’m nearly finished (95%) but it surely’s all the way down to the wire and I want to complete the excellent mountains I’ve in every month or wait one other yr for that month to come back round and attempt to end them then. There’s a shocking quantity of people that’ve accomplished The Grid which is the preferred of the New Hampshire Triple Crown because the three lists are collectively identified. A handful of individuals have accomplished all three.

The calendar requirement is what makes the Grid such a problem since sure months like December, January, February, and April are notably troublesome to finish. The climate and path situations throughout these months within the White Mountains are actually nasty.

East Osceola - Nov 1, 2023.
East Osceola – Nov 1, 2023.

Firstly of November, I solely had 5 peaks left to complete the month and so they solely required 3 hikes to finish:

  1. Mt Osceola and East Osceola
  2. Isolation
  3. Washington and Monroe

I banged out the Osceolas on Nov 1 and Isolation on Nov 3. The plan was to complete Washington and Monroe as quickly as a climate window opened as much as “Grid Out” the month of November as early as doable, simply in case I wanted to attend a very long time earlier than Washington and Monroe could be protected sufficient to climb. Doubtlessly solo too, except I might persuade somebody to hitch me. I’m fortunate that I’ve a job the place I can skip a day to go climbing after I please, so long as the work nonetheless will get finished. Most individuals don’t, however I find yourself climbing solo a good quantity due to it.

Mt Washington from the summit of Mt isolation - Nov 3, 2023
Mt Washington from the summit of Mt Isolation – Nov 3, 2023

As I recuperated, I watched the climate and apprehensive that I’d lose the conditioning I’d acquired and would wish to climb Monroe and Washington in winter situations. Winter got here early, and though it’s nonetheless autumn for one more month, winter situations prevail on the upper summits.

After 10 days, I used to be prepared for a check hike and climbed Carter Dome to evaluate my ankle and my health. That went a lot better than I might have hoped and knew I used to be prepared for Monroe and Washington as quickly as a climate window opened up. However the situations on Monroe and Washington that are above treeline could be way more wintry than the tree-protected summit of Carter Dome.

Summit of Carter Dome, Nov ‘23
Summit of Carter Dome, Nov ‘23

I’m fairly cautious about climbing a few of the larger peaks within the Whites and skip a whole lot of days that different folks will hike regardless of very excessive winds and chilly temperatures. If the winds are larger than 30 mph and the temperatures decrease than 10F, I’ll normally discover one other extra protected (by vegetation) peak to climb. Carrying a facemask and goggles for hours on finish isn’t my thought of time.

However I didn’t have to attend lengthy after my Carter Dome ascent for climate window to reach. A low wind day below 20 mph was forecast, below sunny skies, albeit with a chilly begin of 6F. I made a decision this was too good to cross up and placed on additional heat base layers for the preliminary ascent up Monroe, realizing that the solar would deliver the temperatures up later within the day.

Mt Monroe towers over the Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Mt Monroe towers over the Lakes of the Clouds Hut

I arrived at Cog Hikers lot at 7:00 am, paid the $10/particular person parking price, and headed up the Amoonsuc Hyperlink Path to the Amonoosuc Ravine Path for the 2100′ (3.1 miles) ascent to the Lakes of the Clouds hut on the base the Mt Montroe summit cone. I shortly switched to path crampons and made good time on the steep climb. My path crampons supplied ample traction to the purpose just under the hut which is usually lined by thick ice, however I used to be in a position to get previous it with cautious footwork.

Slightly than cease on the hut (which is shuttered closed for the season), I climbed to the Monroe summit which is simply about 250 ft above the hut. This concerned slogging by means of some slippery powder but it surely was a brief distance and I used to be the primary particular person to summit that day. I didn’t linger however circled instantly and headed again down, encountering a number of different hikers arising together with a pal named Alex who I’d met final December on a Zbonds Traverse.

Next Stop Mt Washington 1.5 miles distant
Subsequent Cease Mt Washington 1.5 miles distant

After I arrived again on the hut, I bumped into a lady who startled me coming round one of many constructing corners. I didn’t see her face, however I believe I acknowledged her voice. She mentioned, “Now we have to place a cowbell on you.” It took me some time to put that voice, however I believe it was a hiker named Twinkle Toes (e-mail me if it was you!). The final time I noticed her was final November 2022 on Mt Madison. It’s a small world above treeline amongst folks actively climbing the Grid, as Alex and Twinkle Toes are.

I finished for a drink and eat some meals on the hut earlier than heading up towards Mt Washington, which is 1.5 miles and 1200′ of elevation achieve additional. The solar had warmed the air, so I stripped off my particular KUIU lengthy underwear, which may be eliminated with out taking off your pants first.

The summit weather station
The summit climate station

I used to be tiring, however my aim was inside attain so I shouldered on. The Crawford Path which climbs Washington from Monroe was lined in a lightweight layer of powder however was fairly easygoing till I got here to the Davis Path junction and the powder obtained deeper and unsupportive. From there to the summit, I used to be climbing in about 8″ of powder with simply my traction and no added flotation. I handed just a few hikers coming down and some handed me going up, however earlier than I knew it I used to be on the summit signal.

The visibility and temperature on the summit of Mt Washington was optimum. I’d actually landed an awesome day to climb each peaks. I’ve spent the previous 10 years studying about winter climate patterns and forecasting within the White Mountains and it’s days like these the place that have actually pays off.

I descended on the access road next to the Cog elevated railway which runs up Mt Washington
I descended on the entry highway subsequent to the Cog elevated railway which runs up Mt Washington

Now to get off and again down safely. The quickest manner off the west aspect of Washington is to observe the Cog Railroad entry “highway” which runs alongside the vacationer railroad. It’s additionally handy in a storm as a result of it’s simpler to observe with out attempting to identify the snow-covered cairns that mark different trails just like the Jewell. This highway is grotesque to observe a lot of the yr as a result of it’s lined with coal, creosote timbers, and different particles forged off by the railroad, however in winter that’s all fortunately lined in snow. It was nonetheless fairly bony happening the 3500′ descent with the sunshine snow cowl however made for a quick if boring exit again to my automobile.

I breathed a sigh of reduction after I made it again to the automobile and cracked open the recent thermos of tea that I’d packed that morning. Two of the large peaks, Washington and Monroe, are gridded out with just some extra to go within the coming months: Adams and Madison, Jefferson, and Lincoln and Lafayette. I can really feel this Grid journey is coming to an in depth, which saddens me, however I’m positive one other multi-year climbing and backpacking quest will fill the void quickly sufficient. Onward and by all means.

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