Washington – 2/27/2016

Rime ice on the supports on the Cog Railway, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

This was a deja vu hike – one year and one week earlier, Rich and I had headed up Mt. Washington on the same route in the same weather under the same clear skies.  I’m not complaining, as it was a near perfect day… especially for the Rock Pile.

At 8 o’clock in the parking lot at the Cog base station we were still deciding what to do that day, Jefferson or Washington.  Either way, we planned on taking the Jewell Trail up to Gulfside.

When we saw how slushy the ice was and how deep the water was for the crossing of the Ammonoosuc River at the station, we quickly decided to head to Washington, and to do it via the Cog.

Attempting to cross the Ammonoosuc River on thin ice, New Hampshire
Me trying out the ice… no good -photo Rich Scioli

It would be harder work, but we’d do it faster, and that’s usually a big factor for us when we’re looking at options.

So, hiking the Cog… It’s pretty straightforward, and pretty straight up.  There might be a level step or two on the whole thing.  But we like this kind of stuff.  We’re heading to Mt. Rainier in August, so we looked at it as early training.  We’d definitely be rest stepping if nothing else.

To make sure we got a really good workout today, Rich decided to leave the brain to his pack open at our first quick stop, about a quarter mile from the station (maybe less).  When we went go get our sunglasses and some water at about a mile in, he made the “discovery”.  No glasses.  No hat, no gloves.  No car keys.

We knew he had left it unzipped at the break, so his stuff was on the trail.  Hopefully it was in a nice pile, not spread out everywhere.  The snow wasn’t deep, but it was deep enough for a car key to disappear pretty easily.

Rich offered to go look while I waited, but if I didn’t help I wouldn’t be able to hold it over his head for the rest of his life, so I went, too.  It was a long, steep descent to where we stopped before, with no sign of anything on the way.

At least if we didn’t find the key, we’d get to smash in the window of his week old brand new car with an ice axe.  I grew more and more excited about this as we continued not to see any of his stuff on the way down.

Thankfully, it really was all in a nice pile.  It must have fallen out when he had shouldered his pack.  The key was there, too, although we found it last, at the bottom of the pile.  Too bad.

Looking up the Cog Railway in winter, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
The first mile was just so nice Rich wanted to do it twice

Anyway, we made up for the lost time quickly, despite the relentless steep terrain.  Not to toot my own horn, but this was the 31st mountain I’d be climbing since October 10, 2015, so despite lots of aches and pains, I’m in good hiking shape right now.  The weather was great, it was still early – we forgot about Rich’s massive screw up.

I hate the actual Cog Railway… I won’t get into that now, as I think it will be a fun blog post (insane rant) someday.  But I do enjoy the raised section of track around Jacob’s Ladder.  It’s pretty (in the snow, when you can’t see the filth).  There are always interesting photos to take here.

Raised railway on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Winter hiker in shadow of Cog Railway, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Where the track reaches ground level again, it was time for crampons, as there was bulletproof ice under just a little bit of snow.  There are also some long drops here, so the ice ax came out, too.

This is also where the freezing wind came into play, so we layered up.  The freezing wind and lack of an undercast are the only differences between this trip and the previous one mentioned above.  Oh, and the massive screw up, too.

I love a cold strong wind, so I was happy.  Soon we met up with the Gulfside Trail and left the Cog.  We passed a few small groups here, who had mostly come up the Jewell Trail (they had parked before the station and crossed the Ammonoosuc on the bridge).  Everyone seemed happy.

Winter hiking on Gulfside Trail, New Hampshire
Getting there

The views to the north were perfect, and it was fun to get a clear view of Adams and the surrounding area, upon which Tom and I had wandered in low visibility the weekend before.

Madison was looking tiny and tame from this angle, which she’s not.  Everything’s relative I guess.

And there was Jefferson, hopefully the one I’d stand on soon to complete my Winter 48.

Northern Presidential Range from Gulfside Trail, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
Jefferson, Adams and Madison across the Great Gulf

At the top was the usual crowd.  Lots of friendly people, happy to be up there on such a nice day.  I shared some habanero cheese and crackers with someone who was there for the first time and totally blown away.

There’s always someone up there for the first time – I love talking to these people.  Check out this post to find out why.

People take shelter against a building on the summit of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
Summit peeps
Hikers on the summit of Mt. Washington in winter, New Hampshire
This guy couldn’t wait to take our picture… literally

Recently I’ve been taking long video shots of normal sections of trail.  Not the especially exciting parts, just ordinary walking along in random sections of trail.  I think it’s cool to capture those parts of hikes, just as much as a sketchy scramble or a rough water crossing.  That’s what most of all of this is… just walking along.

I’ll post these up eventually, but not yet.  I have an idea on a cool way to present them, but it will take some time.

Anyway, with my mitten off for 32 seconds on the descent, even with a liner glove and a hand warmer inside it, I was in some serious pain for about 5 minutes afterward.  Nothing dangerous, just worst than I had expected it to be, and I had expected it to be pretty bad.

We had just the right amount of snow to literally fly down the Cog.  This makes up for the drudgery of coming up this way.  While I was peeing just above Jacob’s Ladder, I ended up flashing a guy who just popped out of nowhere.  Nice.

It was 2 o’clock, he was about an hour from the summit, and he wasn’t moving particularly fast.  So I was surprised when he said he had never come up this way, and asked how far he had to go, and then explained that he was supposed to be at a wedding at 4.

Where was the wedding… the summit?

If you are reading this man – I would love to find out if you made it.  I’m picturing you walking in a couple hours late.  Stinking.

And no, he didn’t have skis.

We walked around the far side of the station building on the way out, and got a look at Ol’ Peppersass… The cute little engine that kills.  Read Not Without Peril for a great detailed story on this (and because the whole book is great), or gratify immediately and read this now.

Ol' Peppersass engine on Cog Railway, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
Colorful killer

As we walked to the car, Lakes of the Clouds Hut was shining in the clear air, looking like I could reach out and touch it.

Clear winter days on the Presi’s… nothing better.

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