Member Trip report
Mt. Washington Hike
Trip Report/Photos from Gandalf
The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, accessing the summit of Mt. Washington, is equal parts majestic beauty and watch-your-step treacherous, sheltered tranquility and boot-to-boot hiker highway, destination hike and the fastest route between Point A (ground floor) and Point B (the AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut). For an 8 mile loop of the Northeast’s tallest mountain, this is a can’t-miss New Hampshire hike.
The trail begins at the Cog Railway Base Station with a leisurely stroll through dense forest. At the junction of the Base Station cut-off and the Ammonoosuc trail we ran into GO members Bob and John with a family member hiking up as well. So good to see you guys! Jon and I were training for our upcoming Grand Teton National Park vacation so we continued on our merry way. The Trail follows the Ammonoosuc River for a stretch over rocky terrain where any elevation gain is gradual at best -- it’s a nice warm-up for what awaits.
Ahhhh, The Gem Pool cascades.
Eventually the trail reaches Gem Pool, a great spot for a snack break to take in the scenic waterfall and fuel up for the pending climb. Once across the Gem Pool’s outlet brook, the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail’s initial nature walk is over and the real butt-kicking stairway to heaven hiking begins with steep rock steps that give way to full-on rock scrambles. There’s also several awe inspiring viewpoints as the trail overlooks the cascades and ultimately crosses the primary brook at a flat spot.
The rock scrambles are more frequent in the upper portion of the trail, which can be tricky when wet. The viewpoints are also on the rise as the shrinking trees thin out, delivering grand vistas of Mt. Washington. At the three-mile mark the trail emerges above treeline a short distance from the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and the Crawford Path junction. To summit Mt. Monroe, it’s a relatively easy, 0.3-mile side hike with only one spot where the footing gets tricky on a ledge.
Today we found ourselves in the traditional Mt. Washington clouds. The wind did disperse the clouds occasionally for some surrounding views.
From the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, it’s a 1.4 mile hike on the Crawford Path (also the Appalachian Trail) to the summit of Mt. Washington that’s tougher than it looks. The cone is one giant, seemingly-never-ending, rock pile, and the entire climb is out in the open and exposed to the elements. Whether you believe it or not, the Mount Washington Observatory doesn’t boast recording the world’s worst weather for nothing, so come ready for anything. It’s also best to mentally prepare for the Disneyland crowds sure to be found on the summit, especially on weekends. And don’t worry when you see the train, you’re not hallucinating or hypoxic from the altitude.
Despite the walk in the clouds – a refreshing wind, with temperatures near 60.
At 11:30 we summited Mt Washington. The summit was not that crowded perhaps due to the weather and that we were hiking up on Sunday. After a few pictures and view gazing, we began the descent off the summit. Within minutes it was quiet and tranquil once more.
The walk by The Great Gulf was gorgeous as usual with as left the clouds on the summit, views to Spaulding Lake and what looked like a hundred shades of green. We decided to have lunch here. We were having Ireland flashbacks so we looked around for leprechauns – but could not find any behind the rocks.
The descent became more knee rattling and rapid. Jon took over the camera and captured these great pics of all varieties of mushrooms. By 3:15 pm we were back at our car. Hooray – we could take our hiking boots off and go get a coffee for the ride home. Once home we cooled off in the Mad River, had some chilled wine and ate a healthy salad topped with breaded pork strips. We relaxed on the deck and were treated with this amazing rainbow behind Jennings Peak!
Adventure awaits to those that seek it out – put this hike on your to do list – when the forecast looks great, get up early and head to The Whites for an epic time recharging body, mind and spirit!
Mike and Jon
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