PDA

View Full Version : Lion Head Trail, Mt. Washington



torn&frayed
12-12-2006, 08:02 PM
I'm just curious about the difference between the summer route and the winter route. I've hiked the winter route in January, February and April. Last week I hiked the summer route (December). I really didn't sense much of a difference.
So, what's the reason for shutting down one vs. the other in different seasons?

Cruddy Toes
12-12-2006, 08:12 PM
Summer route upper part is exposed to avalanches in the winter, so less safe
The winter route is safer - yet, it is not pleasant at all for hiking without snow, so closed during the other seasons

Kevin Rooney
12-12-2006, 08:13 PM
I'm just curious about the difference between the summer route and the winter route. I've hiked the winter route in January, February and April. Last week I hiked the summer route (December). I really didn't sense much of a difference.
So, what's the reason for shutting down one vs. the other in different seasons? In a phrase - avalanche danger.

3 or 4 years ago, (maybe more) at hard fall rain caused a landslide which crossed the so-called summer route. This opened up vegetation enough to create a possible chute for avalanches to form, and could expose climbers to risk, especially man-made ones when a higher climber triggers a slide onto the lower portion. So, a winter trail was cut to minimize this danger.

Do people still use the summer route in winter - yes, occasionally, and there have been reports of human-triggered slides.

Opps - Cruddy Toes beat me to it.

Cath
12-12-2006, 08:28 PM
To add to Kevin's note;
I believe it was in the early 80's, during the search for Hugh Herr & his climbing partner, Alfred Dow died after being caught in an avalanche on the Lion's Head (summer) trail

DougPaul
12-12-2006, 09:25 PM
Yes avalanche danger is the reason. It also avalanched across the Tuckerman trail below in a heavy snow year sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. My first winter ascent (1975?) was up this avalanche path. It later grew in and a different winter route was established.

The current (or current for each year--its changed as necessary) winter route is not immune to avalanche--I believe Albert Dow and his partner were on the winter route when it avalanched and he was killed. (It was certainly winter conditions.) I have been on the route when there were sections of slab anchored in scrubby trees. Hopefully the trees were enough to anchor the slab, but the potential for avalanche was presumably there.

I have also been "dragged"* down the summer route in winter conditions--the summer route traverses above a cliff. A fall, slide, or avalanche will take you over the cliff.

* On the descent, a fast idiot in our party ran ahead past the winter route and down the summer route. Our leader elected to follow him rather than split the party. Fortunately no one fell on the dangerous section. (One person did fall, but it was after the traverse--she slid ~100 ft into some trees and fortunately only lost some skin.)

Doug

David Metsky
12-13-2006, 11:14 AM
After some nasty October rains about 10-12 years ago there were some slides and a new Winter Route was established. I don't think it was a major reroute, but the winter route has changed over time.

-dave-

hikerfast
12-13-2006, 11:57 AM
In October of 95, they got 11 inches of rain in 3 days, and that huge slide scar you can see came down. This obliterated portion(s) of the old winter route and they moved the winter route way over to the right by a couple hundred yards or more. The first winter, some people went up the old winter route, and were killed in avalanches.

Cruddy Toes
12-13-2006, 12:03 PM
I would state that the winter route relo was significant. It now starts at a different location and follows none of the old route. It is now located on a nice spine, wrapped northeast about 1/4 mile of the old route. My opinion is that now it is slightly easier then before.

David Metsky
12-13-2006, 12:14 PM
I would state that the winter route relo was significant. It now starts at a different location and follows none of the old route. It is now located on a nice spine, wrapped northeast about 1/4 mile of the old route. My opinion is that now it is slightly easier then before.
I didn't realize that it was that extensive. Wow, thanks for the info.

-dave-

Kevin Rooney
12-13-2006, 12:17 PM
In October of 95, they got 11 inches of rain in 3 days, and that huge slide scar you can see came down. This obliterated portion(s) of the old winter route and they moved the winter route way over to the right by a couple hundred yards or more. The first winter, some people went up the old winter route, and were killed in avalanches.You've got a better memory than I, hikerfast. Was thinking it was only 3 or 4 years, but I think you're right that it was more like 11 years. Those remnants of hurricanes/tropical storms can play havoc.

RoySwkr
12-13-2006, 12:33 PM
I would state that the winter route relo was significant. It now starts at a different location and follows none of the old route. It is now located on a nice spine, wrapped northeast about 1/4 mile of the old route. My opinion is that now it is slightly easier then before.
The original winter route started from Hermit Lake at the same point as the summer route and branched off later. I wonder if in fact the winter route was the original route before a switchback was added to the summer route.

As mentioned, a new winter route was established which branches off the cat track to Huntington Ravine. This route in no way meets Forest Service trail standards and was supposed to be temporary but nobody has bothered to create a better one. Basically it minimizes avalanche danger by going up the spine of a ridge so there isn't much of anywhere for avalanches to come from. I consider it far more difficult than either of the other routes and the only time I went up it, I decided to go down the auto road instead.

giggy
12-13-2006, 12:39 PM
thanks hikerfast - I knew someone was caught in an avi on the old route - didn't know that was why.

pic of the summer snow traverse

http://www.tuckerman.org/photos/04-05tuck/pages/image173.html

kind of a cool pic - is the "old trail" that slide off to the left? That was before my time in the hills.... the summer trail is more south than that I believe?

http://www.amcsem.org/photos/mtwashm.jpg

The "new" winter route is a borderline mountaineering route IMO. Done it a good few times now up and and down (more down) - With decent snow, its not too bad to come down, but there are a couple sections that are a pain in the ass. Though never seen it - heard stories of people rapping down some sections - :eek: don't think thats needed, but.. Its not a typical trail for sure.

When possible, I would much rather come down right gullly, etc..

hikerfast
12-13-2006, 01:01 PM
yes roy,
the old winter route used to be the summer route too. it was considered real steep and difficult and they put a wider loop in as the summer trail. they would change the sign when winter snow started and they used to put orange ribbons up too to mark the winter trail. the new winter trail is steeper than the old winter route. I was on it when they first opened it, and there were little snowballs coming down. about 10 minutes later people appeared, using crampons and axes and backing their way down. it has to be quite steep for the snowballs they let loose to be going down that far.

skiguy
12-13-2006, 01:40 PM
The "new" winter route is a borderline mountaineering route IMO. Done it a good few times now up and and down (more down) - With decent snow, its not too bad to come down, but there are a couple sections that are a pain in the ass. Though never seen it - heard stories of people rapping down some sections - :eek: don't think thats needed, but.. Its not a typical trail for sure.



I would agree with Giggy here. The Forest Service will Wand the area sometimes through the Snowfield at Treeline. This area is also Avy prone.

bill bowden
12-15-2006, 01:53 PM
Seems like yesterday