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View Full Version : Suggestions for a Good Winter Mountaineering Trip



Wendellator
10-04-2014, 06:04 PM
Hello i started a thread regarding The Great Gully and had a lot of positive feedback. But i feel that i should of been more specific.
I live in Maryland and every year my cousin and i who resides in NY do a yearly Mountaineering trip some out west some on the east. Last year we did Mt.Washington in Jan and had a great time and a summit. This year we cannot go out west due to an upcoming baby.
I like the whites since it seems that most of the routes are above the treeline along a ridge. I only can take off for 3 days in December due to work. What i am looking for is any suggestions on a good Mountaineering trip in the Whites I have no problem doing all the leg work and research but since i live in Md knowing what routes would be better or more accessable in the Winter is a challenge.
We are considering the Presi Traverse but i would like to have a backup plan.
Any beta would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
Wendell:D

Chip
10-05-2014, 06:44 AM
When you say "Mountaineering" and "3 days", do you want to be out for 2 nights and needing ice gear ?

Wendellator
10-05-2014, 07:52 AM
I have 3 days off. I have a small ice gear rack when i say Mountaineering i am comparing it to out west like Whitney,Shasta, Rainier, Hood.these are peaks we have climbed and summited. I would prefer not to need ice gear being out for 2 days would be fine.
I was looking at the Pemi Loop or a 1 day Pres Traverse.

jfb
10-06-2014, 07:49 AM
One option would be to spend two nights at Crag Camp. Here's a link: http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/npresi.html

hikerbrian
10-06-2014, 09:41 AM
FWIW, Rainier, Shasta, Hood and Whitney really don't have a counterpart in New Hampshire. Those mountains in spring/summer - which I assume is when you've climbed them (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong; also, route choice? Liberty Ridge is pretty different from DC, etc.) - have almost nothing in common with the Whites in Winter. The requisite skills are really different, as are the safety considerations, so it's hard to think of an analagous itinerary. Here are some thoughts, which you can work into your planning as you see fit:

1. The Presidential Range (the ridge from Madison through to Pierce) offers the largest expanse of above treeline terrain in the Whites. Second most would be Lafayette through Flume (AKA Franconia Ridge). Then there are the Carters, the Bonds, and a couple of other less prominent ridges. Baxter State Park in Maine offers similar (though colder and more remote) terrain, but sounds like you're most interested in the Whites. So take your pick from the first two in the list, probably.
2. December is a difficult time to hike in the Whites - IMO, the most difficult. Days are really short, snow pack is often shallow (though sometimes epic; you just never know), and it's often FREEZING cold - well below zero. Though sometimes it's raining and 40 degrees. Or you could be lucky enough to catch an ice storm. So fun. Very difficult/impossible to know what conditions will be like ahead of time.
3. I'm sure a single day Presi-traverse has been done in December, but it's VERY uncommon. Again, very short days and often very difficult conditions - verglas over talus is probably most common, there's usually poor visibility, and blowing snow and freezing fog with wind speeds in excess of 50 mph (often in excess of 100 mph) are common. Best to be very good at navigating in the absence of any terrain features while the wind roars in your ears.
4. None of this is meant to deter you, you can make your own decisions, I'm just trying to outline some of the differences between the mountains out west that you described and the challenges they present (altitude, glacier travel, avalanches, steep snow climbs) and what you might expect in the Whites in December.

With that out of the way, here are some possibilities. I assume you want a single overnight, or possible two nights out? Camping, or hut?

1. Good weather option: Northern Presi traverse. Start at Appalacia, Valley way up to Madison Spring hut (closed during winter), up and down Madison, then over Adams and down to Gray Knob Cabin (see details by searching online). Day two, up and over Jefferson and Washington, then down either to the Cog railway parking area or via Lion Head route (Winter Route probably won't be open yet, so you'll need to navigate steep, icy talus) to Pinkham. This is a big itinerary, very difficult for most people, and dicy at best in questionable weather.
2. Franconia traverse: start at Lincoln Woods trailhead, Osseo trail to Flume then to Liberty, camp at Liberty Spring tentsite. Day two, up Lincoln then Lafayette, decend Old Bridal Path. Franconia Ridge is above treeline, but not quite as nasty as the Northern Presidentials.
3. Full Pemi loop. This is usually a 4-day itinerary: Day 1 same as #2 above. Day two, instead of descending at Lafayette, continue on to Mt. Garfield, camp at Garfield Ridge tentsite (has a nice 3-walled shelter). Day 3 Climb to South Twin then on to Guyot shelter and tentsite. Day 4 up and over the Bonds and back to where you came. Note this is a big itinerary but manageable and not quite so weather dependent since you're not above treeline as much.

Again, I want to emphasize that the Whites in December are very unpredictable. You'll probably get a lot of notes of caution in this thread - take them seriously. If you want to provide more details on your objectives and skills we (collectively) can hone an itinerary.

Cheers,
Brian

Wendellator
10-06-2014, 10:28 AM
We did Shasta, Casaval Ridge route in Jan 2 years ago,and Hood south side 3 years ago in feb. last year Mt Washington in Jan.ammonnusic ravine (hope i spelled it correctly)
I picked dec 5th since it is a full moon and we are looking for an Alpine start. Are main objective is to make it home safe, might sound corny but i have seen to many people with "Summit fever" do stupid stuff, we have bailed on routes before when the conditions turn unsafe.
I constantly check the high summit forecast from MWOB.My other objective is to have a few choices based on weather that we could do since we only have 1 car we were looking for a loop, our original plan was a 1 day traverse using trail angels shuttle service to get us back
or thumbing it. We have both taken the AIARE course,and are very competent using a compass,ice gear,self arrest, understanding and reading topo maps. My climbing partner was in the military for 8 years he is also my cousin and we have been climbing for 10 years together. A single overnight would be fine. We are going to pack correct gear in case it turns into an overnight instead of a one day alpine style trip.
I am open minded to the information that people post, and take it seriously since you guys/gals are from that area and have a better idea of the conditions and closures. Also i am going to take all the information i recieve and make a main itinerary along with some back up ones
Hopefully this helped answer some of your questions. Any other information i can provide feel free to let me know.
Thanks again
Wendell

hikerbrian
10-06-2014, 12:49 PM
Nice, ok, I can't speak to Hood, but I can say Cassaval in winter does have some similarities with the Whites. You won't find much in the Whites that has quite the level of commitment, exposure to big falls and shear time above treeline, but the navigation and weather issues are similar. With Cassaval, if the visibility is bad it's fairly difficult to navigate - several parts of the ridge are broad, and it's not necessarily obvious, once you get past the hourglass, which is the best way to stay on the ridge (and not accidentally drop into Avy gulch or the West Face). Same is true of the area between Adams and Washington: several parts of the ridge are broad, and navigation can be extremely challenging in poor conditions.

I found Cassaval to be pretty spicy: steep snow, and a long enough route that you really don't have time to rope up and place protection. You need to be fast, and you need to not fall. I don't think there's anything quite like that in the Whites. Maybe someone can speak to Caps Ridge or Six Husbands in winter? As you know, Ammo ravine, while long and physically demanding, is not anywhere near Cassaval in terms of exposure. Same is true of most of the trails in the Northern Presis.

That said, if you're set on the Whites, I'd go with either the full traverse (with plenty of bail out options outlined - you seem to know largely what you're in for) or just stay in the Northern half, either as I suggested above or as some kind of loop. Once you're up on the ridge, even though you're only at ~5-6k feet and there's not too much fall potential (though there is some), I think you'll find plenty of adventure. You can make a loop of it on trails to the northwest. Watch out for trails that bail to the southeast into the Great Gulf - that area is rough, and much more challenging than a map would have you believe. There can also be bad avalanche potential - this is true of any of the bowls that face east or southeast. And do note that the road to the cog railroad base station is open and plowed in the winter, but most others are not.

Ice routes in Huntington are also a possibility, though I've never been there in the early part of the season. People that are harder men than me say early winter is tough - the ice comes in at about the same time as avalanche danger. Spring is a better time to climb the ravines (as I understand it - speaking from very limited experience there). NEice.com would be the place to find ice climbing info.

Hope that's helpful,
Brian

Mac
10-06-2014, 01:05 PM
One option would be to spend two nights at Crag Camp. Here's a link: http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/npresi.html

This is a good option. You can pick off one or more peaks (Madison, Adams or Jefferson). Grey Knob (about 1/2 hour from Crag Camp) is another option. It's just below treeline, right beside Lowe's path (takes you to Adams summit). It's also insulated.

jfb
10-06-2014, 01:21 PM
If you're looking for a challenging loop dayhike in the Northern Presidentials, try this:

Park at Randolph East. Follow the Howker Ridge trail up Mt. Madison. Descend the Osgood trail to Madison hut. Ascend the Star Lake trail to Mt. Adams. Descend the Israel Ridge trail to the Randolph Path back to Randoph East.

Wendellator
10-07-2014, 06:12 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions.

DougPaul
10-07-2014, 12:21 PM
Basically, all of the peaks in the Whites can be done in winter by non-technical routes. (Ice axe and crampons may be useful on some.) However, if one wanders off route one can end up on technical terrain, particularly on Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. The AMC WMG should suffice for the hiking trail routes.

Of course, there are technical routes available if one wishes... There is a guidebook, but it is a bit old: http://www.amazon.com/Climbers-Guide-Northern-England-Edition/dp/0972030719 and there are online resources.

It is worth avoiding the Great Gulf and the Dry River areas in winter due to long, unbroken trails with difficult trail-finding and/or avalanche hazard. (In particular, they make poor escape routes from the ridges above.) King Ravine might also be worth avoiding for the same reasons.

There are restrictions on camping: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5363715.pdf (There used to be some restrictions on above timberline camping (>2 ft snow required), but I don't seem them in this document. ??? )

And, as some others have noted, White Mountain weather should not be taken lightly, particularly above timberline. It may be worth having a plan-B (and maybe C) in case conditions aren't good.

Doug

nartreb
10-07-2014, 01:42 PM
...

There are restrictions on camping: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5363715.pdf (There used to be some restrictions on above timberline camping (>2 ft snow required), but I don't seem them in this document. ??? )

...
Doug

Bottom right, second page, "Camping in the Alpine Zone".

DougPaul
10-07-2014, 10:29 PM
Bottom right, second page, "Camping in the Alpine Zone".
Thanks--my pdf display program (xpdf) displays the file as 2 half-size pages (no scrollbars) and a final full-size page with a vertical scrollbar. I missed the scrollbar and only saw the top half of the final page...

Doug

Wendellator
10-08-2014, 05:43 AM
Thank you i always have 2 backup plans.Especially since the weather changes so rapidly.
Normally plan B is Beer and C is Car

ChrisB
10-11-2014, 10:18 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions.

You might want to research these routes.

Both provide easy/moderate winter mountaineering-type day climbs with a minimum of logistics.


Huntington Ravine: Central Gully up and South Gully down

Tuckerman Ravine: Headwall up and Right Gully down

In both cases camping is nearby in either a (funky) cabin or open Lean tos

cushetunk
10-12-2014, 07:54 AM
You could also look into Shoestring Gully or Landslide Gully on Mount Webster. Both are 1-day ice/snow routes that are shorter to approach and somewhat more protected from weather than Huntington Ravine,while still having an "alpine" feel.

Wendellator
10-13-2014, 12:40 PM
Thanks for either of the above mentioned routes should i bring screws? If so what size do you suggest.

DougPaul
10-13-2014, 06:16 PM
Thanks for either of the above mentioned routes should i bring screws? If so what size do you suggest.
I have done Central Gully on Webster. IIRC it was mostly snow and loose rock boulders with 2 pitches of fairly easy ice and a short easy rock pitch at the top. You also have to cross the Saco River to get to the base of the slope. I think we used screws for protection. (We definitely used screws to anchor the tent at an above T-line tent site... :) )

We did it as the start of a Presi traverse so we were carrying multi-day winter packs.

I suspect the other gullies on Webster are similar.


If you are looking for technical routes, IMO you will probably do better by picking up a copy of the guidebook rather than asking for suggestions on a predominately non-technical website. You will also likely find more knowledgeable people on a technical website such as http://neice.com.

Doug

Wendellator
10-14-2014, 05:45 AM
Thank you i have been also doing some research on neice. Did you do the traverse in the winter?

hikerbrian
10-14-2014, 09:14 AM
I have done Central Gully on Webster. IIRC it was mostly snow and loose rock boulders with 2 pitches of fairly easy ice and a short easy rock pitch at the top. You also have to cross the Saco River to get to the base of the slope. I think we used screws for protection. (We definitely used screws to anchor the tent at an above T-line tent site... :) )

We did it as the start of a Presi traverse so we were carrying multi-day winter packs.

Now THAT is a cool trip. Unfortunately, I suspect the route will be pretty thin in early December, but you could inquire at neice.com for historical experience.

DP, did you haul your packs, or did you climb with winter presi-traverse packs on? Wow. This is pretty intriguing, hadn't considered linking it to a Presi-traverse.

sierra
10-14-2014, 10:00 AM
My rack for the Gully's on Webster would consist of pins and angles, rock gear ( cams and nuts) and ice screws, favoring 6 inch screws ( even those might be tied off). Typically, I would favor solid belays and fairly long runs in between gear, unless I was on mostly ice, then more pro would be used.

DougPaul
10-14-2014, 11:48 AM
Thank you i have been also doing some research on neice. Did you do the traverse in the winter?
Yes, the traverse was in winter. Camped the 1st night in the woods behind Webster and the second night above T-line near Jefferson*. We considered descent via Great Gully but chose Valley Way.
* The site was legal at the time but is no longer legal.


Now THAT is a cool trip. Unfortunately, I suspect the route will be pretty thin in early December, but you could inquire at neice.com for historical experience.

DP, did you haul your packs, or did you climb with winter presi-traverse packs on? Wow. This is pretty intriguing, hadn't considered linking it to a Presi-traverse.
IIRC we thought of it more as an interesting way to do a Presi traverse rather than an extension to an ice climb. (All three of us were experienced ice climbers.) As it was only 2 pitches of easy ice, it could be viewed as a lot of work for not much ice... :) But the ice was in an interesting location. And, no crowds... Actually the gully would have been dangerous if there was another party in it--lots of loose bowling-ball sized rocks.

We climbed with packs. The ice was too low angle for hauling and was easy enough that climbing with the packs was not a problem. There was a short bit of steep rock at the end (literally finished right on the summit of Webster) but it was easy enough that we all soloed without roping up.

We only used a few ice screws for protection on the ice--don't recall how thick it was. Didn't need the rope or any protection elsewhere.

I think we climbed it in the winter of 1981-1982 so I could be stretching my memory on some of the details. My guess is that it was probably late January or February.

Doug