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Thread: Mt. Washington via Lions Head

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tim Seaver's Avatar
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    Mt. Washington via Lions Head



    December 11, 2007. The Gods may have not been smiling, but they were certainly having a good chuckle at our expense. On my birthday, no less! Perhaps it was to even out the outrageous luck with weather and wildlife that has been thrown in my lap on previous birthday hikes. Not having a great deal of time on this day, we went with the classic ascent of Mt. Washington via the Lions Head trail.

    First up in this comedy of errors was a classic: I left my boots at home. So the choice was to abandon a hike up the Lions Head (and settle for something unthinkably wimpish), or to soldier on with a pair of beat-up, lightly insulated, treadless, screwless, North Face Pipe Dragons. Easy choice!

    So we hit the trail, happy to see that the parking lot at Pinkham was mostly empty. We had hoped to get to the summit before the tiny high pressure bubble hovering over Washie and the Northern Presis disappeared.

    Butt then, disasster struck! Tiny Gremlins within Jon's pack had managed to disconnect his hydration hose at the connection on the bottom, unleashing several liters of Calais Spring's finest all over his vintage 1990 gear, and most cruelly, his hiney!

    (The cuplrit turned out to be the goofy lining in his Platypus reservoir tubing, which seems to delaminate from the tube, causing a poor seal when re-connecting the tube after cleaning - my apologies to Tiny Gremlins everywhere!)

    Once again, we were faced with a grim choice between adventure in the face of adversity, or giving in to circumstances and calling it a day. Oh the drama! Calling on all of our resources, we implemented a plan for survival.
    I offered Jon my spare shirt (with the condition that I may have to take it back above treeline if I got even slightly uncomfortable and/or needed a good laugh at his expense), which took care of his torso.

    But a wet behind is truly another matter. No spare long johns accompanied us on this Fools Mission. No cozy tights. No 8000 meter down pants. A grim situation by any measure.

    Then, genius struck! A MacGyver Moment, even!

    Utilizing a spare pair of handwarmers, we slipped their warming goodness into a pair of light fuzzy gloves, which Jon then slipped into the backside of his....backside, with his pack waistbelt cinching the wrists of the gloves in a manner that allowed the warmers to gently coddle his nether-regions.

    Passing the outlet of Hermit Lake ( the summer trail is still in use, BTW), we met another hiker who was properly dressed for the occasion - plastic mountaineering boots and a dry butt. Lacking those, we could only imagine the confidence such items give one on this Killer Peak.

    A bit further, we put on crampons, and were soon warmed by the rush of testosterone that invariably accompanies a man accessorizing one's self with sharp metal objects.

    We rounded "Windy Corner" and made our way through soft snow, ice patches, and rock. As is usually the case, the wind was raking the slopes below the Lions Head, so we jumped into our wind gear.

    Well, sort of.

    Jon was having some issues with his vintage 1991 Mountain Equipment bibs, which, while durable, are not the quickest pantaloons going. Constructed of the finest 65-layer Cordura/Gore-Tex/Artillery Cloth/Cement Board of that era, it's actually a two-man job to "mount" them on one's hiking partner. First, one man unfurls the thick, stiff wad of bibs from a stuffsack, a task that on it's own that consumes approximately 800 calories. Then, the pants in question are anchored on the ground at both ends with either rocks, snow pickets, ice screws, or deadmen so that you can proceed to Step 2, which is separating the industrial thickness velcro strips that run the full length of both legs. Having accomplished this, the next trick is to attempt to operate the zippers. I had noticed ( in the winter of 1997, I believe) that the zippers were functioning abnormally well - quite out of character for this garment, so I proceeded to remove the zipper pulls, and treated the full length of the zipper runs with fine-grit abrasive compound in order to restore the proper amount of Mountain Gusto needed to successfully separate the leg sections. This improvement, combined with the robust thickness of the garment's multi-layer construction, requires one person to attempt to move the zipper head with bare frozen fingers, whilst the other holds the two soon-to-be-separated legs in tension, lengthwise, to keep the velcro sections from re-mating in the wind. The proposed dressee is then positioned in a manner to don the pants, by first checking that his partner is standing well back from the area, lest he be struck by one of the 6 pound leg sections flailing in the wind. ( The flapping leg sections are best pointed downwind for optimal safety.)


    A mere 30 minutes later, we were ready to continue the hike, and pressed on over the Lions Head proper, catching up for the 4th or 5th time with the properly outfitted gent we had encountered earlier. Conditions here are a mostly rock, tiny bits of snow, and a few water ice patches. The trip up the summit cone was uneventful, without a single mishap, equipment failure, or stupid decision. A few chest-thrusting pictures at the summit, a quick tour of the wind-blasted observation deck, and we were on the descent again. Near the exit of the auto road, we once again encountered the AMC-approved Mountaineer. He was inquiring as to the availability of shelter on the summit so that he could put some handwarmers in his boots. We informed him that the buildings were generally off-limits to those without Special Connections, but that he could probably find a place relatively out of the wind if he hunted around a bit. We wished him well and sauntered downslope.



    Unfortunately, the rest of the descent was also marked by an extreme lack of Dumb Stuff, so I have little to add that may interest the reader concerning this portion of our journey. All in all, it was a fine day of chuckling our way through the various mishaps.
    Last edited by Tim Seaver; 12-12-2007 at 02:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Seaver

    Jon was having some issues with his vintage 1991 Mountain Equipment bibs, which, while durable, are not the quickest pantaloons going. Constructed of the finest 65-layer Cordura/Gore-Tex/Artillery Cloth/Cement Board of that era, it's actually a two-man job to "mount" them on one's hiking partner. First, one man unfurls the thick, stiff wad of bibs from a stuffsack, a task that on it's own that consumes approximately 800 calories. Then, the pants in question are anchored on the ground at both ends with either rocks, snow pickets, ice screws, or deadmen so that you can proceed to Step 2, which is separating the industrial thickness velcro strips that run the full length of both legs. Having accomplished this, the next trick is to attempt to operate the zippers. I had noticed ( in the winter of 1997, I believe) that the zippers were functioning abnormally well - quite out of character for this garment, so I proceeded to remove the zipper pulls, and treated the full length of the zipper runs with fine-grit abrasive compound in order to restore the proper amount of Mountain Gusto needed to successfully separate the leg sections. This improvement, combined with the robust thickness of the garment's multi-layer construction, requires one person to attempt to move the zipper head with bare frozen fingers, whilst the other holds the two soon-to-be-separated legs in tension, lengthwise, to keep the velcro sections from re-mating in the wind. The proposed dressee is then positioned in a manner to don the pants, by first checking that his partner is standing well back from the area, lest he be struck by one of the 6 pound leg sections flailing in the wind. ( The flapping leg sections are best pointed downwind for optimal safety.)
    .
    Reminds me of the kid in "A Christmas Story" that gets stuffed into his snow suit and is immobilized.

    Very good report. Nice pics. Glad everyone survived.
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    Senior Member percious's Avatar
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    Very beautiful pics. Looks like you had a great day out.

    A bit further, we put on crampons, and were soon warmed by the rush of testosterone that invariably accompanies a man accessorizing one's self with sharp metal objects.
    From your pictures it doesn't appear to be crampon-type terrain... Was there ice up there? I am always weary of putting on my 'pons when hiking through talus slopes, they usually do more harm then good, scratching the rocks and providing opportunity to twist one's ankle.

    I have oft chuckled when seeing crampon marks near Jo Dodge's lodge. Seems like a lot of hikers out there ride that testosterone right to the lodge...

    -percious

  4. #4
    Senior Member Tim Seaver's Avatar
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    percious - the summit cone was progressively rockier above the Tucks jct, but there were some ice-glaze over snow patches below that point, like on the slope just below the "keyhole" passage before that junction, and quite a few ice patches between Hermit Lakes and the upper Lions Head winter trail junction.

    I wore Kahtoola crampons, which only have 1" points and are much more comfortable over rock.

    I made Jon wear a pair of BD Contacts, equipped with what appear to be 3 inch points.

    I do recall him mumbling something about "breaking a leg" or some other trivial matter as he stumbled over the rocks, but I couldn't allow the spirit of suffering which marked the journey to be compromised by anything resembling comfort or enjoyment, so I insisted that he wear them for the duration of our above-treeline travels.

    By the way, does anyone know where I can submit a full report for "Assidents in American Mountaineering"?
    Last edited by Tim Seaver; 12-12-2007 at 04:06 PM.

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Seaver
    By the way, does anyone know where I can submit a full report for "Assidents in American Mountaineering"?
    The American Airpine Club?

    Jed Williamdad, ed
    (conviently located in Hanover NH)

    Doug

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    Senior Member cbcbd's Avatar
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    What can I say...

    Capricious, reckless, irresponsible, audacious... outstanding!



    Happy B-day and glad your testosterone pulled you through this one unscathed.
    Last edited by cbcbd; 12-12-2007 at 03:41 PM. Reason: I'm a moron
    Doug

  7. #7
    Senior Member Tim Seaver's Avatar
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    Snowkat, formerly the "Pipe Dragon"

    200g Primaloft, dude!

    Good for -25, and it sez so right on the box! (and no, I do not believe that either - where the heck do they get these outrageous temperature ratings, anyhow?)

    Standing there in such footwear, it was a bit odd when the chap in 6 pound Koflachs asked about shelter for adding his handwarmers.

    The summit temps were in the teens, so with a pair of thick socks it really wasn't too bad. We definitely would have bagged it if it was an arctic kind of day.

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    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    Excellent writing style, and of course excellent photos.

    Where did you drop your pack for the summit assault?
    I'm going to burn in hell for that. Oh well, I've got the right gear.

  9. #9
    Senior Member cbcbd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Seaver
    All right, all right. I was wondering why I recognized the name but hadn't seen it in a while. I deleted my preposterous comment out.
    Doug

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    Senior Member Bobby's Avatar
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    Great report and pictures. I love those screwed-up kind of days. Especially when they happen to someone else
    "Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic." Crash Davis -"Bull Durham"

    photo link

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    Senior Member cushetunk's Avatar
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    I am appalled that you would Have Fun above treeline. In almost winter, too. What kind of example does that set?

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    Senior Member NewHampshire's Avatar
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    I suck. I have yet to climb any trails on the western side of Washington. I really need to get off my butt and start exploring over there!!!! Wonderful photos as usual Tim!

    Brian

    P.S. Happy B-day!
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    Senior Member una_dogger's Avatar
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    Sweet.
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    Senior Member Cath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NewHampshire
    I have yet to climb any trails on the western side of Washington. I really need to get off my butt and start exploring over there!!!!
    East Side of Mount Washington; east side! But, sheltered from the wind, eh?

    Metsky beat me to the punch about asking if you left your pack(s) in "the col."

    A few years ago, some Euroes re-enacted the Eiger 1938 ascent ("North Face, of course") with vintage garb, only compromising on their rope, substituting a modern perlon core, wrapped in "goldline." I think that Guy Waterman climbed Pinnacle Gully in old clothing and footwear (see cover photo on an early 1990s Applalachia); not sure about his choice of ice gear.

    Thanks for the humorous trip report, Tim.

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