Mt Washington Sunrise Hike - 5/27/17

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With potential for an undercast during sunrise on the Presidentials, I decided to take advantage of my opportunity for a sunrise hike this weekend. I chose Ammo up and Jewell down, as although I've climbed Washington a number of times I hadn't attempted it from the west side.

I parked at 1:30AM and was on the trail by 2. The section from the Ammo lot to the junction with the cog railway path was pretty wet but most of the mud was avoidable. I made quick time along the ammo river, covering the first two flatter miles in around 45 minutes. Only one of the Ammo crossings was interesting, but I was able to rock hop without getting my socks wet beneath my low-cut Salomon XA Pro 3Ds WPs. It was quite the experience moving along the raging river, which was loud enough that no other sounds could be heard most of the way up Ammo. I attempted to take pictures of the waterfalls, but my Camera struggled to focus in the light of my headlamp.

First remnants of the monorail appeared at just above 3k, but it never lasted more than a minute or so at a time. As I was considerably ahead of my plan to summit just before 5AM for the 5:07 sunrise, I took the rest of Ammo slow, pausing often for a quick breather. There is only one section near the top of Ammo that one would consider using any traction for, but honestly I would leave it in the bag.

I hit the hut in a moving time of 1:45 (It was around 3:50) and promptly started down the dry river trail (oops). I quickly realized that this was not the Crawford path and headed back to the hut, but in wasting the 10 minutes I begin to worry I wasn't going to summit in time for sunrise. I had just over an hour to cover the last 1.6, and although this is quite reasonable for me I wasn't sure if I would have trouble seeing the cairns which would cause additional delays. Although the sky was teasing at clearing up, at this point the clouds were rushing up from the west and the winds had picked up to a consistent howl. The sky was also getting light enough that my headlamp wasn't needed.

Crawford path was dry as can be and I used that to my advantage. I hit the summit at 3:50 giving me ample time to gear up for sitting around waiting for the sun and to have a nice snack. The clouds would not let up, although it was SOOOO close to clearing up. Looking straight up at blue sky above but being only 50 feet into the clouds was quite disappointing. 5:07 came and went with no views, and I quickly headed over to the north side to start heading towards the Jewell trail.

Gulfside was wet and windy. Water was draining down from the summit which when paired with the moss on the rocks lead to quite the slippery trail. The ample light from the rising sun was quite helpful at this point. Once to the Clay split-off, the wind died down and the trail became less soaked. I took my time navigating the Gulfside and the upper part of Jewell, as at this point I was in no more rush. Right at the top of the Jewell trail, the mountain gods decided to award my effort, opening a gap in the clouds from the top of Jefferson all the way to the cog railway ridge. This was a clear undercast, with the valleys below filled with puffy white clouds, leaving the Jewell trail looking like an island. The ridge of the Caps also looked quite spectacular through this stretch.

The trail became less and less wet as I moved along. No snow will be found on any of the Jewell and the part of Gulfside that I used. When I entered back below tree line, the trail conditions were perfect. I effortlessly hustled down the trail, letting my weight do all of the work. Other than a few blowdowns, there is nothing to worry about on Jewell. The last two miles took 19 minutes and 18 minutes, and I was back at the car at 7AM for a nice breakfast.

I saw no other souls on this hike until I returned to the Ammo lot, where there were a few groups about to head up for the day. Maybe even more surprising, Not a single bug was seen or heard. I recently acquired a bugsaway hat and buff but I can't imagine they were that effective. I'm guessing the bugs were out early on Ammo but not Jewell, so I lucked out. Although I didn't get the sunrise, this hike was more than worth it and I expect I'll be up before the crack of dawn again soon!

I'm looking to join VFTT. I've been following the blog for a couple years now and have found it quite helpful in planning my trips up north. My name is David and my email is [email protected]. In the meantime, I'll keep posting some of my hikes here.