We wanted to climb Mount Washington last year during the Labour Day week-end with my sister and her family but it just didn’t work out…
This year, why wait until Labour Day, when chances are it’ll be cooler outside, when you can do it in 29°C (84°F) instead? I mean, seriously! So, we booked a Monday to Friday trip to New Hampshire, at the Eastern Slope Campground right on the Saco River. Nice place, very close to Mount Washington plus we would be able to swim in the river, jump off Tarzan ropes and go kayaking after our climb. A nice time was in store.
But first, we had a mountain to climb! A 6,288 foot mountain, to be precise! Let us just say that it was no “walk in the park”! The year before we had gone up Whiteface, which had some challenges but was a couple of thousand feet shorter! Then again, Sister did warn us that this would be a challenge. (How she and her hubs did it hung over is beyond me!) Off we went, full of smiles and good cheer.
Of course, when you see a sign like this, you realise that it’s a good thing we are doing this in summer!
The path from the beginning until the Hermit Lake shelter is quite something, full of rocks and nary a downward slope. You know, going up Whiteface there were flattish parts here and there, Washington? Not so much. So it’s rocks and up and up and up!
Some time between the Shelter and the top, we met a gentleman who would be just behind us, going at a steady pace. We’d break, he’d catch up; we’d take off, take another break, and there he was again. We offered to let him pass (some places were more narrow than others) but he said that no, he much preferred to follow OUR pace! He said that he would have ended up pushing himself too far, too fast and this was just fine, thank you very much! His name was Bob, a 59 (!) year old EMT from New York.
From this point on, the challenge was on: as we went up, up, up; the rocks got bigger and the air thinner. Let’s just say we took a few more breaks during the top half! It was gorgeous, though! And I totally loved the little bouquets, tucked in here and there amidst the rocks!
At the top portion (will we EVER reach it???) all vegetation was basically gone and we just had to manoeuvre ourselves over these humungous rocks. Even Zeke was having a hard time of it! The wind at this point really picked up and my god-daughter, the smallest and youngest of the group, was getting pretty fed up. At one point she stopped, arms akimbo, looked at her dad and said: “Maudit, que je pogne dans le vent!” This sort of loosely translates to: “Damn, the wind keeps tossing me about!”
Finally, finally! We made it! It was, as hubby likes to say, “a little nipple-y” out! The temperature was a mere 11°C (52°F) at the top! What a crazy difference in temperature! We hurriedly took our group pictures, shivering all the while (and the reason my picture of the elevation sign is blurry – couldn’t stop shivering)….
For those of you who’ve never been to the top of Mount Washington, 231 miles per hour was the highest wind ever recorded by man. So windy, one of the original houses is chained down!
Once inside the restaurant/souvenir area to warm up and fill our bellies we realised that what goes up, must come down. Zeke was NOT going to make it and frankly, Mick, my sister and I were not overly enthusiastic either. If the consensus had been to hike down, most of us would have found the energy. I would have had to figure out what to do with Zeke. That said, we looked into sending the two men down by bus to get the trucks and it was – gulp! – $60 per person! My sister, ever the charmer, said hang on… went up to a woman and asked her if she was heading down. The woman said she was waiting for her boyfriend so when he showed up my sister told them we had a lame dog (not quite but people care more about dogs and people so it worked!) and would it be possible to bring her husband and brother-in-law down to get their trucks. Of course she said yes! This couple was German and quite the beer discussion went on during the ride…. Our guys offered to pay them for the ride, the couple refused, the guys insisted… so they paid them twenty bucks ($100 less than it would have cost for the bus!!)
We had a good hour’s wait for the guys to drive down, get the trucks and drive up. Mick’s first words upon arriving were: “Holy cow! It’s a scary drive!” Wait till you see it! I can now understand why people proudly display their stickers This car climbed Mt Washington – we have ours but haven’t stuck it on…. It actually costs $28 to be allowed to drive up to the top. That said, you get your fabulous sticker and a CD which you listen to as you ride up and down that is full of very interesting information…
We watched from inside the warm restaurant to see our men coming up the mountain. We piled into our respective vehicles and made our way down. Whoa! What a ride! Along the way there are places to stop and cool your breaks and if needed, fill your radiator with water!
We actually did stop to take a break and I went around to take some of the vegetation mentioned in the CD… The trees are all twisted and quite small but are over 100 years old!
Driving down was gorgeous as well as scary – especially when we encountered a car coming up. The rule is, the right of way is given to those coming up the mountain…. we may not have been on the edge of the cliff as they were but there was truly not much room to move!
All in all, a most satisfying, fun, push-yourself-to-the-limits kind of day. Though, frankly, I think Zeke had more than his fill…. Poor guy. We totally understood how he felt!