I had been planning to attempt hiking Mount Washington (6,288 ft (1,917 m) in the White Mountains in New Hampshire on New Years Day 2017 for the whole of 2016. A small group of close friends of mine did it the year before and had great luck with weather and succeeded. I was unable to make the attempt with them so was thrilled to be invited for the second try. I tested out my gear for the months leading up to the hike, practiced putting on my crampons with my glove liners until I could practically do it with my eyes closed. I carried an emergency shelter and blankets and one extra of just about everything. I respect Mt Washington all year round and in January even more so.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Gorham having dinner and some wine (not too much) and compulsively checked the weather and got to bed early. Our gear was set but the weather was out of our control. The weather was looking a little sketchy on Sunday but the outlook for Monday was looking superb.
Happy New Year! We started our trek Sunday morning before sunrise. We were met with clouds and cold and some light snow and lots of company, everyone looking for an awesome hike to start the year. The trail below tree line was in fairly decent shape. The snow was well packed over ice, definitely need for crampons (especially a few key spots) and never needed the snowshoes I carried.
Over tree line was another story. Very poor visibility and crazy winds. A few speedy people on the trail who had turned around had warned us and they weren’t kidding. The wind was so strong it was knocking me over. Our group made a decision not too far above tree line to turn back and try again tomorrow, which was promising to be clear and less windy, especially because we were armed with the knowledge of the good forecast. But you never know when things will change.
We started even earlier on Monday because the lack of clouds promised a beautiful sunrise and we wished to be as high as possible (and it delivered!). The temperature below tree line felt pretty much the same. No precipitation made for more comfortable conditions. The trail was icier, so the sections that were tricky on day 1 were even trickier on day 2. Over tree line was windy, but nothing compared to the previous day and the visibility was amazing. I still felt a little sketched out hiking beside Tuckerman’s Ravine in the winds (which were between 40 and 60 mph) but I took it slow and careful and stayed upright. Only one guy passed us – when he saw the weather forecast he headed to the Whites immediately knowing it was a rare day.
And next thing you know – we made it! I was so happy! Hiking in the winter is one of my favorite things and I felt like Jan 2, 2017 was a magical day on the mountain.