The Mountains Are Calling: Hiking Mount Washington

I look up thinking how beautiful nature made you, wondering at the sheer monstrosity of your ability to question my strength, my endurance, my inner voice!  Your face so high up in the clouds, looming over me, frightening me. I whisper to myself, “Can I do this?”. There is a tiny voice inside me urging me to go ahead, telling me I can do this. After all, I’ve been meaning to say “Hi!” for a while now. 🙂

Too dramatic? 😉 Well, I’ve wanted to hike Mt. Washington for a while now, but for some odd reason, we never got around to doing it. This summer, it was time! This is what I knew/heard about Mt. Washington which was enough to pique my interest.

  • Part of the Presidential Range/White Mountain Range, Mt. Washington is the highest peak in New England standing tall at 6288 ft above sea level.
  • It is known to host one of the world’s most erratic weather conditions which is one of the biggest challenges when deciding to trek here. The Mt Washington Observatory claims the summit to be the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather!”
  • The highest recorded windspeed as observed on Earth’s surface, barring typhoon conditions, was recorded here. The highest windspeed recorded being 231mph (372kmph).
  • The summit of Mt. Washington has several buildings of which the Mt. Washington Observatory for weather observations is one of them.
  • The summit can be reached via three ways: Foot (exhausting!), Auto Road or the Cog Rail
  • Often in the list of America’s most difficult/dangerous hikes.

For novice hikers, there a few things to be kept in mind during a summer hike:

  • The weather can change very quickly, very fast. Make sure you are dressed to handle even a 30F drop in temperature as you go up ( yes, even during summer this is bound to happen! 😐)
  • Start early! This gives you ample time to rest on your way up and down without having to worry about loss of light ( and early bird gets the parking spot at the base! 😋).
  • If you’re planning to hike up one way only, and then plan to take the cog rail or the shuttle down, it’s imperative to reach the summit by 15:30. Although, the website states that the last shuttle down is at 16:00, tickets to the last shuttle are sold out way before that. The same applies to cog rail.
  • Hiking boots are a winner here!
  • Carry liquids, energy bars, Gatorade, trail mix etc., you’re going to need them!!
  • Stay on the path! Straying can get dangerous especially because of the weather. Over 120 deaths have occurred during treks to the summit.

The Visitor Center at Pinkham Notch will give you all the information you need about the different trails you can take, a little bit about the geographical history of Mt. Washington and you can always ask the very helpful people behind the desk about the weather for the day. We decided to take the Tuckerman Ravine Trail which starts at Pinkham Notch. The Tuckerman trail is a 4.2 mile hike to the summit with many beautiful scenic spots(*don’t forget to take your camera!* 😉 )!

The start of the trail is absolutely beautiful. You’re taken into this beautiful green marquee made up of trees with its shadowing playing around. When it’s very quiet, the soft rustle of leaves is like music to the ears, very soothing and relaxing. A short walk will take you to a bridge crossing the Cutler River. Don’t forget to view the (not so big!) waterfall! ☺️ The trek to Hermit’s shelter which is around 2.4 miles from Pinkham Notch, is relatively easy making you wonder what all the hype was about. 😋

Until Hermit’s Shelter, this is a trail which can be done by most members of the family. From here on out, the trail to the summit was exhausting for me! Before you head out, don’t miss out on the beautiful vista of Mt. Washington as well as the end of the Tuckerman Ravine. You can recharge your tired batteries here before the difficulty of the trail goes up by leaps and bounds!!

For a novice hiker like me, the next 1.7 miles to the summit was a challenge! The elevation goes up drastically and I had to stop frequently to catch my breath. Flowing water, slippery rocks and the winds added to the difficulty. I kept second guessing every step I took after a few slips. My mind kept playing games with me. I look up and I see boulders, big and small, and I imagine them coming rolling down, squishing me like an ant getting squished and then moving on. I look down and I see how much pain I could be in if I misstep and how far if go rolling down. I look ahead and see this stunning range of mountains and immediately I’m at ease. It’s amazing how a thing of beauty can take away all every morsel of fear within you.

The very last 0.7 miles to the summit was the hardest for me. Ever so often, I was on all fours trying my hardest not to get my leg caught in a crevice or to slip and fall. There was a point where I thought I couldn’t go on any further. Every muscle in my body was urging me to stop, to breathe, to rest. There was no strength to move forward or hike back down! *Yeeesh* It was encouraging to hear people coming back down cheering you on and letting you know you’re almost there. It’s a good idea to keep telling yourself you’re almost there because the peak is almost not visible until you’re actually almost there! 😉

Have you ever felt that sweet, sweeeeeeet feeling of blissful joy depsite being completely drained, physically and emotionally? Did you ever think the sound of cars and humans right at the top of the mountain will make you happy(*Yes, I like nature being pristine!* 🙂 )? Have you started something and then thought you would give up on it, only to finish what you started with strength? These are some such things you will strongly feel when you reach the summit! For me, climbing Mt. Washington was not only a test of my physical strength but also my mental being. There were times where it was mind over body and only that need to finish got me to the top. It’s a thing of joy to overcome what you thought you feared.

Up top, I had a moment of grief! You reach the top with a lot of difficulty only to realize you need to climb a bunch of steps to actually reach the top *face palm*!! Considering I was super exhausted, I almost cried looking at the flight of steps! 😉 There is a shop for you to buy memorabilia as well tickets to take the shuttle down. There are restrooms available as well. Also, the Weather Observatory is present if you want to have a look! 🙂 The tickets to take the cog rail down are available at the summit also.

Climbing Mount Washington is an experience I never want to forget. If you find youself in New England, this is a must do activity! 🙂

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or moving your lawn. CLIMB THAT GOD DAMN MOUNTAIN!” – Jack Kerouac

Until next time! xoxo

Trupti | Novembrella

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