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Blustery Mount Washington

Balmy and pleasant, as usual.

We had trained two teams and led them on a hike toward the summit of the frosty “Rock Pile” named Mt Washington this past weekend. This stout 6288′ (4000-foot-plus) mountain is known for its extreme weather, and that’s what the weekend offered. Inset you can see the MWOBS forecast for the Sunday attempt. Note the winds and wind chills. The mountain was earning its reputation. The weather was indeed being fairly extreme.

The weather in the Mt Washington Valley on day one, the training day, wasn’t any nicer. In a way it was worse. It poured. Fortunately, the first half of the day was held indoors as it normally is — our Winter Skills course — and we were able to spend about an additional hour inside for some of the typically-outdoor Mountaineering Skills class content. This allowed time for the rain to taper and us to stay dryer in the end. It was still sloppy out. We encountered soft, saturated snow which was difficult to walk in, high water, yet we still managed to get some self arrest training in. The temperatures were mild so we didn’t freeze, anyway.

One group was with Ridj-it, the other was a fellow flying solo. Neither was a designated private tour so while the teams had their own guides — Redline Guides Jeffrey Shutak and Ryan Mcguire — they all trained and hiked in together. The training was conducted by owner Mike Cherim, along with newer guide Mike Maciel. Guide Ken Hodges was also present for the morning part of the training, as was Ryan.

The team went in together on their attempt on day two. They utilized the summer route of the Lion Head Trail, as we had expected. The team went on to treeline losing one member along the way. That team member was feeling uncomfortable on the glaze ice on the trail. It stands to reason, even with crampons and the training to use them properly, the conditions were scary. You can’t very well arrest on boiler plate ice. Jeffrey took them back. Ryan, meanwhile, continued on with the remaining three team members. They were able to stand for a moment of video just behind the Lion Head cairn. From there they wisely retreated down the mountain getting back to the visitor center with plenty of daylight left.

Photos from Saturday

Basecamp’s a beehive of activity, learning, and preparing.

Planning and preparation. The Mikes are teaching and Ken and Ryan are also present.

Training on the Sherbie.

Photos from Sunday

The teams combined as one.

Going up can be hard work.

Significant ice on trail. The winter route would probably be an ice climb.

Some of the members climbing up.

The dashing guides Ryan and Jeffrey. Looking sharp guys!

Lion Head… the summit of the day. Congratulations on that!

The alpine views were intermittent and limited at best.

What goes up, must come down.

The red rope is Ryan’s but we’d like to shout out to the guides for EMS who let us use their rope higher up. Thanks. We would do the same — we love the spirit of cooperation that goes on in those mountains. For one and for all.

Excellent job, everyone. Guides and guests alike. Good judgement leads to better safety and guests who return.

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