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Straight Up, Not Diagonal

The plan was to lead one guest from Brooklyn, NY, to do some on-mountain Mountaineering Skills training on day one, probably heading into Mt Washington’s Huntington Ravine if it was safe. They were going to stay at the Harvard Cabin, then attempt the summit the next day. The intended route was via Diagonal Gully in Huntington Ravine, but as noted in Will’s report, the potential for long sliding falls was too great. And there were other factors. Redline Guide Glenn Van Neil opted for the Winter Route of the Lion Head Trail.

As many of our guides like to do, Glenn fashioned his own report going into more detail for our use here. (Thanks!)

Guide’s Take: Two days of Adventure on Mt Washington

Who doesn’t like to stay at the Harvard Cabin? We began our day with an early hike up to the Cabin, the snow conditions started out firm with a crust of ice but quickly turned to a soft slushy consistency. It was close to 40 degrees in the sun! We attempted to hike up to Huntington Ravine to work on some mountain skills (crampon use, ice axe, self arrest, ascending/descending) but we quickly realized that in the soft conditions we were not going to make it far. After about 200 feet of postholing into the soft snow we decided to turn around and find another spot. Luckily the Tuckerman Ravine Trail had been groomed by the snow cat and it was well packed down. We found a steep section and practiced various crampon techniques and some other mountain skills before returning to the cabin. At 4pm, Jimmy, the Harvard Cabin caretaker, lit the wood stove and it was quickly a pleasant 65 degrees inside. We hung our gear to dry. Our conversation drifted from talking about the weather, to climbing, skiing, and other outdoor adventures, but eventually talk settled on what tomorrow would bring. A discussion ensued regarding what our route up the mountain would be and we settled on the Winter Lion Head route due to the unsettling snow conditions and lack of a decent conditions report for Diagonal Gully.
We were up at 6am, took in some breakfast and coffee, and we were on our way up shortly after 7 (the avalanche forecast is issued at 7am). We climbed on firm snow and ice that had refrozen over night. Conditions were great for crampons on the steeps of the route, we were making great time. Then, the unusual happened.
It was warm. Warmer than it was in the ravines, hovering at the freezing point. The snow returned to a slushy wet consistency and we found ourselves postholing through knee (and waist) deep snow across the Alpine Garden. What should have taken 20 minutes to cross took an hour. Shortly after arriving at the summit cone of Mt Washington we had enough. We would go no further.
Our decent was quick, out of the wind back into the trees. Walking deliberately in crampons, ready to self arrest if a fall happened. Even though the summit eluded us, we were happy and warm. Back to the cabin, a cup of coffee and a laugh with the caretaker (we felt bad, we woke him from a nap) and then down the trail back to the cars and civilization! —Glenn

Adding to Glenn’s report, it should be noted his descent was delayed as the team encountered a couple of under-prepared hikers that were sort of stuck and needed a little assistance. Glenn was happy to be able to help them out. We love it! On the mountain we’re all on the same team!

This was a private climb without photo permissions. This image is okay.

Great lead, Glenn! Great job, team. And to our guest, thank you for letting us lead you on this educational adventure!

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