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Racing to the Top

This will be one of those joint or combo posts. We had two teams doing the same thing which was basically our two-day winter Mt Washington epic — with exception to one student who was only there for the mountaineering skills training on day one. These teams were led by Redline Guides Pat Ferland and Glenn Van Neil. Neither team summited. As is sometimes the reality of it all being that this mountain is home to the world’s worst weather. From here on out, we will separate their stories. First up is Pat:

Team One: Pat Ferland and Crew

Snow, Sleet, and a White Out. Oh My.

Today my guest and myself attempted Mount Washington via the Ammo Trail. We met at 7 AM in a snow-rain mix at the trailhead. We were in high spirits and had high hopes. Knowing that the forecast called for wind and snow up high that we were going to have a fun and exciting day. We made short work of first part of the trail up to the Gem Pool where we donned crampons. Once we got above the waterfall area the temps went down and the wind picked up. This made route-finding trickier since we were making first tracks of the morning through those areas as we made our way up to the hut. Visibility was less than 50 feet so we didn’t see the hut until we walked into it.
We took a quick break there, talked about our options and our guest felt that should be more comfortable going to the summit of Mt Washington’s shorter neighbor, Mt Monroe. Once we left the hut, we were getting a face full of wind driven sleet at about 40 to 50 miles an hour as we made our way up over the shoulder of Monroe along the summit ridge to the top. She had a glorious time on the summit, and then we turned and made our way downhill. In the few minutes since we had passed our tracks were erased. At one point we stepped onto one of the small little snow fields on the side of Monroe and it actually settled about about two inches without weight on it indicating high avalanche potential with very active conditions up high. We made our way down and once we got below the waterfalls we kicked off our crampons, and hiked out back to the cars, amazed at the clouds above us were dark and spitting still. —Pat


Now it’s Glenn’s turn.

Team Two: Glenn Van Neil and Crew

Sometimes the Summit Stays Just Out of View, and Out of Reach.

DAY ONE: sunny, warm, slushy snow sums it up. The base of Whitehorse Ledge was our practice area for crampons, ice axes, body rappels, and sliding down while we learned and practiced self arrest. Except for the sliding down part, waterproof outwear wasn’t necessary.
DAY TWO: Pinkham Notch at 7 am, we meet and strategize in the Pack Room and then we were headed up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Winter Lion Head route. Snow falling the entire way, easy moderate pace up to the start of the steep stuff! Working the techniques we learned yesterday up we went. Strong footwork, strong climbing. The forecast was for wind up high, but we found conditions to be favorable for climbing higher. Up to the Lion Head, and then it hit us… sustained winds of 50-60 mph and very low visibility. A quick discussion about conditions and a we made the wise decision to descend.
Lower down back out of the wind, we discussed if we should have continued. Risk assessment is tough in those situations. We agreed it was the right call. Further into our descent came the lightning and thunder. Now we agreed all the more with our decision.
A successful climb doesn’t always involve a summit! Down and safe always tops the list! —Pat


To both teams, great job out there. Fine leadership and decision making. To our guests, thank you for choosing Redline Guiding!

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