After a slow start to winter, Pinnacle Gully was finally looking in good shape. Ethan and I drove up on a Thursday in mid January and spent a day ice climbing at Frankenstein in Crawford Notch. We were excited to be out in gorgeous weather climbing, but the big next day on Washington was on both our minds.
Thursday evening we ate at Flatbread in North Conway and lingered in the restaurant to dry out our gear as best as possible. Headlamps went out at 8pm and alarms were set for 3:30am.
We left Pinkham at 5:45am and started the approach to Huntington Ravine. Everything went smoothly until we got to the base of the ravine.
After a bit of post holing, we finally made it to the base of pitch 1. I think about 3 hours had elapsed since Pinkham, making it about 9am.
We had bluebird skys the entire hike in but as soon as we roped up, everything got pretty dark and windy.
We climbed 3 pitches of ice, 1 pitch of snow and topped out at the alpine garden around noon.
As we packed up all our gear, we realized that the wind was picking up pretty good, and with the loose snow, it was creating whiteout conditions. We had a talk about whether or not we should continue to reach the summit and decided that since we had about 5 more hours of daylight, we had a big enough window to reach the summit and get back down. Ethan had never been to the summit of Washington and I had only been a few times. I was worried about how to find the Lion’s Head trail from the summit since visibility was about 15 feet. We figured last resort we would walk down the auto road.
We reached the summit an hour and half later at 1:30pm and to our surprise, there was a guide leading two clients to the summit shortly after we got there. We didn’t even have to ask if we could follow them for a bit, the guide was just like, come with me if you want to live. Maybe not those exact words but that’s what it felt like. I guess we looked a little lost just standing there at the summit marker looking in every direction, twiddling our thumbs.
Looking back, I think we would have found the trail, it would have taken some time, but we would have found it. Without the gigantic time window, we would have descended immediately from the alpine garden.
2 hours later we were back at the car trying to figure out what to eat for dinner! Good day!