Seek That Peak!

Peak Summited2019 Mount Washington
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadTuckerman Ravine Trail
EncounteredWildflowers blooming, Ripe berries
Hiking CompanionsHiked with a group
Road ConditionsRoad suitable for all vehicles
Bug StatusBugs were terrible
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

I started with no intention to summit; I had had two previous shorter hikes that I had struggled greatly with, but I did not want to miss out on this hike. We were on the trail by 6:30am. The plan was to hike until I wasn't enjoying it any more and then head down, so I waved my kids on. I was feeling really good, and my breath was good (exercise-exacerbated asthma) and I was so happy to be out on the trail!

There was an event going on called Seek the Peak, to encourage people to get out and climb. There had to be hundreds of people over the course of the day. Small groups would fall in with me and chat and move on when I stopped to catch my breath.The vertical ascent was quite manageable, and by 10 o'clock, I was at the Echo Lake, feeling very good and wanting to go on. I refilled my water, and decided to keep going a bit longer.

The trail got much steeper after that, and I was using my poles with good effort. I would go on for a bit then stop, catch my breath & sip water. When I got to the snowpack in the ravine, I took a short rest and was chatting with a number of people. I was told it was over 3 miles in, and realized that I was closer to the summit than the beginning of the trail. I also knew that ahead of me was the most grueling part, above the treeline, exposed in the sun (it was 90+ in N Conway, high 80's on the trail).  I had to make a decision at that point. I was hiking by myself, I had had physical struggles in my last two hikes. I knew if I summited, I would not have the reserve energy to descend, so I would need to catch the last shuttle down, which I was told was at 4pm. I could not depend on my kids to get down, they would be descending themselves & likely could not get to the auto road in time to help. On the plus side, I wasn't alone, there were so many people hiking with me, so I felt safety in numbers. I had 1.5liters of water, protein bars and fruit. The weather was clear and was predicted to be good. My breath felt good, my muscles weren't tired, my feet felt great. I tried to text my daughter thru the GoTenna but it did not go thru. I decided to go on; I had four hours to do the last 1.2ish miles.

The views were amazing. I looked over at Wildcat, where I had skiied years ago, and remembered gazing over at Mt Washington & Tuckerman's Ravine from the lift and trails there. People were sweating, grunting, and beaming every time we went around a turn and saw another magnificent vista of the Presidential range. The enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring.

It was slower going, I found it easiest to use smaller boulders as steps up rather than climb up the bigger boulders hand and foot. I stopped often to catch my breath and sip water. I was mostly climbing with a large group, of family and friends, a few of whom were really struggling.  One group coming down asked how I was with water, they were very well stocked & needed less for the way down, so they filled me up.  After an hour or so, I stopped for a rest and went to take a photo. I discovered that a text had come thru my phone. My kids were on the summit and wanted to know where I was. I fessed up and told them I was a mile from the summit. I reinforced that I was feeling really good, I was so happy, I was with a group, I was well-supplied, the trail was well-marked.  They asked me to send a pic of the next signpost. They waffled a bit about leaving me, but decided to descend on Boott Spur Trail.

The next signpost was 0.6mi to the summit and began the most treacherous part of the ascent. When I got to the sign post, I suddenly felt wheezier, and nauseous from gulping air, so I sat for a good 20 minutes. I realized I needed some more fuel, but was a bit afraid to eat a dry protein bar, as I was using so much water. Digging in my pack for dried fruit, I found the apple I had packed last minute; it totally hit the spot and gave me just the sugar I needed and the moisture that fixed my dry mouth. A couple descending checked my water status; 1/2 liter left. They assured me I needed more and gifted me with over a liter. I sent a pic to the kids, who reminded me to go slowly and pace myself.

The last part of the climb is the cairns; large rock cairns every so often marking the trail. I decided to stop and sip at every cairn, but I usually averaged every 3 cairns before catching my breath. I stopped to catch a picture at Crawford Path to the summit, and realized the time was 3;54; last shuttle was 4pm! At the end of the path, you have to climb up a long wooden stairway (WHY can't it be a ramp?!?) to get to the shop where shuttle tickets are sold. I wheezed out “Shuttle, please!” and got the last seat on the 4 o'clock shuttle down, which was actually leaving at 4:15. I had time to go fill my water bottles (I used every bit on the cairns!) in the other building. I took photos from the summit. I wanted to take my pic at the summit sign, but there was a huge long line. I took a selfie with the sign in the background, but passersby got in the way. When I headed to the shuttle, it was filled with people who had passed me and chatted along the way, they were cheering me for making it.  I was so exhilarated that I made it to the summit, in spite of my age and infirmities.

I caught up with my kids at the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center for my kids; they were exhausted and starving, but elated.  I was really glad I hadn't kept them from doing their climb the way they wanted to. I was so incredibly happy the whole day, it was truly one of the best days of my life.


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