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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

First Taste of Winter

Posted by hal | October 29th, 2008 | Filed under Uncategorized

Picture 1.pngFrom the lofty vantage of the Sierra, Cascades or Rockies, the ‘high peaks’ of New Hampshire’s White Mountains can seem like a little bit of a joke. After all, while western peak-baggers tick the summits of ‘fourteeners’, those of us who grew up among the aged and glacier-worn peaks of the east had to be satisfied collecting the more modest mountains of the four-thousand-foot club. And though I was raised scrambling among those peaks”whose names, like Lafayette, Madison, Chocouroua, bespeak their colonial scale”I have to confess that a half dozen years spent in the shadow of mountains nearly two miles taller had begun to wear off on me.

So it was a bit of a reeducation in Northeastern Weather to find myself squinting into the teeth of an October snowstorm last week, hiking at a mere 3,800′. Low on the flanks of Mt. Washington, only halfway up the cobble-strewn trail to Tuckerman’s Ravine, my hiking partner and I pulled on jackets and gloves as light flakes began to fall. As we climbed higher the clouds dropped to meet us, and fog ghosted about the talus as the storm flung sharp flakes against our faces. Soon, we had to pause at each cairn to pick out the next trail marker among the rhime ice. By the time we reached the summit, two inches of snow had fallen, and the summit had taken on the aspect of an antarctic expedition camp.

It was a short storm, clearing shortly after we began our descent from the summit, but it offered a reminder of the joys, and challenges, of the coming season. Back in Portland, Mt. Hood gleams under fresh coat of winter white, and from Boulder to Mt. Bachelor friends are seeking out the first tracks of the season. Winter’s coming. And, if Mt. Washington is any indication, you don’t have to go high to find it.

This post was submitted by former Nauian and frequent contributor, Alex Hamlin, who was recently back East to compete in the Head of the Charles and took some time out to do a little climbing. Thanks Alex.

One Response to “First Taste of Winter”

  • November 11, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Dan O says

    Winter training in New Hampshire’s White Mountains will toughen you up for almost anything!

    I have hiked and climbed all through the Presidentials and the Whites for decades. All in Summer and Fall, the “easy time”. Although I’ve had snowball fights in Tuckerman’s in August.

    I believe the highest wind speed ever recorded, 238 MPH, was recorded on Mt. Washington. I took kids on hikes every summer for years. The Presidentials, while mere bumps on the horizon compared to the Rockies, Himalaya, Alaska Range , et al, deserve the strictest of attention because they can kill you faster than you can say sneakers and t shirt on the summit.

    Every year at Pinkham Notch, the lodge starting point up Huntington and Tuckerman’s, I would walk the kids up to “the placque” . On it is a list of names, fatalities. And every year, almost every year, sadly, there appeared a new name. Or two. Or three. So I would show the kids and implore them to pay attention and to be happy to carry the extra weight of the sweaters, coats, hats, etc.

    After hiking and climbing in the Cascades, Sierra, Himalaya, Andes and Rockies, I still go back to New Hampshire every few years and enjoy the steep rugged trails, the firetowers, the huts and the views. It’s where I learned to love the wilderness and to respect mother nature.

    Thanks for bringing at all back with your post!

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