From 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.