Beginner climbs on Mount Washington

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 19-25, 1997
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Beginner climbs on Mount Washington
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Beginner climbs on Mount Washington
Question: I am thinking of going to New Hampshire to hike Mount Washington and would like to know where the best place to camp is. A campsite that is near a trailhead to allow me one to two days to hike the mountain would be ideal. Also, what kind of gear should I have based on the local weather conditions? Thank you for your time.

Thom Wood
Sterling, VA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: There are approximately a dozen ways to climb Mount Washington, ranging from a relatively steep 3.8-mile climb to a meandering 15-mile hike. The Huntington Ravine and Great Gulf trails have extremely steep sections, whereas the Davis and Crawford paths are old bridle trails with relatively easy grades.

If you've never climbed Mount Washington before, a good trail to start with is the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which starts at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center off of NH 16. It's a 4.2-mile trek to the summit, a trip that takes approximately four hours. For information on a campsite near the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, call the White Mountain National Forest reservation number at (800-283-2267).

Though Mount Washington is a mere 6,288 feet — puny by Rocky Mountain standards — it has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous peaks to summit because of the misleading temperature variations. It could be a 70-degree day at the base and turn into a howling storm near the summit. In fact, the wind exceeds hurricane strength more than 100 days of the year. In 1934, it reached 231 miles per hour. So you may want to start your hike in shorts and a T-shirt, but also bring along a wool sweater, wool hat, wool mittens, a parka, and some protective wind pants. For weather updates, call the National Weather Service in Concord at 603-225-5191. (The forecast also is posted at Pinkham Notch.)

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