Earlier this summer, my family was lucky enough to take a vacation to the Seattle area. For those who hail from the Pacific Northwest, you’ll know the reality of this region; its natural beauty is overwhelming. As I hiked along in Mt. Rainier National Park with the stunning peak hidden somewhere in the clouds above me, I was reminded of the beauty of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. While the mountains up north are less than a third as tall as the Washington volcano, I realized how little I had taken advantage of the stunning beauty of the New England peaks.
Though an array of gorgeous hikes dots the Northeast, I had my mind on the Presidential Range, a series of 13 mountains, 9 of which stand at over 4000 ft. The tallest of these, Mt. Washington (named after our first president) towers at 6,288 ft. Why not attempt the biggest one?
Throughout the summer I schemed and planned how I would summit Mt. Washington. With the fastest winds ever recorded in the United States and it being dizzying cold in the winter, I knew I would have a limited window to climb it upon arriving back at Gordon this fall. My original plan was to summit in mid-August even before Orientation began; when that fell through, I looked for the next best opportunity, hopefully before snow covered the top in early October.
On September 15, I woke up at 4 a.m. and hopped in the car with three friends and set out to climb to the peak. A sunny, cool morning greeted us as we climbed out of the car at the trailhead and joined the numerous other hikers looking for a thrilling adventure. Although we had checked several times before arriving, we continued to check the weather forecast. While New England is renowned for its rapid weather shifts, Mt. Washington takes it to a new level. Clear, sunny July days can turn into a relentless snowstorm in a matter of minutes. Fortunate for our trip, the weather cooperated.
Borne out of a need for speed and a desire for a workout, we kept a fairly brisk pace. Almost exactly three hours after leaving the car, we arrived at the summit. The last hour or so, we climbed through clouds as they flew past us. It took us about two hours to return to the trailhead.
Utilizing the Tuckerman Ravine trail, climbing Mt. Washington is a reasonably manageable workout. At 8 miles roundtrip and 4,000 ft. of elevation change from the trailhead, any reasonably fit person with basic hiking experience can summit this mountain. It’s important to use caution and prepare well though. Bring plenty of water, snacks and warm clothes. The day we hiked, the summit was 43º with an average wind speed of 58 mph.
Because of its recognized status as an enjoyable hike, a reasonable challenge and the highest point in New England, the internet is full of advice on how to be safe and smart when climbing the mountain. Be sure to read some of these guides before adventuring up North. One of my friends climbed Washington barefoot and the other one did it without a shirt. I fueled my climb with ten Pop-Tarts. Live on the edge, but also use common sense.
To conclude: I think every person living in the region should attempt the mountain if they have the resources. Take a free day some weekend and climb Mt. Washington! A car, money for a tank of gas, food and a group of friends is all you need to experience the stunning beauty of this classic New England peak.