Seeking Mount Washington
I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. It was 4:30AM and 45 degrees outside. After fumbling around my tent I flicked on my headlamp and found my kilt. I could hear some of my teammates rustling in their tent so I knew it was go time. We had a schedule to keep so I ended up just throwing my tent and sleeping bag into the back of my Jeep without stuffing them back into their bags. Once Natalie, Mark, and I picked up Armando we headed to Dunkin Donuts. Bagels and coffee were on tap to fuel us for the 12th Annual Seek The Peak Hike-a-Thon to benefit the Mount Washington Observatory.
The afternoon before my team and hundreds of other hikersÂ descended on the Mount Washington Observatory’s Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, NH for registration. In the basement of the Discovery Center we checked in, signed waivers, and picked up our Esker Daypack goodie bags. I was very impressed how we were asked on one of the forms which trail we planned to take and at what time. Whenever you go out on a hike it is important that someone knows what your plan is just in case. They also made it clear that transportation off the summit is not always reliable due to weather that may blow in. After checking in, we headed upstairs for the Kick Off. Here we were treated to pizza from The Flatbread Company of North Conway, cheese, crackers, and fresh fruits. People mingled around talking to old friends and making new ones.
With the Post Party being at the base of the Auto Road, hikers had to plan accordingly. By 6AM the parking lot at Pinkham Notch was almost full. Instead of following the masses up Tuckerman’s Ravine we decided to go Boott Spur. I tied the laces of my Vasques and turned on the DeLorme inReach I was borrowing. Although this route adds about an extra mile we knew it would be a lot less crowded. It also doesn’t have any section as steep as the Tuck’s headwall. At one point there was a short ladder that had been built to help navigate a short steep section. Once on top I could see why the ladder could be very helpful for the trip down. There was some concern at the beginning about the sun beating down on us once we got above tree line but fortunately some clouds rolled in and there was a nice breeze. On our way up we had views of our final destination, Mt. Washington. We could also turn around and see back at the Wildcats. Once above tree line we were following cairns up to Davis Path. Natalie and I decided to mix it up a little and do some trail running. The guys thought we were crazy and didn’t run behind. From Davis Path we picked up Crawford Path for our final push to the summit. Up to that point we had only encountered a few others on the trail. On Crawford we started to encounter more of the masses. In the distance we could see the steady line of hikers heading up from Tuckerman’s.
It’s always such a great feeling reaching the summit. I sent out a message with the inReach and got a congratulations response from another team on the way up. The summit was very crowded, which was expected for a great summer Saturday. We found more of the Kilted Hikers and started getting pictures. At 11:30AM we gathered in a circle and had a memorial service for our friend Brad Bradstreet who passed away in April and was a huge supporter of the Mount Washington Observatory. After some more pictures we headed into the Observatory for a tour. A highlight of the tour was heading into the kitchen and being treated to some yummy homemade cookies. They truly hit the spot. It would have been great to get a picture with the summit sign but the line was so long and we needed to head down for the Post Party.
For the return trip to Pinkham Notch we swapped out some hikers and braved the crowds of Tuckerman’s. We were looking for the quickest and easiest way back so that we could get to the Post Party in a timely manner. At the bottom of the headwall we took a short break for everyone to catch up and rest their knees from the steep descent. Once we hit Hermit Lake Shelter I bid ado to my group and took off running, literally. Sometimes I just find it easier to go faster when heading downhill, especially when I have thoughts of a turkey dinner and lounging around at the base of the Auto Road taking over my mind.
Back at Pinkham Notch I met up with Mark and told him the rest of the group was a little farther behind. I loosened my laces, hopped in the car, and headed to the Auto Road. My first stop at the Post Party was to the Backpacker Get Out More tent. There I met up with Sheri who was able to pull up the website that was tracking our DeLorme units. She showed me the map and all of the dots, most of which were still coming down the mountain. Next she clicked on my red dot to bring up my path. Not only did it show my full trip It also showed where I sent out messages to the map-share page. Throughout the hike we were also able to send “text” messages via the GPS to each other. It was great to see how the units worked. From there I headed over to the SmartWool tent to oogle the prototype sports bra that was on display and should be available in 2013. Smartwool also happened to be an event sponsor and was giving out socks to all hikers and volunteers. Across the way, Vasque also had some prototypes of boots in the works. I really liked the direction that they are going with some of their winter boots.
The turkey dinner was to die for. It was like Thanksgiving in July. Cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey, and my favorite, butternut squash. I took way too much but managed to fit it all in, along with a large chocolate chip cookie and red velvet cupcake. Hey, I just hiked Mt. Washington, I needed to replace some calories. After dinner it was time for one of the best raffles ever. There were so many things to win. I usually never end up with anything during raffles but on this day I got lucky (or there were just so many prizes) and won a pair of snowshoe hiking poles. The true winner of the day was the Mount Washington Observatory. The event raised over $250,000 in donations and sponsorship support for the Observatory. Mark your calendar because the 13th annual event will be held July 19-20, 2013.