Sunday, September 16, 2012
The weather report was less than perfect has we prepared to hike Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. 60% chance of rain, a cold front coming in, and high winds in the afternoon. We gave up on our plans to hike Huntington Ravine (on Mt. Washington). It is considered the steepest climb in the Whites. Wet rocks are not a hiker's friend-especially on a steep climb. Instead, we headed over to Boot Spur-another peak on Mt. Washington.
We hiked under threatening skies through the woods. Once we got above tree line, the winds picked up. As we hiked, the temperature plummeted from 58 to 37. By the time we reached the summit of Bootts Spur (5500 ft elevation), the winds were gusting at about 60 miles per hour, and it was starting to rain. I did something that I’ve never done before on the trail. I turned to my husband and said; “Let’s go back.”
As we made our descent, the rain turned to sleet, and then to hail. My fingers and toes were getting numb as a bit of hyperthermia set in. My legs and back got very cold as the temperature and wind chill cooled me. This is only the second time in my life that I’ve felt the effects of hyperthermia. The first time was hiking in July. Hyperthermia can affect a person in any season.
By the time we were back to the Tuckerrman Ravine Trail, I was fine. All I needed as a hot bath and a good meal. I’m really happy that I was able to make the decision to turn around. Washington is a summit that has eluded us many times. Our hiking motto is: “THIS MOUNTIAIN IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” We can always hike another day. I have a new respect for Mt. Washington.
So what did I do wrong? I did not understand that the temperature on the mountain summit can change quickly, and that we easily could have encountered colder, harsher conditions. We had climbed up over 3,000 feet of elevation. There are many people who can hike unprepared, and seem to do great.. We saw some adventurous Frenchmen who “laugh in the face of danger”. We met hikers who had no gear for the cold or rain. They all wanted to summit Washington as much as we did. I hope that their hikes were free of mishaps.