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    JSTETSER   96,547
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More Mountain Mishaps

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.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANDYLIN90 9/17/2012 10:48PM

    YES!! It is so hard to turn around and not make the summit, but as great as that disappointment is, it's not even close to being dead or perhaps having to be rescued and making an appearance on the 10:00 news.

I had to turn around when I was within .3 miles of the summit of the Mt. Freemont Lookout in Mt. Rainier National Park. I was doing okay and still had the go power to make the summit, but as we all know, mountain weather can change in a minute. I could see the top and was so tempted to keep going, but as the temperature was rapidly dropping, I put on heavier clothes and turned around. I was able to get back down before there was trouble, but I know if I hadn 't turned around when I did, I would have been hiking in rain and sleet on slippery trails. And, oh by the way, I had seen a black bear with two cubs about 300 yards off the trail on my way up and I was feeling a little nervous about that also.

Thanks for posting; your experience is a good reminder for all of us to follow our inner wisdom, no matter how hard that might be at times.

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JSTETSER 9/16/2012 3:09PM

    Safe hiking is the best way to go!
I summitted Mt. Washington in June on Father's Day. No one likes to turn around. It is a humbing experience. I am not superwoman.

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JUSTDOINGIT101 9/16/2012 11:37AM

    A safe hiker lives to hike another day. Very wise.

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CJSARGENT1 9/16/2012 10:38AM

    emoticon

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KAYOTIC 9/16/2012 9:40AM

    You are so right, that mountain isn't going anywhere! And nothing you can do about the weather changing either, glad you are OK, and can face that challenge another day!

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DMF2012 9/16/2012 9:07AM

    Wow, I'm glad you listened to your intuition and everything turned out okay.

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BEARGODDESS 9/16/2012 9:07AM

    I'm so glad you decided to turn back! Stubbornness is what gets a lot of climbers into trouble and the mountain will indeed be there for another try. Your blog was beginning to sound like a chapter from a Jon Krakauer book! You'll get there and I'm sure I'll read a great blog about you summiting Mt. Washington in the future.

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