Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle in kind of quick fashion

I guess I’ll keep with the moderate speed climbing theme and share some beta on today’s 2.5 hour car to car ascent of this classic alpine rock climb. We’ll get the big disclaimers out of the way first;

1) This route is committing! From Mountain Project’s description: “The Pinnacle is above treeline on one of America’s deadliest peaks. The weather is unpredictable and often comes in from the west (over the Mt. Washington summit, thus invisible). Snow occurs in every month of the year on Mt. Washington, and high winds, driving rain, and thunderstorms are common. Be sensible. Check the forecast, get an early start, and be prepared to bail if things go bad.”

2) We used what I call the “modern” approach… the Auto-Road. While this “approach” cuts the hiking time down to less than 20% of the “traditional” approach/descent time from Pinkham Notch it has two disadvantages. First, you can’t really retreat down should bad weather roll in. As such this approach should only be used during very clear weather windows. Second, cost. $36 for a car, driver, and passenger. That works out to $18/ea. So my $.02 on using the road:

If you have never done the route from Pinkham I’d suggest doing it that way a time or two. It’s cheaper, and much more aesthetic the first time you see the grandness of Huntington Ravine from the bottom of the “Fan”. Figure 2.5 hours for approach plus or minus 45 minutes depending on fitness, and another 2.5 hours for the descent after un-roping (if not tagging the summit). 7am is probably a good start time.

If the weather forecast is grand and you want to cut out an average of 5+ hours of hiking from your day, this method is quite sweet. Mike and I left the car at 9:40am and hiked down to the Huntington Ravine trail. From the parking lot it took us 6 minutes to reach the large cairn at the top of the ravine, where we could see one party just starting the route.

Heading down the headwall
Heading down the headwall

Scrambling down the the headwall trail to the base of the route took us another 30 minutes. It’s a definitely 4th class trail so it could take longer based on your experience with down climbing with exposure. We roped up and I started up the first couple pitches in approach shoes. After 300 feet I caught up to a party ahead of us at the base of Pitch 3 and built an anchor. When Mike arrived we chilled for a few minutes to re-rack while Dustin’s party finished the 5.8 pitch 4 variation (having combined P3 & P4). We followed suit with Mike leading behind them and stepping out left to easier ground after the crux moves.

Mike starts Pitch 3 while Dustin cleans Pitch 4 higher up...
Mike starts Pitch 3 while Dustin cleans Pitch 4 higher up…

Combining these two pitches makes sense to me, but rope drag can definitely be an issue. Consider back cleaning that piece after the “groveled on my stomach move”. You’ll know it when you do it. After it is an “ok” pin that can be backed up if you like, then un-clip that last cam and life will be easier!

I followed the 5.8 pitch, still in approach shoes, and resolved to “quick-alpine-style” right at the crux (read he pulled or stepped on the pin). I’m not ashamed 😉

Once I reached the belay I took off for the upper bits. We still had two parties heading to the idyllic “Fairy Tale Traverse” ahead of us so I choose the easier 5th & 6th pitches without stopping to anchor until just below the final 30 foot technical section at the top. I belayed Mike up and then took a more solid belay for the final 5.6 corner and reached the top as the first party we saw while descending was de-gearing for a summit bid.

The first party on the route finishing the
The first party on the route finishing the “Fairy Tale Traverse”
Mike finishes the end of the roped climbing
Mike finishes the end of the roped climbing
Dustin starts the
Dustin starts the “Fairy Tale Traverse”

We headed up and to the car reaching at 12:10 pm, just under 2.5 hours. ViewRanger track log reported 1.49 miles round trip, about 1,200 feet elevation down then up.


I’d like to be a bit more optimized for my next attempt to get this one under 2 hours. For those who are SUPER comfy with the grade and have done it before, this is what I am planning on for next run:

Rack: .3-#2, no doubles, no nuts/tri-cams (thinking speed here). 6 alpine draws.

Rope: 9.2mm 30m rope. Simul to P3, belay 5.8 variation (my measurement is combining P3&P4 is still only 100 feet). Simul to last 5.6 crux. 30m rope will cut quite a bit of weight (and time coiling/flaking).

If the disclaimers at the beginning weren’t enough, these ideas are great for those who have scouted/climbed this route a lot. If it is your first time on it slow it down and have a great day!

While that’s it for speed climbing for a bit, heading into quite a few days of guiding camp groups, mostly from the AMC. Should be quite a nice week weather wise. Hope you all get out and get some good climbing in.

See you in the mountains!


One thought on “Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle in kind of quick fashion

  1. Nice report. Good meeting you and Mike up there. I agree, combining pitches 3 & 4 seems like a sensible option, but the rope drag can really become an issue.

    I want to check out Allis’ chimney the next time I’m up there, if anything for historical reasons.

    -Chris Newport


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