Trip Report- Willey’s Slide & Mount Washington

I was fortunate to spend the last two days with John W. who recently moved to New Hampshire from points south and has steadily been increasing his mountain skill repertoire. An avid hiker John had set a goal to summit Mount Washington in the winter and felt a One-Day Mountaineering Course would be a good pre-cursor before a Mount Washington summit attempt. You see John had tried Mount Washington non-guided in the winter last year with rented equipment and came to find out there is more to using crampons in steep terrain than meets the eye. He can tell you that story personally if you get the chance to cross paths with him in the mountains but I can tell you about our two days.

After spending some time at the Northeast Mountaineering Bunkhouse dialing in our gear choices and packing strategies we made our way to the historic and classic Willey’s Slide in Crawford Notch. At the base of the route the snow was perfect for practicing self arrest, the fundamental skill of quickly stopping oneself while sliding down the mountain with an ice axe. This skill is not intuitive but must become second nature should you wish to travel in steep snowy or glaciated terrain. John showed marked progress after a half hour of practicing. We then worked our way up the first couple hundred feet of lower angle snow climbing working on proper crampon technique.

ice climbing new hampshire
John works on crampon technique with Mount Webster behind him
ice climbing new hampshire
Short pitching our way up the right side of Willey’s with a party of three on the center ice line

A quick list of skills we covered:

Gear selection & packing

Crampon Skills: French Technique, German Technique, Front-Pointing

Ice Axe Skills: Piolet Canne, Self-Arrest Grip, Travel Grip, Self-Arrest from all possible falling positions

Roping up, how & why

Short-pitching, ice screw placement, anchoring in

Knots covered: Figure 8 follow through, Clove-Hitch, Overhand on a bight, Figure Eight on a bight

Rappelling with a device

Arm-wrap rappel


Day 2- Mount Washington Attempt

We met at 7 am sharp and headed off to the trail-head to get a jump on some questionable weather coming in the afternoon.

Climbing Mount Washington
Ready to roll

With low avalanche danger and well above freezing temperatures I decided we would forego the typical Winter Lionshead Route and tackle the more direct (and arguably more fun) Right Gully of Tuckerman Ravine. We still carried avalanche gear with us along with some ultralight harnesses, helmets, and a short rope due to the semi-technical ascent choice.

Climbing Mount Washington
We made great time to Hermit Lake arriving here by 9:30 am
Climbing Mount Washington
The floor of Tuckerman Ravine is always impressive
Climbing Mount Washington
Heading up towards Right Gully
Climbing Mount Washington
Topping out Right Gully
Climbing Mount Washington
Final push above Split Rock
Climbing Mount Washington
The clouds lifted for mere minutes while we got a quick summit photo

With snow conditions prime for glissading I brought us over to the top of the East Snowfields on the south side for a fantastic ride back down to the flats (see video).

Climbing Mount Washington
Dropping a thousand feet in elevation in 10 minutes tends to make you smile

We then connected into Lobster Claw Gully for another quick descent back to the floor of the ravine.

Climbing Mount Washington
Faster than Winter Lionhead but need to be avalanche aware and know how to navigate into them from above!
Climbing Mount Washington
Blue skies as we exit
Climbing Mount Washington
Sun setting on the Boott Spur Ridge as we leave Hermit Lake

Thanks to excellent snow conditions and Johns affinity for hustling downhill we made it back to the parking lot 2 hours and ten minutes after standing on the summit!

This day happened to be John’s 55th birthday and I was truly honored to spend it with him in such an amazing place! I look forward to seeing him in the mountains again soon.

Checkout some of the video from our two days!

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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