Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Ravines

There was a cold wind blowing this morning as I left the house. Clouds were lingering from a passing cold front but high pressure was moving in with quickly clearing skies. It's been three weeks since my last hike and it was a good day to get back on the trail. Today's hike would take me to the floor of Huntington Ravine back down and around to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. There have been no major snowstorms this Fall and I was curious to see what the trail conditions were in these ravines.

I reached the Pinkham Notch parking lot and there was plenty of space available. This would not be a day of crowded hiking trails. A cold wind hit me as I left my vehicle. I put on three layers, Endo pants and summer hiking boots. This proved to be the winning combination and I did not have to change a thing throughout the entire hike. Should also mention that microspikes were on my pack but I managed to get by without them.

It was 8:15 and I was on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail heading for Huntington Ravine Trail. The ascent to the trail junction was refreshing in the cool wind. The trail was clear except for a few spots of ice that were "easily" avoided in most cases. Crossing the Cutler River on the Huntington Ravine Trail was a little tricky and I chose a submerged rock to step on rather than an icy one and it was a good choice.

As I made my way up into the floor of Huntington Ravine there was a steady buildup of ice on the trail but was able to navigate around and over it without any problem. When I reached the large boulder field there was a gap between two large ice-covered boulders and a 12 foot hole to drop into after a slippery misstep. I decided to err on the side of caution and make this my turn around point.

A hiker came along with ice climbing gear that was ascending Huntington Ravine. I said, "A little tricky around the next corner" and I looked back to see him hesitate for an instant then easily hop across the icy boulders and keep going. I moved on down the trail thinking it must have been the boots.

Hiking down the Huntington Ravine Trail I reached the fire road that leads to Harvard Cabin. It didn't take long to reach the cabin. There were two caretakers working and they invited me inside. I hadn't planned on stopping but I went on in, took off a few layers and ate lunch. It was warm and dark inside and a nice place to relax before continuing on.

The Raymond Path trail junction was not far, I turned right and made my way up to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Hermit Lake cabin. This was the first time I have been to Hermit Lake and no one was around. It was 11:50 in the morning and the sun had just dropped behind the mountain making a very early sunset.

The wind picked up and the temperature got colder as I ascended to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. There were still no other hikers. I reached my objective which was the bottom of the headwall to capture a few photos. While there was plenty of ice hanging off the headwall the trail was clear except for some occassional avoidable ice.

As I started my descent there were two hikers on their way up. Back at Hermit Lake there was one more hiker and I passed several others ascending as I was descending. Except for a couple of ice flows the trail back to the parking lot was in good condition for this time of year.

It is still late Fall but I found it to be very unusual not to see any snow. Looking ahead at the weather forecast there are no major snowstorms for the upcoming week. While I would still carry the microspikes the snowshoes can safely be left at home for the time being.

Panoramic View of Huntington Ravine

Panoramic View of Tuckerman Ravine 

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Sounds like the Ravines and Hermit Lake were incredibly enjoyable. Great pictures and report

    1. Thanks Scott - it was a great day to be out there!

  2. Glad to see you're still out hiking, Don! I've never been into Huntington Ravine, sounds like a good destination!

    1. Hey Jill - no snow for skiing but great hiking weather! According to the AMC guide Huntington Ravine is the most difficult hiking trail in the White Mountains...I won't be tackling the upper ravine any time soon!