Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tuckerman to Washington Down Nelson Crag

Today I planned a hiking route that would keep me above treeline for a good portion of the hike to take advantage of the good weather that was forecast. This would be a loop hike, up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Mount Washington down the Nelson Crag Trail and across the Old Jackson Road back to Pinkham Notch parking lot.

Early morning fog in the valley

Cloud-covered high summits

Beginning and ending of today's hike

Lots of flowing water

Crystal Cascade

Once again the day started with fog in the valley but quickly cleared to bright blue sky on the drive to the trailhead. As the Presidentials came into view I could see a cloud bank covering the summits, exactly where I was going.

First view of Tuckerman Ravine

On my way to Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman Ravine headwall

Being a weekday there was plenty of parking available and I was soon making my way up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. It was a nice cool start and I would end up changing layers many times today from long sleeves to short sleeves, windbreaker, long pants to shorts depending on the changing wind conditions which were not at all extreme today but quite brisk in the early morning.

Going up the headwall

I took a quick break at Hermit Lake before moving up into Tuckerman Ravine. I stepped inside the cabin to check the anemometer, average wind speed was 25 mph. I spoke with the caretaker and he said winds were around 45 mph on the summit and that the clouds should be clearing in an hour.

Looking down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Water flowing down onto the trail

A view through the ravine

Lion Head from Tuckerman Ravine Trail

It was a beautiful hike up through the floor of the ravine. The wind was diminishing and the sun was warm. I changed to short sleeves and zipped off my pant legs before my climb up the ravine. There was a fair amount of water coming down over the headwall and parts of the trail.

Clouds clearing from the summit

Looking down on Lion Head

When I reached the top of the ravine I could see the clouds quickly disappearing from the summits. There was still a good breeze blowing and I changed back to long sleeves along the last 0.6 mile to the top. I got to the summit parking area and walked up over the wooden steps to complete my climb to the peak of Mount Washington!

Mount Monroe

Just below the summit parking lot

A view north from the observation deck

On the summit

Starting my descent

The line for the summit sign photo was long so I decided to take one about 50 feet behind it with a north view. I ate some lunch and took some more photos as well as a panorama video. The air temp was cool and a breeze was blowing making it feel cooler so the windbreaker and  pant legs went on. The descent would be longer than the ascent and I was soon on my way down on the Nelson Crag Trail.

Cog train on the way up

Crossing the tracks

A look back to the summit

The cog train was on its way up and I crossed the tracks after it passed by. I have ascended the Nelson Crag Trail to the Alpine Garden once before. Descending this trail was quite a different story. I had forgotten how steep it was in places...NOW I remember! While there were some fantastic views to be seen I had to concentrate on carefully watching my footing to avoid a twisted ankle.

Even reaching the treeline brought no relief to the steady, steep climb down. Handholds were necessary along the way I used roots and trees to help me. When I reached the bog bridges I knew I was nearing the trailhead at the bottom. It was a long 3.6 miles down the Nelson Crag Trail and I would certainly recommend this trail as an ascent and not a descent especially in wet conditions. After the first half mile I met no other hikers on this trail.

Auto Road below the Nelson Crag Trail

Northeast view

South view

North view

The Old Jackson Road was the home stretch and it made for a nice cool-down ending to today's hike back to the Pinkham Notch parking lot. My legs were feeling the rocky descent of the Nelson Crag Trail and were not happy, they will have to thank me later. I saw three hikers just starting their hike on the trail as I completed mine.

Bog bridge at the bottom of Nelson Crag Trail

Home stretch

Bog bridge on the Old Jackson Road

Final waterfall of the day

This was a great hike today with lots of exposure above treeline just like I wanted. The weather cooperated clearing the early morning clouds from the summits that allowed unobstructed views in every direction and a cool breeze kept the temperature comfortable. There were no crowds on the trails, no bugs and plenty of sunshine making a perfect day for taking some time off of work to hike the highest peak in the Northeast!

Two squirrels along the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

View from Mount Washington

Panoramic view from the Nelson Crag Trail

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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