Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hike To Washington Alongside The Cog

A weekend of warm weather was in the forecast. It looked like a great day for hiking above treeline on the Presidentials. There's a hike to Mount Washington that I've been wanting to do. This hike would take me to the summit alongside the cog railway, approximately 3 miles one way. This is not an official hiking trail and I wanted to do it before the cog started operating again for the season.

Water crossing with a bridge

Looking back at Marshfield Station

Zooming in on a hiker far up on the cog

Starting up beside the cog railway

Waumbek Water Tank

Once again it was a cold start to the morning on the way to the trailhead. Skies were clear, the sun was rising and the high summits looked fantastic. The Marshfield Station parking lost was closed and I parked in the hiker parking lot down below. I was dressed for a winter hike even though the forecast was calling for warm weather today. Temps were expected to be in the 50's and 60's but I knew that would not be the case on the summit.

Jacob's Ladder

I walked to the bottom of the cog railway with a couple of hikers that had their skis with them. They were on their way to ski in one of the gulfs but I didn't see any skiable snow anywhere. We crossed the bridge over the Ammonoosuc River and I stopped to take some photos. This is where we parted company and they were soon far ahead of me.

Summit Observatory

I was hiking up on what appeared to be an access road beside the cog tracks. It was a steady climb on smooth, grassy terrain. The temperature was already getting very warm and I was now at the Waumbek Water Tank.  I had been able to stay in the shade up till now but as the sun got higher I found it necessary to stop and delayer which included my long underwear pants. So I stripped down and started over again. With less layers I continued on up.

Wildcat Ski Area still operating this weekend

At one point I decided to try and walk on the tracks. I found this to be more difficult than walking on the ground. It took more concentration to keep from stepping between the tracks and falling through, it was also boring. I got down off the tracks when I reached a small building and passed under the tracks to the other side as the access trail had fizzled out on the side I had been on.

Mount Madison

Mount Adams

Mount Jefferson

Mount Monroe and Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Mount Eisenhower

Mount Pierce

I reached the first snow and ice of the day. It was very easy to safely walk over and around it. This would continue to be the case as I climbed higher. When I reached Jacob's Ladder, the steepest section of the trestle, the path was getting a little rough with loose rocks, old railway ties and patches of snow and ice. It was along here that I layered up again and put on the warm hat and gloves.

On the observation deck

As I got above treeline the snow and ice were continuous. I found it easier to walk on the tracks at this point even though there were sections of track that were covered with snow and ice. It was along here that I met the hiker that I had been following on the way up. We would leapfrog each other for the rest of the hike up as well as the descent.

Bretton Woods Ski Area closed for the season

Franconia summits

Once I got to the Gulfside Trail I put on my microspikes for the final climb to the summit. The snow and ice were very manageable with traction. When I got to the summit there was a cold wind blowing. The temperature was 26°F and windchill 10°F. I went inside the entrance to the Observatory and ate lunch with the hiker that I had met earlier. There was a picnic table to sit at and just being out of the wind made all the difference making it quite comfortable. One other hiker was getting ready to descend.

Mount Eisenhower

Lakes of the Clouds Hut from the cog railway

After eating lunch I roamed around the summit taking photos and enjoying the views. I saw no other hikers other than the two I had already seen. On such a beautiful day I would have expected more hikers up here on the summit. But the reports of ice on the other trails are probably discouraging a lot of hikers making this ascent. I was getting chilled and decided to start my descent.

Passing by the Waumbek Water Tank on the way down

Marshfield Station below

Looking back up the cog from the bottom

I used the same trails to get back down to the cog railway, Trinity Heights Connector to Gulfside Trail. With my traction still on I found it easier to walk beside the tracks rather than on them. The microspikes came off right about treeline when there were more rocks and dirt than snow and ice. It was a slow, careful descent over loose rubble. Once I reached the smooth, grassy access road it was a very warm and pleasant hike back to Marshfield Station.

I have now hiked to Mount Washington six times. This was a different and interesting hike to the summit with views along the entire way. It was also nice not to be battling the ice flows that I've seen on the trails for the past month. I look forward to leaving the microspikes and crampons behind but doesn't look likely for awhile. At least maybe I can lighten my pack load of winter layers in upcoming hikes this Spring!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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