Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mount Washington and the Alpine Garden

After watching the weather forecast this week it appeared Saturday was going to be the better day for hiking. It's that time of year when the last remaining snow and ice are still in Tuckerman Ravine and alpine flowers start to bloom so the plan was a hike up Mount Washington (6,288') and across the Alpine Garden. My hiking route would take me up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit of Mount Washington, down the Nelson Crag Trail to a short section of the Huntington Ravine Trail then across the Alpine Garden Trail and onto the Lion Head Trail down to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and back to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

I started my drive to the trailhead in very foggy conditions. The fog was so thick that I almost missed seeing three moose beside the road in a mud hole. I captured the scene with my camera and then continued on through the fog. It was clear as I got up into Pinkham Notch and the sun was just rising up over the Wildcats. It pays to get an early start and there was plenty of parking available as well as very few hikers around.

A cool start to the hike but as the sun rose higher the temp got warmer and I was soon down to shorts and short sleeves. I saw a few other hikers but not the normal  crowds this early in the morning and it was a pleasant trip up to Hermit Lake. When I reached the caretaker cabin there were noticeable improvements to the deck area and the side of the cabin since the last time I was here. I had the place to myself which is very rare so I took a break and basked in the sun on the deck.

I was anxious to continue up into the ravine and check out the snow fields on the headwall. There were clouds of bugs that I had to walk through getting to the floor of the ravine. Once I reached the bottom of the headwall the bugs were gone. The next thing I saw was the Snow Arch. I've read about this but never seen it. The arch is formed by running water under the ice and snow field. It is large enough to walk into but extremely dangerous as large sections weighing tons could break off unexpectedly. I got plenty of photos as I moved up the trail.

The upper part of the trail was very wet but I much preferred wet over the ice that I've had to deal with this year. I left my microspikes behind and they were not needed today. There were several hikers coming down and I was thinking they must have gotten a very early start this morning but was told they had stayed at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut last night. I got to the trail junction and made my turn for the summit.

It was a 0.6 mile rock hop to the top. The last part of this hike includes a walk up a set of wooden steps from the summit parking lot, this almost seems like the most difficult part of the hike. Reaching the top of the mountain I was surprised to see no line at the summit sign, I had it to myself. I got a quick photo as the cog train full of tourists was arriving and I knew I would not be alone here for long.

I went inside the entrance to the visitor center and took a well-deserved break. I had something to eat and filled my water bottle. There was a cold wind blowing and I zipped the legs on my pants and put on a light fleece for the start of my trip down. Before leaving I walked up onto the observation deck to enjoy the views and take some photos. I almost found it necessary to put my gloves on but I didn't stay long and was soon starting my hike down.

My descent would take me down the Nelson Crag Trail. Halfway down this trail I started seeing the first blooming alpine wildflowers. When I got to the Huntington Ravine Trail I was out of the cold wind and back to warm temps. I went back down to shorts and short sleeves. At the trail junction I turned onto the Alpine Garden Trail. It's still a bit early in the season but there was still a lot of blooming diapensia and lapland rosebay. It's a great hike across this trail.

It's almost a mile across the Alpine Garden Trail before arriving at the Lion Head Trail. It's a very gradual, almost unnoticeable descent across this section of  trail before coming to the peak of Lion Head. The views into Tuckerman Ravine are spectacular. It's then a steep descent to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Careful footing is required. I once twisted my ankle on this trail requiring a trip to emergency room after the hike. Today I would make it down without any problems.

Back on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail it was a quick trip back to the parking lot. Many hikers were making their way up as I was going down. This was my seventh hike to Mount Washington and each time is different but always exciting. I look forward to my next hike to this summit!
Enjoy the photos!

Three moose in a mud hole on my drive to the trailhead

It was so foggy I almost didn't see these moose beside the road

Cloud hovering on Mount Washington

Cutler River

Crystal Cascade

Patch of Painted Trillium

First view of Tuckerman Ravine

Arriving at Hermit Lake

Basking in the sun at the Hermit Lake caretaker cabin

Boott Spur

Lion Head above the cabin

Cabin has had some new renovations

I'll be staying off the snow and ice

On my way up Tuckerman Ravine

Wildflowers are blooming

Busy bee

First-aid cache on the floor of the ravine

Small patch of ice over running water

Large section of ice and snow

The Headwall

Straight up

A view out of the ravine

Snow Arch

A large section of ice broke off

A wet section of trail

Bluets up high on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Tuckerman headwall

A view down Tuckerman Ravine

More ice and snow above the headwall

Looking back at Tuckerman Ravine

A view of Lion Head 


Southwest view to Mount Monroe

Mount Monroe

Cairns mark the Davis Path going south

Hiking up the cone of Mount Washington

Lake of the Clouds Hut down below

View just below the summit

The dreaded final steps

No line at the summit sign

Cog train descending

Wildcat Ski Area summit

Cog train on the way down

Northern Presidentials

A view to the east

A view to the west

Observatory tower

Starting my descent

A look back at the summit observation building

Crossing the tracks on the Nelson Crag Trail

Lapland Rosebay

A mix of diapensia and lapland rosebay


Wildflowers along the Nelson Crag Trail

Large cairn at the top of Huntington Ravine

Zooming in on the summit of Mount Washington from the Alpine Garden

Looking down into Huntington Ravine

Greenery along the Alpine Garden

Alpine Garden wildflowers below the cone of Mount Washington

Alpine Garden Trail

Mount Washington from the Alpine Garden

At the top of Lion Head

On Lion Head with Tuckerman Ravine behind me

Cairns along the Davis Trail above Tuckerman Ravine

Hermit Lake below Lion Head

Zooming in on the Hermit Lake caretaker cabin from Lion Head

Tuckerman Ravine Headwall from Lion Head

A view across Pinkham Notch to the Carters and Wildcats


Steep rock scramble

Hermit Lake from Lion Head Trail

One last rock scramble


Zooming in on a waterfall high up on the mountain

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