Classic Washington via Tuckerman’s Ravine, 8.20.12

Although my son is done with his list, he’s not done hiking!  We have plans to hike in Vermont and Maine next summer, but until then without a list overshadowing his hiking choices, he has his choice of the entire Whites.  He’d never been up to Washington via Tuckerman’s Ravine, and since this is a classic White Mountain hike, we both thought it would be good idea for him to have hiked it at least once.  Personally, I hadn’t hike the entire length of the trail to Washington and back in 16 years.  It was actually the first hike I did, and at the time, my husband had no idea of the monster he’d create when he took me on that hike.  For fun, I’ll include some of our photos from that hike with the ones from this hike.

Monday morning we were up bright and early heading toward Pinkham Notch, with a goal of starting up around 7:30a.  He likes to start early and that works well for me, too.  The weather for the day was predicted to be beautiful, perfect for a hike to Washington.  We started out with the temps in the low 50’s, and he didn’t want to stop for a picture, as he wanted to hike to get warmed up without having to put on a fleece and then take it off five minutes later.

“Hurry up and take the picture, Mom! I’m cold!” He opted not to wear a fleece and have to take it off five minutes later.

We quickly made it up to Crystal Cascade and after admiring the falls, we set off up the trail, with our next destination being Hermit Lake Shelter.  The trail is wide and although rocky, fairly easy hiking with a moderate grade.  Getting closer to the shelter, the grade let up a bit and we cruised up to the caretakers cabin and had a nice break.  While we were there, we admired the bowl, checked the map and the avalanche report board.  No avalanche danger today.

Crystal Cascade, as pretty as it always is in the morning light.

The caretaker’s cabin at Hermit Lake, Sept. 1996, not much different than today, except that there is more foliage now.

Cameron taking a break on the deck at Hermit Lake.

Taking a break in 1996, I think this was taken at or near Hermit Lake.

Looking at the map and then up to bowl, our next section to hike.

Checking out the winter photo of the ravines before heading up.

Refueled and ready, we started the next section of the hike up to lip of the bowl and Tuckerman’s Junction.  The first section is relatively easy with a little elevation gain and then a flatter section.  Then the steeper and trickier portion is next.  The trail has many rock steps, some which are wet as it curves around to the right and up the headwall.   Although steep, it is short and soon enough we were past all the wet sections and heading up to Tuckerman’s Junction.  This portion was much easier than Cameron thought it would be, which was a good thing.

Looking toward the lip of the bowl from the upper floor of the ravine, 1996.

Cameron standing in almost the same spot as the 1996 picture, the First Aid cache is to his left, out of the photo.

Getting closer to hiking up the headwall!

Very pretty, yet potentially dangerous scenery on the headwall.

Cameron heading up and around the headwall.

At the junction, we took a break and although we knew we’d be rock hopping, we also knew that it would be less than a mile to the summit.  The first time I’d hiked this I remember looking up at the boulder field and getting a bit demoralized, wondering how long it would take to ascend it.  This time, it didn’t seem like so much of a challenge, so we set off, watching our footing and making our way up from cairn to cairn.  Eventually, we started to see people sitting around on the rocks that didn’t look like they had hiked up, and sure enough we were at the lower parking lots.   A quick trip up the stairs and we were on the summit.  We made it up in book time, 4:15, which is reasonable considering we weren’t hiking as fast as we could and we took plenty of breaks.

Tuckerman’s Junction in 1996, where quite a few trails meet before the final ascent of the summit cone of Washington.

The giant cairn and post with a variety of signs, still at Tuckerman’s Junction.

The rockpile in 1996 with just a few summit antennas peeking over the top, it looked pretty daunting then.

On top, our first order of business was lunch.  As usual, food is a favorite topic of hikers and we had already discussed lunch plans and options on the way to the summit.   Even though we did have a few peanut butter sandwiches in our packs as back-up lunches, we agreed that chili and chips sounded better and decided against the ideas of hot dogs, pizza and deli sandwiches.   We enjoyed our chili, and then took a tour downstairs of the Mount Washington Observatory weather museum, bought this year’s souvenir, a Marty the cat poster, and then toured summit and observation deck.  By this time, we’d stayed on the summit long enough and it was almost 1:00p, and time to descend.  I didn’t want to leave too much later than that so that we’d have plenty time to descend and drive home.

Obligatory summit photo.

Cameron with Adams and Madison in the background.

The Cog arrived just as we were leaving, so we snapped this photo from the staircase.

The Cog in 1996, we were able to watch several trains come up the tracks that day.

This was before the bio-diesel engines were built and put into use on the Cog.

We moved along on the descent and before we knew it we were at Tuckerman’s Junction, then Hermit Lake and with an extra burst of energy, we picked up the pace and made it back to the car by 4:30p.  We had really great hike, blessed with beautiful weather and health to enjoy all the scenery that Tuck’s could offer.  It was fun to remember back to that first hike, and look at the whole thing now with a completely different perspective.  Time and experience certainly change one’s perspective of a place and event!


3 thoughts on “Classic Washington via Tuckerman’s Ravine, 8.20.12

  1. Summerset . . . what a terrific (and effective) idea to intermix photos from a past trek to Mt. Washington with the photos of your current trek to the same destination! I love it!

    It was also a great idea to have Cameron experience this classic route to Mt. Washington. When he writes his own retrospective report about this years from now, I can’t help but feel that he will come to a similar conclusion as you, i.e. “It was fun to remember back . . . and look at the whole thing now with a completely different perspective. Time and experience certainly change one’s perspective of a place and event!”


  2. As John said, the combination of old and new photos was a great touch! How nice it must be for Cameron to be able to just pick his hikes now without thinking about th list. This is definitely a great one. Enjoy ME and VT when you get to them. They’re in our sights too. Perhaps well run into you out there…

  3. Thank you both! Glad you liked the combo of photos. Mark, maybe we will cross trails some day. If you’re out in the Whites, eventually you do cross trails with people you know from all over.

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