It is October and in most places, that’s considered fall, but on Mt. Washington, winter weather is not unusual in October. The original plan for the day was to hike the Madison Gulf Trail with my friend, Greg YEAH!, but for various reasons, we decided on Mt. Washington. The new plan was to take the Nelson Crag Trail up and the Boott Spur Trail down, with a side trip to Monroe, for a peakbagging/redlining combo trip.
The first order of business of the day was to help Ethan with a car spot. His plan for the day was 20 mile hike from Nancy Pond trail head through to Hale Brook Trail head, but he needed a carspot. Since I was on my way to Pinkham Notch anyway, we just got up a bit earlier so that we could drop his car off on Zealand Road, and then drop him off further down Rt. 302 at the Nancy Pond trail head. That done, I was on my way to Pinkham Notch and after finding Greg YEAH!, we got a nice early start well before 7:00a heading up the Old Jackson Road Trail to connect with the Nelson Crag Trail under grey skies.
The first part of the day’s adventure was to get to the Nelson Crag Trail via the Old Jackson Road. This was pretty easy as Old Jackson Road really did used to be a road. It was wide and the grade wasn’t difficult. This was not the case once we turned onto the Nelson Crag Trail. The first 1.7 or so miles climbed up. Steeply. If you’ve hiked either side of the Hancock Loop Trail or up the Twinway from Galehead Hut to South Twin, this was like those two hikes, except longer. Up, up, up and up some more. Eventually, though we cleared the treeline and were rewarded with some views out and down, even though we still had to hike upward.
The hike was far from over, and soon we came close to the Mt. Washington Auto Road, briefly before starting to ascend to Nelson Crag itself. Soon we found ourselves walking though the usual above treeline jumble of rocks which today were covered with rime ice. Definitely a sign of the seasons changing on Mt. Washington. The temperature was cooler and soon I knew we’d be at the mercy of the wind, which was forecast to be between 20 and 30 mph. Thankfully, the actual wind speed was not as advertised. We had winds of around 5mph, certainly much less than what is usually dished out on the Presidential Range. We kept going and after clearing Nelson Crag, our next objective was Ball Crag. Thankfully in this section, flatter section alternated with steeper ones, so I got some nice breaks in between the steep sections. Once over Ball Crag there was nothing left but a field of rocks, the auto road, and the Cog tracks between us and the summit buildings.
We arrived and quickly made our way to the actual summit – no pictures and there were plenty of people waiting in line for a photo, and it was easier just to tap the summit and move on to the inside of the Sherman Adams building for a lunch break.
After a nice break, it was time to get moving again. Greg YEAH! wanted to head down the Crawford Path and bag Monroe, plus redline the Camel Trail on our way to Boott Spur. Not a problem. I didn’t need Monroe for October, so I said I’d meet him at Lake of the Clouds Hut. This worked out nicely, as I needed to take a care of a few more things before leaving the summit area and he had an extra mile to hike. I made it down to Lakes, seeing more and more people as I approached the hut. Fortunately, the bench around the corner of the hut was unoccupied, so I sat down to relax and people watch while waiting for my hiking partner to arrive. I could see him descending Monroe, so I was ready to go when he arrived. We took off for the Camel Trail and ultimately, Boott Spur. Then the fun began, more new trail for me once we passed the Boott Spur Link Trail on the Boott Spur Trail. Like any trail on Mt. Washington, there was quite an elevation change over a short distance.
We stopped at all the viewpoints for some quick photos and kept heading downward until we came to the ladder, which Greg YEAH! said meant we were pretty close to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Sure enough, minutes later, we popped out onto Tucks and headed past Crystal Cascade and back to the cars.
It was definitely an interesting loop for hiking Mt. Washington with fewer crowds, some new scenery and with great company! Just due to our busy family lives and schedules, it might be a while before Greg YEAH! and I hike together again, so it was nice to get in one more hike.