It was Monday and I was already eyeing Friday’s forecast. In terms of White Mountain weather, that’s a long shot. It is a long time between Monday and Friday and the forecast can change dramatically. For the most part, in the winter, hiking plans are not finalized until 24 hours or so before the hike, with the weather double-checked the morning of the hike.
Friday’s forecast looked like a Presi day, with reasonable temps and low winds. Meaning, temperatures in the teens or higher above zero and winds 15mph or less. For January on the Presidentials, that is a phenomenal and rare forecast. A flurry of emails later and a hike was set up for Friday, weather pending.
Friday came and I was at the lower Marshfield Station parking lot at 7:00a, also known as the hiker’s parking lot at the Cog. All I knew was that I’d be joining WildBill and JebB., but it turned out that we were joined by Hikinguy, JohnG. and Rachel. It was going to be a good group and everyone was in good spirits because we had such a great weather day.
We headed up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to our first stop, Gem Pool. At this point, it was almost completely frozen over and crossing the outlet was easy. We then started up the steep part of the Ammo, the section between Gem Pool and Lake of the Clouds Hut. Although this section is steep, it is only a mile and very pretty no matter the season. We passed the first set of ledges and then the icefalls. At that point we were able to see out into the valley behind us. Higher up, we ascended the second set of ledges, icier than the first, but with some careful footing we were able to ascend in microspikes. Eventually, we got high enough where we could start the see the towers on Mt. Washington across the ravine. Quickly the hut came into view and time for a quick break before heading up to Monroe.
We left our packs at the hut, and headed up to Monroe, a quick .5 mile away. While up there, we enjoyed stunning 360 degree views. After picking up our packs back at the hut, we ascended the summit cone of Mt. Washington. This wasn’t too hard, and the ground conditions were such that we didn’t need snowshoes (no one carried them anyway!). The summit was a busy place on such a nice day, with quite a few groups of hikers, ascending from all directions and eventually heading out to enjoy the rest of the spectacular day.
We took a lunch break and then headed out for our last destination of the day, Mt. Jefferson. Since the weather was so good, it was a good idea to head over and tag that summit, too. We had already done the vast majority of the hard work and with only a little extra effort, Jefferson was worth the trip over. The sun was still shining brightly on our corner of the mountains, but we did notice that the clouds were gathering in the south, a sign of incoming weather.
We arrived at Jefferson, left our packs at the Jefferson loop sign and made the quick round trip to summit and back. In the short time we were there, the clouds had advance quite a bit, and the only peaks left above the clouds were the Franconias and Twins. All the others had succumbed to the advancing clouds. Even Eisenhower on the far right in the photo below is starting to become cloud covered.
We continued on toward the Jewell Trail, our exit trail from the ridge back down to the parking lot. The sun was becoming obscured and starting to set, so it was definitely time to say good-bye to the Presidentials and head home. We stopped one last time, close to treeline to watch the clouds roll over the range then headed down the trail into the trees.
The rest of the hike out was quick, although we were using headlamps by the time we got back down to Marshfield station. Back at the vehicles, it was obvious that we were blessed with rare gorgeous day to remember above treeline.
Special thanks to WildBill, JebB, Hikinguy, JohnG. and Rachel for being such a great group to hike with!