What's the Hub-bub about Hup-pup – and where's my video!

by The Mighty Quinn

Well that was quite the excursion! I could probably generate quite a few pages of observations from my four-paw perspective. But I think it wiser to stretch (mmmmm, stretch!) the reports out a bit while I let it all soak in. I do want to share some tidbits from the Washington trip so here goes!

I really love my work and role as Adventure Dawg (t.m.?!). Guiding the big guy up a mountain really puts my skills to the challenge. There’s so much subtlety to it I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t hit the trail with us can fully appreciate everything I have to do! Some of you may have seen our cool You Tube video, or the one from the Nashua Telegraph Online which really showcases me at work on a mountain. I cannot wait for everyone to see the fantastic high-end video release we’ll have for you in mid-August, showcasing the Mt. Washington experience. I’m not one to wait too long, though, so in the meantime I hope you all like this little video montage put together by Tracy.

Watching us work, you may notice that Dad uses this strange phrase – “hup-pup” – with me all the time, and particularly often while we are hiking through challenging portions of a trail. I’ve been asked what it means and the answer isn’t simple: in clever human fashion its meaning changes constantly depending on the situation. Today, though, I’ll let you in on some of my and Dad’s trail language, our own sort of secret code we’re developing for our hikes.

In normal situations, hup-pup usually means Dad wants me to go forward, or sometimes go faster – like after I pause to show him a curb, or when he wants to pick up the pace (which I love!)

In the case of our mountain excursions it usually means Dad has noticed an obstacle I’m showing him. Hup-pup from Dad means I should evaluate how big the challenge is, and let him know how I think we should handle it. Here’s how I do it.

Quinn-Con 1

If I proceed after a single pause and hup-pup, I’m showing Dad a minor obstacle. This is a normal alert level – I call it Quinn-Con 1 – and is pretty similar to a hup-pup in “real life.” I’m usually pointing out a step or small jump up onto or over whatever I’d shown him.  In these situations I expect he’ll be able to follow me easily, and we usually proceed smoothly past the obstacle.

My harness location always gives him a lot of information, too – am I above or below him, for example – and I may even position myself to give him easier footing, to protect him from a rough spot, or to give us a better angle of approach for the next obstacle. After all, mountain climbing is one constant obstacle after another – but I’m up to the task!

Quinn-Con 2

Other times, Dad will give me a hup-pup, but I’ll stay put. This is what I call raising his alert level to Quinn-Con 2. Yep, I’m ignoring a command from Dad! This is called “intelligent disobedience.” I think the “intelligent” part is right, but the “disobedience”? I think it’s a bad rap, and here’s why: When I ignore a hup-pup, I’m alerting the big guy that his command might get him into trouble. After all, my first priority is Dad’s safety!

So, when I don’t proceed after that first hup-pup, I am raising Dad’s awareness of the difficulty of the obstacle – maybe it’s simply a higher step than I think he realizes, or perhaps I see that the footing is rougher than even his rubbery ankles might withstand. Let me tell you it is challenging to be looking right at a problem and be fairly certain Dad doesn’t fully understand it, since he’s telling me “Let’s go for it Quinn!” So I make him wait until I’m sure he gets it. He’s pretty good at praising me for my decisions, and that helps me feel confident warning him whenever I need to.

Quinn-Con 3

The third and final alert rating I use – Quinn-Con 3 – indicates the challenge is really hard. In these cases, even after Dad’s second hup-pup, I won’t advance. More often than not, I’m warning him that not only is there a very big step up, but perhaps a lip and or other serious footing challenge that he must attend to. Our next maneuver may very well require Dad to drop my harness if he can’t keep up with me (if, say, I have to crouch into a Mighty leap – though sometimes we surge up together and I love that!), or I feel he can’t keep his balance next to me safely.

Commonly Dad will wisely sweep with his hiking stick to locate the impediment I’m pointing out to him. I’m way easier to follow and to trust than the stick, though. Plus, for Dad the stick enhances balance and stability and should remain planted as often as possible. I know all of this, so I don’t alert to this level unless necessary.

Sometimes, though, I’ll cut right to the chase. Instead of going through all three alert levels, I’ll actually give a little backwards push into the harness right from the first hup-pup, to let Dad know we’re heading straight to Quinn-Con 3 and he can go head and explore options for getting past the obstacle without holding my harness. This is usually my most serious warning, and countless times I’ve saved his knees from nasty protruding rocks this way. Dad is pretty good at respecting this approach and almost always gives me a bit of extra praise for the decision. This also helps us make good time through the mountains, which Dad and I both appreciate – there’s Adventure to be had!

Sometimes Words Speak Louder than Actions

So I said that I use the backwards harness push move as my highest warning level and that is mostly true. For very severe situations, though, I’ve developed the patented Quinn Whine. You hopefully all know I do not whine. There’s no whining in the mountains! This is just my way of vocalizing to Dad so I can really get his attention. I continue to wag my tail as proof that I’m still excited and enthusiastic, but I simply must make the man aware of the impending peril which I’m sure he hasn’t yet grasped. Dad always reads me loud and clear, drops my harness and very cautiously explores the area. In fact I encourage him to question nearby humans in these situations, so they can alert him to whatever he might not learn from me. The results of this approach are mixed but at least he knows it’s my professional opinion that he’s a little crazy to be undertaking the section of “trail” immediately in front of us!

All this with one basic command – and all this is just when going upwards on a trail.  The down hup-pups have a whole different array of warning levels. But I’m not revealing all our trail secrets just yet!

While I didn’t quite track the number of times we worked the ‘hup-pup’ during our eight-hour hike up to Lakes of the Clouds, I can tell you it was literally thousands of times on the journey. It’s no wonder we both burn an incredible amount of mental energy on our mountain adventures. Plus, my many mighty leaps make me physically tired (wouldn’t you be?) and having to stabilize the harness as Dad maneuvers takes some work too.

All in all I give us both tremendous credit – but there’s no doubt in my mind who is top dog! In fact guess who was standing on the pin FIRST at the very summit of Mt. Washington when our journey was complete! Check out my summit photo!

Mighty Quinn – Adventure Dawg

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Are Randy’s Ankles Made of Rubber?

by Carrie McMillen

So by now you’ve read some of the details of our momentous weekend on various posts and blogs. I wanted to offer a hike leader’s perspective. Here it is: this trip was TOUGH.

Each of us carried 20-30 pounds on our back (Randy is rumored to have over 45 pounds) up a very steep trail, some of the time moving very slowly and a lot of times, not moving at all. We stopped for various things – water, food, one bloody knee, dozens of hikers wanting to pass, doggie boot switches, stream crossings, ladders and scrambles. We stopped numerous times to debate the best way to tackle the next sets of rocks. Carrying weight while standing or moving slowly over a long period of time can take a physical and mental toll on anyone. I hiked the Ammonoosuc Trail two years ago in dense fog. I thought it was kind of challenging from a mere physical perspective, but I didn’t remember it being THAT HARD.

After this weekend, I will never look at a trail the same way again.

With each step I took, I thought about the clues on the ground that Randy and Quinn were grappling with. Where are the rocks? Are they even or pointed or irregular? What is sticking out at shoulder height that they could run into? What audio (waterfalls, talking) is affecting Randy’s experience? Are hikers getting impatient to pass? I kept looking at the amazing and varied terrain that Randy hiked over and I kept asking myself incredulously, “Are Randy’s ankles made of rubber?”  (Answer: yes)

I will never look at the simplicity of an AMC guide book trail description the same way again. A basic paragraph explaining a rocky, steep trail with several stream crossings barely begins to hint at what we might encounter. Throughout the trip, my mental acuity was on high alert as I observed dozens of conditions that affected Randy’s hike. And those conditions weren’t just about the rocks – add in streams, weather, eight other people, an Adventure Dawg, water and food issues and you’ve got one recipe for a big challenge.

Perspective can change throughout a hike and I felt myself not only trying to put myself in Randy’s shoes, but also trying to do the same with the other eight team members. Each of us experienced something different out there. I was amazed to witness emotions such as nervousness, elation, pride, happiness, frustration, pain, patience, hilarity and exhaustion. You can see it was a bit of a roller coaster.

But through all of the ups and downs, an enormous sense of pride and camaraderie grew exponentially in a matter of just two days. I think all of us evolved and gained perspective in ways that have touched our lives tremendously.

Shortly into the hike, we reached a section of descending steps which were uneven. As a leader sweeping in the back, I asked the hikers behind me to patiently wait while Randy worked through the problem. As the line began to pile up behind us with 10 or so hikers, a woman in the back impatiently called out “Hey, can we get going here?” I explained that we were leading a blind man up Mt. Washington and she immediately turned red and apologized over and over.

Things change when you see things from a new perspective.  My advice? Be open to it and be patient.

That’s what we did.

Carrie

PS I’m so proud of everyone!

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How Do We Measure Success

by Randy Pierce

Achieving the summit of Mount Washington on our Inaugural 2020 Vision Quest hike was a tremendous success. Reaching the lives of many people with our tale and our message is an overwhelming and hopefully ever-increasing success. Having the incredible experience of the journey, the struggle and the accomplishment is an unmitigated success, and stands as an example of what I think is the essence of my very fortunate life.

Over the last day, I’ve been evaluating a particular aspect of our journey. It’s something that challenged us to look at success with new eyes. It’s a facet of the trip about which I’m incredibly proud.

Our plan was to climb the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail to AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut.  There we would evaluate the time, the weather, and the group’s condition and then either summit Washington and return to the hut or summit Monroe (a closer peak) and return to the hut. On the second day we would summit whichever of the two we had missed and return to the appropriate trailhead either via the Jewell trail or the Edmands trail.

On Sunday July 4, we spent 8 pretty challenging and amazingly fantastic hours working the 2.4 miles to Lakes of the Clouds. We had all exerted significant amounts of energy to reach the hut. Doing the math, we saw clearly that making a Washington summit attempt that evening would be a hefty challenge. Washington was a 1.4 mile journey up some challenging and new (to me) hiking terrain. We anticipated that at our speed, the round trip time would be near to the 8 hours we’d just spent going a similar distance. For both time and exertion reasons, we agreed to forego a summit bid that evening. We were also well aware that this decision had a very serious impact on how much work remained ahead of us. We knew there would be much to address during our evening evaluation, but in the meantime, we decided to enjoy ourselves. Our crew had two folks and one dog take the resting option while the rest of us made for the peak of Monroe with no packs and minimal equipment. We did that .6 mile journey in 2 hours counting time to celebrate at the summit pin.

After dinner we had a serious talk about our prospects. We were looking at a roughly 14-hour hike minimum for Monday if we wanted to achieve the Washington crown and get back down to the trailhead. I had done such a day in the Pemigewasset Wilderness with the UNH Outdoor Education class. I realized how tremendously challenging that type of day was for everyone. We also needed to consider that at the end of the hike our group was facing a three hour drive home. These factors combined to create a significant amount of risk, both on and off the trail. We thought about what we were accomplishing and what we had learned from the experience. We had considerable confidence we could shave off several hours in future journeys with a slightly different approach to a few things. Most importantly, we knew we had an amazing experience in full swing and it would not be lessened by choosing a safer approach. Our quintessential message is that we are always reaching higher and savoring the adventure; putting that much additional risk into the journey wasn’t worthy of us or our goals.  We listed multiple options, did some quick research and then shared our thoughts and ultimately came to a decision together.

Sitting outside the hut in the windy mountain twilight, we decided as a group to set our sights on the Washington summit – visible to us from our vantage point – early the next morning after the AMC breakfast. We anticipated roughly four hours of climbing and then left room for some evaluation, but would likely use the Cog railway to transport our crew down in whatever shifts would be required to get us all back to the trailhead. This meant that neither Washington nor Monroe would qualify as mountains climbed on my list of the 48 because that requires you climb to the summit and hike back down as well. We knew this. In a moment I think none of us will ever forget, we unanimously vowed that we would not only return to the mountain and achieve the requirements but would do it with our very same group who had bonded in so many life-enriching ways through this trip.

Tonight I was reminded of a quote regarding the Apollo 13 mission; it was termed “a Successful Failure.” While we did not fulfill the requirements to add these mountains to our list of the 48, we were living our credo for Team 2020. We had savored an incredible experience, driven ourselves to reach incredible heights of both geography, determination and community. We had accomplished much and were already set to reach higher still when next we return to this mountain.

The mountain’s original name was “Agiocochook ” in the language of the Abenaki Indians; it means “Home of the Great Spirit.” There is nobody in our group who doubts that all eleven of us in this journey proved that name quite true. We all had tremendous spirit in our journey and in our accomplishment. When we say it is about the journey and not the destination we offer the success of this trip as living proof of our beliefs.
Randy

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Experience! My Initial Thoughts

by Randy Pierce

An endeavor of this magnitude is potentially life-transforming. The reality did not disappoint at all. I’m home safe and sound from the summit of Mt. Washington. Surprisingly, I have also only begun to scratch the surface in evaluating all the impactful moments. I do intend to give a detailed tour of our Washington experience eventually. Right now, though, I hope to share the highlights and reflections foremost in my mind.

I’m fortunate to have a natural ability to truly savor the experiences of adventure. This is of particular importance when the adventure includes tremendous challenge. Hiking blind is as much a mental as physical challenge. I needed to tap deep reserves of determination and will to push through many points on our journey up Washington. But if I’d spent each and every moment driving myself with unrelenting intensity, I’d have missed many

marvelous moments. That’s my gift I guess: that amidst exhaustion I can pause and summon enough focus to fully invest in a moment’s magic. I often partake in those moments through companions, whether it’s the camaraderie of trail talk, an exclamation of awe or a descriptive tour of the splendor that surrounds us. Even when my companions are silent, a pause can give me an opportunity for introspection, to let my senses soak in the moment. Whether I’m taking a break for rest, to deliver well-deserved praise to Quinn, or just for a sip of water and reflection, a few seconds can be enough to expand my awareness of my own human potential as well as the potency of the world around me.

Friday our journey began with a stay at AMC’s Highland Center in the Bretton Woods region. We gave a small presentation there on Friday evening, which was reasonably well-attended. Tracy managed the audio and video components while I spoke about my approach to the experience of life, and the particular poignancy of one’s “point of view” in both life and the hiking community. There were many questions, one of many signs that the talk was well-received by the broad range of ages represented in the audience.

The next morning, Tracy and I hiked to nearby Ripley Falls to enjoy the amazing weather and the astounding location, and to test out the pack and boots for our impending Washington hike. My feet must bear more work than most due to the nature of hiking blind. I have to hand it to the folks at EMS because the “Super Feet” boot inserts they recommended made for a vastly-improved hiking experience. Despite having heavily loaded the pack, it was a fantastic trip and the falls were glorious. I even tested out the new Teva Itunda water shoes which were so fantastic they took me where even Tracy and Quinn didn’t venture! They are now an integral part of my gear given the many water crossings here on these Mountains. The trip to Ripley was a highlight of Saturday.

The remainder of the day we luxuriated in the mountain paradise that is the Highland Center. Walking through the many tributes to the mountains, hikers and nature scattered throughout the property nicely set a mood of reflection. Our Team 2020 companions began to arrive and the building excitement carried us quickly through to our departure early the next day.

Sunday July 4th we celebrated independence by starting up the Ammonoosuc trail. We were loaded with energy, enthusiasm, hope, determination and excitement. Quickly we found our trail rhythm and the reality of the task at hand began to settle in. Meeting soldiers from the Army and Air Force on their return trip from the summit, American flag in hand, was a nice reminder of the significance of the date. Their words of personal encouragement for our task will remain with me as well.

The balance of the day was a long and hard climb with many boulders and rock challenges through the deep forest. Often, I sing the praises – all deserved – of my doggedly determined and devoted Guide Quinn. Many are the astounding details of his devotion and skill which buoyed my every step during this expedition, but for now suffice it to say that he was elated for the trip and on his game. As always, Quinn’s work, so moving to me, gets my top attention; just barely second is the assistance, love and devotion of  Tracy, my fiancée, and the rest of the crew who were so determined to patiently work with us through all the challenges. The arduous hike repeatedly offered both setbacks and conquests. We all learned much, separately and as a group, as we ascended past the Gem Pool, the Overlook and many cascades. Ultimately, we paid 8 hours of work to achieve 2.4 miles of ground, 5,050 feet of elevation, and the celebration of reaching the Lakes of the Clouds hut. You know how much work is involved if 2.4 miles takes 8 hours!

Some of the group needed a rest and Quinn absolutely was in need of some down time, so he stayed at the hut while I took to a human guide for the second time that day. Before the hut, Kara had Guided me through a series of slab sections requiring hands and feet to climb, and now it was our hike leader Carrie’s turn to Guide me as we achieved the summit of nearby Mount Monroe. We felt surprisingly light and free, having left our heavy packs at the hut, and made a power ascent and descent in time for dinner!

The evening at the Lake of the Clouds held much magic. The majesty of a spectacular sunset silenced in awe all onlookers and at its close drew applause of appreciation from all the gathered and appreciative hikers! The Fourth of July topped itself off with weather so clear (an extremely rare thing for the region) that we could view fireworks launched from communities all over New Hampshire from our 5,000 foot vantage point – incredible!

Monday morning we made a summit surge to Washington. The entirety of the route traveled above tree line and over a boulder-strewn mass of Quartz-ridden rock which was truly unlike any other section of hike I’ve ever experienced. Our group came together with a conviction that was touching and inspiring. We were jubilant over that last quarter mile of build-up, knowing our success was imminent. Quinn was a marvel once again and we covered the distance to the summit in two hours and fifty-four minutes of work. I cannot imagine how Quinn can guide me so expertly and efficiently – but he does. We did it.

There’s so much more to say about the accomplishment and the entirety of the experience. I’ll offer the full details in stages and look forward to sharing the greater story ahead. I remain still overwhelmed at our accomplishment. I’m incredibly thankful to have the support which is such an essential component of this adventure, and so very hopeful at the prospect of many more adventures and experiences ahead!

I hope to give you more detailed insights on this particular trip on the morrow! For now, the Mighty Quinn and I are putting our paws up.

Be Well!
Randy
& the Mighty Quinn

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Life, death, and stupid train tricks

by Jenifer Tidwell

Washington is a mountain of many moods. You don’t know how the mountain will behave on the day you show up at the trailhead. What will the weather do? Will it be windy or calm, clear or foggy, snowy or rainy? What else will you see? What stories will you return with?
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been on Mount Washington over the past twenty years. But I remember the stories.

Here are some of the things that have happened to me up there.

The dumb college student. I had just learned to ski, and one spring I tagged along with some much better skiers who were going to Tuckerman’s Ravine for some serious skiing. On the way up, the weather changed literally every few minutes: sunny, dark, snowing, whiteout, sunny again. I made it as far as Hojo’s (a building near the base of Tuckerman’s) before I realized how woefully underdressed I was! After recovering from mild hypothermia, I attempted to ski back down. Actually, I would ski a few meters, slip and fall a farther distance, get up, repeat. As we drove home that evening, we looked up to see the summit of Washington, tauntingly clear against the darkening sky. “I’ll be back,” I said to the mountain.

The blackflies. A group of us went up Boott Spur to Lakes of the Clouds one June. I hadn’t known that blackflies — soft-bodied, persistent, obnoxious, biting little things — were worst in June. They were terrible! At stops, they would cover our faces and necks. I got so fed up at one stop that I grabbed my pack, mumbled apologies to my hiking partners, and dashed up the trail, slapping and waving and yelling at the flies as I ran. (It actually worked for a few minutes.) Later that day, the rain and fog closed in, and the blackflies went away — they don’t like it any more than we do, I guess.

The snake. When I was helping guide a group of blind hikers on the Old Jackson Road one summer, at least two of us saw a large, beautifully patterned snake slither across the trail a few yards ahead of us. On his tail was… a rattle.

The sunset. The heaviest pack I ever carried was full of climbing gear and ropes, in addition to the stuff you have to take on a Washington day trip. We climbed a rock route in Huntington Ravine that day. The climb itself was fabulous, but the pack wore me out! I “hit the wall” at the top of the route. After redistributing the heavy gear, we each made our way slowly back along the Alpine Garden and down Lion Head. Thankfully, the mountain was in the best of moods that day. I stopped for a rest around sunset — still on the Alpine Garden — and realized that there was no wind, no clouds, and no sound except the croaking of a distant raven. The sun slanted down over my shoulder and cast blue shadows on the valley below. What an exquisite moment.

Jenifer with Randy & Quinn before a *much* easier climb!

The ice axe. On a winter ascent, we used full mountaineering gear and technique. Good thing, because as we ascended the summit cone, we were in a whiteout the whole way: vicious roaring wind, driving snow, zero visibility beyond a couple of yards in front of you. We made it to the summit in that! On the way down, the weather cleared rather suddenly, and at the lip of Tuckerman’s Ravine, it was decided that the group would slide down on our bottoms. (Yes, you can do this safely and under control.) The first few climbers started the slide with no problems. But when I went, I accidentally slipped out of the track they had laid, and I hit ice. Next thing I knew, I was rocketing down Tuckerman’s Ravine — on my back, head first, no control at all! I honestly thought I was going to die. But the previous day, we had practiced self-arrest with ice axes. Good thing. I whacked my ice axe into the snow, the way I’d been taught, and stopped my slide before I reached the rocks at the bottom of the gully.

The moon. A few summers ago, some friends, a dog, and I climbed the same route that Team 2020 might climb this coming weekend — up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, stop at the Lakes of the Clouds hut, climb to the summit, and down the Jewell Trail to complete the loop. It was a hot, dry, windy, beautiful day, and we had a ball! Now, the Jewell Trail descent takes you across the Cog Railway tracks. We happened to be in that area at the same time that a train was coming up the mountain. Leaving the dog with me and the other female hiker, every single male member of the group ran to the tracks and mooned the Cog Railway. Oh, the juvenile hilarity!

There will be more stories from our trip this weekend. I hope they’re good ones. What stories do you have from this unique mountain? Share them in the comments!

Jenifer

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"He who fails to plan, plans to fail."

by Carrie McMillen

So, as we get ready for the BIG HIKE up Mt. Washington, a few of you have asked, “How are we preparing?”

Personally, I am answering a lot of email from our nine other participants about car spotting (where to leave the cars so we can get home again!), arrival times and food allergies. We’ve got a great group of ten who have a lot of questions, but are genuinely thrilled to be a part of the Mt Washington inaugural hike. I’m just hoping their excitement and positive attitudes remain after they learn how early I am making them get up the morning of July 4th!

Other than answering emails, the big thing I’ve been working on this week has been our trip report. Whether your group is super-experienced or not, it’s important to outline your intentions and backup plans for a hike. So here are my 2 cents on what I think is important to document ahead of time:

  • Trip Dates (include departure time from trailhead and expected return)
  • Leader and Co-leader
  • Trails we will hike/ Mountains we will try to summit
  • Elevation gain and rise
  • Water sources
  • Overnight information (where you plan to camp or lodge for the night)
  • Evacuation plan (see below)
  • Emergency numbers (police, hospital, White Mountain National Forest, etc)
  • General hike description
  • Participant’s allergies, medical information and emergency contacts (I like to keep this printed out separately since it can contain confidential information. And then I pray that it doesn’t need to come out while on the hike, because that would mean we had an injury!)
Courtesy of http://www.ellison-photography.com/

Most of you might be thinking some of this is obvious information – why the heck would you need to be so official about it? Well, when you start counting the topo lines on the map (or try the AMC White Mountain Guide descriptions if your eyes are tired of squinting), you learn some things about how prepared you need to be. For instance, from my perspective, Randy will have more of a challenge going down, so it’s good to know how much elevation loss there is and how rocky it will be.

When considering an evacuation plan, I try to think of ways to get off the mountain. Are there shorter trails out? Are there huts that have radios to communicate? Are there toll roads that can take somebody down in a car? Also, it’s not good to split up a group, but if it absolutely necessary due to injury and the group is big enough, I think BEFOREHAND about how I would split them up: keep a leader with each group, keep the strength divided up while having the slightly stronger group do the hiking out and have a designated sheltered waiting place where the first group stays. I consider these types of things because with these logistics already mapped out, it will free up my time to focus on an emergency if we do have one.

In addition to bringing a copy in my pack, I will typically give a hike report not just to Randy for his information, but also to a friend not coming on the trip, so that they are aware of our overall plan. This person is always someone I will contact soon upon return so they know not to come looking for us!

I don’t think a trip report is crucial for when you spontaneously grab a friend and go on a hike (but still tell someone where you’re going) – but when you’ve got an overnight group of ten people (and don’t forget a super-cute guide dog!), it’s pretty important to me to think some of these things out beforehand.

See you out on the trail!

Carrie

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How the heck do we get up Mt Washington??

Crawford Path Western slope of Mt Washington from Edmands Path on Mt Eisenhower.
Mount Washington Observatory Photo www.mountwashington.org

by Carrie McMillen

Mt. Washington is a daunting hike for anyone, with sight or without. When Randy asked me to lead him and a close group of friends up the mountain, I can honestly say that my first reaction was “Sweet!” And then about two seconds later, I thought “ummmm…WHOA.” How the heck were we going to do this?

Many sighted people do it as a day trip (I’m talking hiking here, NOT driving up the toll road!). It can take anywhere from 6-12 hours round trip, depending on your fitness level and choice of trails. So when I started thinking that “ummm…whoa,” I knew my biggest challenge was going to be how to give us the best shot at making it.

That led me first to securing overnight bunks at Lake of the Clouds AMC hut (a mere 1.4 miles from George’s summit) so that we could split the hike into two days.  Once the hut was confirmed, I talked to a number of hiking friends who discussed the challenges of Tuckerman’s and the rocky East-sloping trails.  A West-side approach was clearly the better option, especially given the hut’s location.  A new hiking forum friend, Sabrina, also advised us, based on hiking with her blind mother, to try the Jewell Trail which is easier (although longer) because of the footing.

In the end, we’ve chosen to ascend the Ammonoosuc Trail, parts of which can be steep and rocky.  But it also has a mild beginning and is the shortest – I’ve seen Randy conquer a few technical rocky ledges and have the confidence he can do it well.  Descending on steep and rocky terrain is what we’ll try to avoid – therefore, we will either descend via the Jewell Trail or via the Crawford/Edmands Paths.  This decision will remain last minute (not just to annoy you all!) but because it will depend on whether we summit Washington the first day or the second.  I don’t presume to predict the outcome, given the crazy weather conditions on Washington, but we clearly are hoping to summit on Day 1, so we can celebrate at the hut that evening of the 4th!

See you out on the trail!

Carrie

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