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!