Corie: Mt Washington holds a series of titles for me. First of all, it is in the books as Mountain #3 of the Mountain A Month project. Secondly, it is in the first mountain that I have run, and probably the mountain that will be to blame for all of my future attempts to wrangle my friends into running up and down mountains. And thirdly, it was my first experience with technical rock climbing in an alpine environment. Wholly, Mt Washington was a mildly-terrifying, physical-limit-pushing, adventure. Neither Andy or I were able to properly function as human beings for a couple of days afterward.
We got a late start, Andy, tired from a long day of climbing at the Portland Boulder Rally, and I, emotionally drained from the loss of my winged roommate, Loulou, the day before, continued to hit the snooze button until our 4:30am wake up time became… 8:30am, a very unfamiliar time for either of us to meet the day. The weather was forecasted to be mild anyway, so we had a leisurely breakfast, packed lightweight packs, and hit the road.
When we reached the trail head, all I could think was WOW. Looming above us with its picturesque (and somewhat intimidating-looking) 300 some odd feet of vertical rock, Mt Washington just begged us to summit. So, Garmin activated, running shoes tightened, and packs cinched on, we started up the trail, falling into a rhythm as we booked it up the trail. From the trail head, along the PCT, and up through the woods, we ran. And then we reached the scree. And I became the scared little panda that I can oftentimes become on mountains. But, Andy, once again, coached me through the precarious sections, and we reached the base of the spire. A few short pitches of exciting, 5.easy-moves later, and we reached the summit. One more summit tagged, one more record to beat. Thanks, Washington :)
Andy: This was my 3rd summit of Washington, and second time for 2014. Having reached the top already and knowing the trail, I was motivated to do it even faster than before, and set a record time. Having an experienced runner and frequent half-marathoner with me was the perfect recipe for setting a top speed. Once again, we packed ultra light packs more fit for trail running than mountaineering but included harnesses and a 30 meter, 8mm rope for belays/rappels.
As I suspected, we pushed harder on this summit attempt than ever before, and shaved over two hours off any previous times. Early October provided ideal conditions for this type of summit bid, with warm temperatures conducive to shorts and trail running shoes, and zero need for snow travel. Now we’ve got a new goal to beat and I’m sure we can do it even faster!
Washington is a beautiful climb! From the summit, we watched Black Rosy-Finches dart from rock to rock, a Clark’s Nutcracker investigate our packs, and a pair of Bald Eagles hunting their lunch in the sky, all while we soaked up the view, showcasing Three Finger Jack, Jefferson, all three Sisters, and Broken Top. We started at the Church Camp at Big Lake, which sits about a mile north of the PCT. From the PCT, we branched off at the climbers trail and proceeded up the standard North Ridge. Being experienced rock climbers, we felt comfortable only ropping up for the 5th class sections, and carefully scrambling up anything easier. The hardest moves are in the 5.0 to 5.3 range, but the exposure is what will un-nerve most people. We found the rock to be generally good on the North Ridge, only encountering loose scree/rubble in obvious low-angle areas. We didn’t rappel at every station but found a 30m rope the perfect length for the steepest and most exposed rappels. Overall, the North Ridge on Mt Washington is a fantastic climb with some fun technical rock climbing throw in on a picturesque summit.
Equipment List - North Ridge Route (for summer climbs)
- The standard climbing kit (See South Sister)
- 30m rope
- Harnesses and rappel devices
Car to summit: 2h16m
Car to car: 4h 16m