Almost a month after my debacle with the Mailbox Peak hike in Washington state I was going to challenge myself with another hike – the Mt. Washington hike. I was going to hike 6288 feet to the summit of the highest mountain in the Northeast. Mt Washington is known to have unpredictable weather with temperature variations. I was going to hike to the summit along with a few friends. One of my friends who had already hiked Mt Washington gave us some tips on how to tackle this monster. We were going to climb the mountain using the Tuckerman trail. We started off at 9 30 am and immediately the trail started ascending, though it wasn’t drastic. The worst part was coming later. We hiked at a decent pace. Since we were well informed of the weather we got our waterproof jackets to deal with the rains. The hike all the way to Hermit Lake is paved and you are surrounded by trees. But Even though you are ascending the mountain the change in elevation gain is gradual unlike the segment after Hermit Lake. I was already feeling my muscles strain and my strength waning. I could feel my muscles in my legs and shoulders tighten and compress as I put myself through this ordeal. But I kept pushing myself because I couldn’t back down.Not again. We had a quick break at Hermit Lake which is roughly the 1/3 point of the trip and replenished our energy. After the lake starts the alpine stretch of the trail where there are more rocks which resemble giant stairs, and fewer trees. Now the elevations ascent is more severe and we were basically climbing boulders. As we gained more elevation the trees became shorter and the views became clearer. And what I saw as I was climbing the mountain justified the pain I was putting myself through. An expanse of greenery below and a battle of dominance between the clouds and the sun above is something that has to be experienced and that was well worth the agony I was going through. The sight of the clouds covering the sun and the cloud’s shadows creeping and conquering the light is irreplicable and has to be witnessed by the naked eye to understand the beauty of the sight. It’s better than Rohan stomping through the Orc army.
After climbing, scrambling, enduring, tolerating, pushing, witnessing and being astonished my way up through the 2nd leg of the hike I entered the 3rd and final leg of the hike, where I was surrounded by the clouds. While most of the 2nd leg of the hike is climbing beside or through waterfalls and snow shells the 3rd leg was a .8 mile scramble to the summit. I was going to scramble the .8 miles of rock formations and loose rocks where one wrong step and I would either knock myself unconscious or I would send a loose rock barreling down the side of the mountain possibly hurting someone below. I had to be extra careful. I was exhausted but I wasn’t going to give up now and head back down. Not after pushing myself beyond my limit. At this point, you are basically in the clouds with the winds strong enough to push people off the rocks. I was lucky since I was only facing wind velocities of 45MPH but the visibility was low and at best is 10 meters but since the trail is well marked with mounds of stones marking the path I did not get lost. As I was scrambling my way up the 3rd leg, nature was teasing me showing glimpses of the landscape but I never got a good view of what lay way below in the valley and I reached the summit before the view cleared up.
I had somehow pushed myself beyond my physical limit and scrambled my way up to the top of the mountain and the exhilarating feeling of my achievement made me climb onto the highest rock and display my feelings with a pose for a photograph. We grabbed some quick lunch before we caught our shuttle back down since we neither had the energy nor the time to hike back down. But Mother Nature was not yet done with me. Right before I got into the shuttle all the clouds surrounding the summit cleared off to show me the staggering view of the valley and the civilization below and that is a moment I wish I could relive again. The reflective water, verdant vegetation, and the blue sky is something that cannot be photographed but still lives in my memory. That was my parting gift.
This is a strenuous hike and I suggest having good hiking shoes, carrying adequate food and water supplies and preparing for the weather changes. A change of clothes is recommended since temperatures drop at the summit and it gets really cold. Carry some cash to avoid atm fees since the cafeteria on the summit accepts only cash. And if you get a chance don’t forget to enjoy New Hampshire by Star gazing or basking in the sun.