Summer on a Shoestring

An Accidental Summit
July 16, 2014, 2:34 am
Filed under: Recreation, Uncategorized

By: Justin Turlip, REU NYU

Adam asked if we wanted to go see the snow in Tuckerman Ravine. Maybe we could sled, he said.

None of us had any idea where or what Tuckerman Ravine was, but there was a resounding “yes!” at the mere mention of snow after sweating profusely while spreading fertilizer up and down hills all day long.

Adam, Stephanie, Chelsea, Hannah, Michael, Riot, Danny and I hopped into two cars around noon on Father’s Day 2014 to hunt for snow. We packed lunches, and Adam and I brought tubes, just in case the snow was begging for some sledding.

We parked at Pinkham Notch and I finally realized–after seeing a bunch of signs–that Tuckerman Ravine was on Mt.Washington. Sweet.

We started up a trail passed the lodge, passing a young couple with a little boy. The little boy was wearing a Superman costume, leaping and bounding from rock to rock, his cape billowing at every jump.

Adam and I like to push ourselves, so we moved up the rocky, wide, hilly trail a bit more quickly than the rest, and before long we were all separated. About a mile up the trail we reached a bridge over a rushing creek and decided to wait for everyone there. About a half hour later everyone caught up to us. After realizing we were still no where near the Ravine and that this wasn’t just an easy hike, Stephanie and Chelsea decided they would rather wait in the lodge. Adam, Riot, Michael, Hannah, Danny and I pushed on, the trail getting narrower, steeper and rockier all the while. The vegetation changed as well, from the hardwoods we were all familiar with in our plots, to conifers living happily in the cooler air of the high elevation. We reached a cabin, where we saw a few intimidating signs for the trail that would take us to Tuckerman. It also let us know there was water nearby.



We hopped on the trail, but stopped at the water spigot to let our Glorious Leader top off our canteens. Then we were on our way again, thirsty only for the sight of snow. All along the trail, we saw signs that warned of us of danger up ahead–much of the trail was in fact closed due to the risk of avalanche.


As we came over the crest of a steep climb, the vegetation had shrank to little more than alpine shrubs and small trees.


Then, at long last, we saw the Ravine. It was filled with dirtying snow, a few fresh ski tracks from those daring skiers who couldn’t bear letting an ounce of snow go to waste, and creeks cutting snow and ice into dangerous crevices.


Adam and I ran up the next little hill, were the first to reach the snow, and had enough time to make a pile of snowballs to hurl at the slowpokes. After a snowball fight that left our bare hands red and numb, we took some pictures.

Hannah is hardcore

Hannah is hardcore











While I was up on a rock doing stupid poses for pictures, I looked down and saw a bright blue stone in a puddle filled with a bunch of less interesting stones. I reached in and pulled it out.


It was a rock painted with the Superman symbol! Clearly, the little boy that we had passed at the beginning of the trail had not been wearing a mere costume–young Superman had flown to the top ahead of us and left his mark at the Ravine.

After I showed everyone the clue Young Superman had left behind, Adam and I decided it was time to tube. We took the tubes out of our backpacks, blew them up, then staggered and slipped our way up the snowy hill a ways. We barreled down the mountain for a short ride, until we had to jam our feet and hands into the snow to try and stop, or we would end up in the rocks or a crevice.


Adam had brought a swimming tube made for a toddler, so after a couple of runs it popped and wasn’t of much use. So, he decided to go skiing. Only, he hadn’t brought and skis. Only running sneakers. He clambered up the hill once more, got a running start and hopped onto both feet as if he were skiing and went whizzing down the mountain for a surprisingly long time. He managed to stop before the rocks and looked up at us with a big stupid smile on his face, “You gotta try that!”

I did, but my hiking boots had a heel that dug into the snow, so I couldn’t reach the speeds that he did and I certainly wasn’t as graceful.


Adam ran up and did it a half a dozen more times, clearly having a blast.

Then we explore the Ravine some more. The rest of the trail up was closed because of the risk of avalanche, but we decided to make our own trail up where we thought it was safe enough. We clambered up some huge boulder and through some bushes, taking care to disturb the delicate alpine vegetation as little as possible. Michael was wearing a pair of skateboard shoes and was struggling on the loose, slippery terrain, so he decided to turn back and wait at the lodge with Stephanie and Chelsea.

When we reached the top of Tuckerman Ravine, we laughed at the sign that told us it was too dangerous to climb.


We also realized that we had made it pretty far up the tallest mountain in the Northeast, to simply turn around and head home seemed like a waste.

Of course, the last mile or so was the hardest. The closer we got to the summit, the colder is got, and the more the wind began to gust. We hadn’t dressed for the place that claimed with pride to have “The worst weather in the world.” And the climb got steeper and rockier still. We didn’t see many people, but the people that we did see had jackets, long pants, hats and hiking poles–clearly more prepared than us.

We took a few short breaks to warm up and catch our breath behind large boulders that kept the wind at bay. Then we made our final push for the summit. We made it up all 6,288ft of Mt.Washington and took a picture to prove it.


Then we went inside to get food at the concession stand. Yes, there is a concession stand at the top of the mountain. And a gift shop. And a museum filled with leather clad  bikers and heavyset mothers who “summited” in minivans packed to the brim with small children. It’s kind of anticlimactic. Oh well. I got a sandwich and a hot coffee on top of a mountain and it really hit the spot. The visibility was pretty awful at the top, and there was a screen that showed us what the weather was.


Then we realized that we had left Stephanie, Chelsea and Michael in the lodge for quite awhile. We had no cell service to call them. Also, Hannah has a bad knee and wouldn’t be able to move down the mountain too quickly. Hitchhiking down the mountain was forbidden and the cog train was too expensive to justify. We decided that Adam and I would run down the mountain as quickly as we could, pick up the three hanging out in the lab and head home in one of the cars, while Hannah, Riot and Danny would take their time so Hannah wouldn’t hurt herself.

Adam and I had a blast running down the mountain, choosing our lines with care and deft, moving as expeditiously as the terrain would allow. We arrived at the lodge around 7:30pm. Chelsea gave us a death glare as we walked in the door and uttered not a single word to us–clearly not happy about how long she had to wait. Michael, however, had picked out a new geology book from the gift shop, and Stephanie was contentedly curled up asleep on a ledge.

We drove back to the White House. Adam drove, I sat in the passenger seat examining Superman’s memento, and we talked about the hike even though the others clearly didn’t want to hear about it.

Hannah, Danny and Riot made it back alive and well about an hour later.

And that is the story of our impromptu hike up Mt.Washington.





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