Back From The Mountain

I'm back from my second annual trip to do a bit of climbing on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. If I had to lay bets right now, I'd wager that there will be a third annual trip next year. Between the climb yesterday and the 13-hour drive home today, I'm pretty tired right now. So apologies in advance if this is a little disjointed.

I did a lot better this year than last, though I still didn't make it to the summit. When I got to my turnaround point from last year, I still felt really strong. Tired for sure, but I still had plenty of leg left in me. The hike up to the mountain seemed more difficult this year, but the climb was definitely easier.

I got close enough this year that I could see the summit from where I turned around. Part of me really wanted to just throw caution to the wind (literally and figuratively, given the weather yesterday) and push on, but I thought better of it and played things safe. The guide pushed me a little further that I'd originally wanted to go, but it was worth it. The view of Tuckerman Ravine was breathtaking. Worth the extra effort, for sure. For that matter, the view of the whole area from above the timberline was amazing. (Of course, I forgot my camera at the hotel, so no pictures this time.)

More than my energy levels, the weather was really kicking my ass. 50-60 mph winds and temperatures in the low single digits. More or less an average day up there, but it was still pretty intense. There were quite a few occasions while we were above the timberline that I pretty much had to stop and lean into the wind to keep myself from getting blown over. I was loving it and hating it at the same time. I loved the extreme nature of the conditions, but my energy level was pretty low at that point so I was really feeling it right to my core. I could feel my fingers starting to go a little numb, so I had concerns that frostbite might be setting in. (I was starting to feel it somewhere else, but we won't talk about that.)

I had a minor mishap on the way down. Coming down one of the slopes from Lions Head (a rock formation near the top) I had the snow pack give way under my feet and went for a little ride. I slid a hundred feet or so and bounced off a rock or two before I was able to self arrest and stop myself. That certainly woke me up. I was never in any real danger, but it still was a quick lesson in the inherent risk of the hobby.

The rest of the trip down pretty much sucked just like last year. I was pretty exhausted at that point, so it was a bit of a struggle the whole way. We did have a shot at glissading for a bit though, which was fun. Glissding is pretty much sitting on your ass and sliding down, using your ice axe as a rudder and brake. Good times. The knee pain did rear it's ugly head again on the way down again this year. Time for visit to the doctor, I suppose.

Getting back to the hotel, I was much less tired and much less sore than last year. My legs were in pretty good shape, though my thighs are pretty tight today. My shoulders were absolutely killing me though. Wearing that heavy pack all day wore me down quite a bit more than last year. The tips of my fingers were sore all night, so I was probably closer to frostbite than I'd thought.

All in all, an even better experience this year. I think I'm officially hooked on this mountaineering thing. Now I just need to keep at working on my physical conditioning so that it's not such a struggle all the time. It'll never get easy, the challenge is half the appeal, but it shouldn't be as difficult for me as it is. I've made a lot pf progress, but I've got a lot more to do yet.

Oh yeah, and there were no blizzards on the drive up or back home this year. Refreshing to have an easy and relaxing drive this year.