Leader – John Stevens
Participants – Howard Gaston, Michael Lafleur, Paul Stinson, Doug Laidlaw, Rick Laidlaw, Tom George, Ben Litchfield
During a winter where snow has been at a premium and after a torrential rainstorm three days prior to the climb, I was not sure if we could pull off such a challenging climb. My first concern was the avalanche condition, but more importantly, would we be climbing on a river of ice?
As has often been the case in years past, postponing and hoping for a better result usually plays havoc more with peoples schedules than with the actual climbing conditions. With that in mind I decided to stick to our climb date and have some alternatives available depending on conditions, to include the Lion’s Head Winter Route.
As luck would have it, the morning of the climb dawned to blue skies and calm winds, not to mention avalanche condition LOW. It was an ice sheet straight out of Pinkham Notch, so now the only question remaining was whether the snow conditions up higher were more filled in than at the base.
After checking with the Ranger at the Harvard Cabin, he told us that the climbing conditions were “thin” with lots of bushes, but he had no recent reports of climbing in South Gully. Regardless, we pressed forward and were all pleasantly surprised by the warm and sunny conditions along with thin but above average climbing conditions. We reviewed some skills at the base of the climb for about 20 minutes before dividing into two rope teams (Ben led rope team #2). Asides from a trench carved out by the recent rain, the route was in decent shape. It took us about two hours to top out. Half of us opted to summit Mt. Washington, with the other half descending Escape Hatch to head out.
Thanks to all the participants this year, what a great climb!