The Calm Before the Storm!

We have had some gorgeous bluebird days here at Pinkham, which only means that we are due for some stormy weather bringing us some snow! The nights have gotten cold here which has been great for ice to build up allowing for climbers to have a great early season for ice climbing in the ravines.
Yesterday I was able to get out in the afternoon and decided to first hike up to Square Ledge (picture above). This trail is a great 1 mile round trip with fantastic views looking into Huntington Ravine (the ravine on the right), Tuckerman Ravine (the ravine to the left) as well as the Gulf of Slides (to the far left) which has some great backcountry skiing! These trails were still a bit icy with patches of snow; light traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes or Hillsound Trail Crampons is necessary.
I then decided to head up the Boott Spur trail. This trail begins at the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which passes Crystal Cascades 0.3 mile on the trail. This section of trail is also quite icy and traction is also necessary.

 As you can see the staircase at the beginning section of Boot Spur is a bit icy, so make sure to take your time going up and down. There is no alternative trail around the ladder. Photo below is about 3/4 mile up the trail with great views into the ravines! The pointy peak to the left of the summit of Mt. Washington is Lions Head. Currently the summer route is still open, we still need a bit more snow before the Winter Route will be feasible to travel on.

I was able to get above treeline around 2 yesterday afternoon. I was shocked to see how dark it really is getting already! Since the sun sets on the west, this eastern side of the mountains here in Pinkham Notch experiences darkness much quicker than you may be used to in the nearby valleys; the sun falls behind the Presidential Range in the early afternoon these days now that we are in the winter months.

The pictures above are taken from the ravines outlook right after you see the Alpine Zone sign; a 2.2 mile hike with just over 2,000' of elevation gain from the visitors center. The large boulder on the left is called Harvard Rock, which is found as a destination in the White Mountain Guide. Where the sun is shining you can see Lions Head with the summit of Mt. Washington right behind. I wasn't able to stay out in the open for long as the temperatures started to plummet with the sun no longer in sight. As you can see from these pictures the trail stays above treeline for the duration of the hike if you are headed for the summits.
This a fantastic route to travel when the weather is good and you have the proper gear to stay out all day. It is a 5.3 mile hike from the visitors center to the summit using this route.
Heading down the trail there are great views looking towards Wildcat Mountain and the Carter Range (picture to the right).
And make sure to keep you eye out for animal tracks at this time of year too! There were lots of Snowshoe Hare tracks, even close to the alpine zone! We have guided naturalist walks this weekend at Pinkham Notch and at Highland Center and our experts can answer questions you may have about our local flora and fauna!
With the forecast of snow over the weekend please make sure to read the avalanche board, it will be updated daily as well as the Mount Washington Avalanche Center conditions and advisory report which is compiled daily by the United States Forest Service Snow Rangers. These advisories are updated usually between 8am and 9am. You can also call them at (603) 466-2856. If you are getting an early start you can always get the updated avalanche reports from the caretakers at the Hermit Lake shelter as well as at the Harvard Cabin. If you are coming to the notches to climb and do winter mountaineering a great resource for up to date conditions and route advice is through NEice.

The AMC also offers clinics and group trips for ice climbing and winter mountaineering. All of our programs for the '13/'14 season can be found on our Activities and Events Page. For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk.  We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM or by email at To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.
We also offer ski and stay packages at our Joe Dodge Lodge and the Highland Center
Happy Hiking!

Danielle J.
Backcountry Information Specialist
AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
(603) 466-8116 

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