By Will Ulwick
The "Terrifying 25" list in NH is not a list that is recommended for inclement conditions due to the danger.
The plan for the day was to ascend King's Ravine via the Chemin Des Dames trail, loop around the ridge and descend the Spur Trail as the original plan of going up the Great Gully Trail and down Chemin was blown when we saw the conditions, it was just too dangerous. The weather from the higher summits forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory showed increasing clouds with a storm rolling in and winds around 60-80mph and gusts of 115mph at the Mt Washington Summit. It was to be in the teens with the wind chill reaching -30f.
We encountered light snow conditions for the first part of the trail. When we hit the trail junction in King's Ravine for the Chemin Des Dames Trail, there was a fair amount of rime ice that had collected on the rocks. The plan was to continue to the top of Chemin and reasses based on the conditions on the ridge.
I started the day with snowboard socks under my Keen Polar's, midweight leggings and snowpants with my expedition weight 1/4 zip long sleeve for a top and liner gloves. In the pack were several other layers with the Thermerino jacket, balaclava and beanie making an appearence later on the ridge. King's Ravine is a beautiful hike from any angle and stunning views at every turn. The rock "shimmy" about halfway up is interesting for a person of my size but provided some much needed laughs as Jim had just lost is gopro in the rocks below (he was able to get it fished out of the rocks the following week with some snatch and grab ingenuity).
Coming to the rock face before topping out had us lost. No cairns were present, the rime covered the blazes on the rocks and the scrub trees were weighed down over where the trail should have been. Any way up gets you to Airline so we ascended the least dangerous option we could find. We knew it was not the trail as Jim kept knocking down large loose rocks at me, I guess the conditions
just didn't provide enough excitement for him, or he wanted to see my amazing dance moves. Carefully avoiding the fragile alpine fauna, I came to the top of the rock face. As I turned to my left for the views, the wind gust hit me and knocked me to the ground.
Standing 6'4 and 225 without gear, it takes a good hit to knock me around. This wind gust made it seem like someone pulled the carpet out from underneath me. I couldn't help but laugh at the awesome power of mother nature.
We made it Airline and found that we were just north of the actual trail. We made our way to the trail sign just to check how we went wrong, snagged a couple of photos and made a very quick decision that it was time to turn downhill and not continue around the ridge. The cloud cover was sitting about 100' higher in elevation and we could only imagine the conditions within the clouds. I have
hesitated to buy good gear in the past due to the cost but time and time again it has been proven to me that good gear is well worth every penny. I cannot count the number of times that it's saved me and I've seen people miserable because they had the wrong gear and I was completely happy sitting in the harsh conditions. On this day, with not a bit of skin exposed, I could have sat up there experiencing the wind for much longer than we did as I was totally cozy wrapped in all my -33 layers.
These are the days you cannot forget.