July 6th, 2016-
I had been trying to make my way to Huntington Ravine for quite some time. Since it’s a long 3+ hour ride and the weather was a big factor I had kept pushing it off. Today was perfect, the forecast was hot and dry. I decided to play hooky and take a “vacation day” to do this… you only live once right?
I got a late start so I decided to skip the summit of Mt Washington. I’ve been up there a few times, and I was more interested to experience the Huntington Ravine Trail than earning another summit notch in my belt. My plan was to ascend Huntington Ravine to the Alpine Garden, then descend the Lion Head trail and out the Tuckerman Ravine trail. I needed to be back at my car in 4 hours or less from the time I set foot on the trail.
Huntington Ravine trail is known as the most difficult and technical maintained trail in New Hampshire. It’s short at only 2.1 miles long, However it gains nearly 2500 vertical feet in elevation during that distance and most of that happens in 1 mile. It’s earned the “Class 3” rating which means “Pretty dang steep and exposed”. I was excited to see what the fuss was all about!
The weather forecast for the day was HOT with temperatures in the 90’s, low winds on the presidentials, and sunny. An ideal day for being on the presi’s.
Tuckerman Ravine Trail
I started off at Pinkham Notch Visitor center on Rt. 16. From here I started down the Tuckerman Ravine trail. It was hot out already and I was already sweating.
This trail is very wide and very gradual. At certain points I jogged to save a bit of time. There’s a few outlooks that give you a view of some waterfalls. The hike up this trail was uneventful but enjoyable.
During my time on the Tuckerman Ravine trail I passed a few hikers heading up to Tuckerman Ravine, Hermit Lake, and Lion head.
1.6 Miles and 1,350′ in elevation later I turned onto Raymond Path.
I opted to take the Raymond Path over to Huntington Ravine trail. This trail is less traveled in the summer months and is actually unmarked at the trailhead (except for a blank sign). In the winter the Snow Cat uses this trail to plow up to Huntington Ravine.
the Raymond Path is a ski trail so in the summer it’s a little damp, and a little overgrown. Still, it was a pleasant hike.
First Aid Cache
Nearing the Junction of Huntington Ravine trail I passed by Harvard Cabin. Harvard Cabin is owned by Harvard Mountaineering Club. In the winter months this is the ideal camp spot for ice climbers and alpine skiers with its close proximity to Huntington Ravine.
About 1/2 mile later I turned onto Huntington Ravine Trail.
Huntington Ravine Trail
At the junction of Huntington Ravine trail I hung a left. The Huntington Ravine Trail starts out gradual and weaves through wooded areas.
Shortly later there is a mild river crossing that brought me parallel to the water runoff coming from the ravine ahead. The trail winds over short sections of boulders with water flowing beneath.
A short distance later I passed by the Albert Dow memorial Rescue Cache. This cache is helpful in the winter months to aid in the rescue of climbers and skiers in an emergency. It’s dedicated to Albert Dow, who died in 1982. Dow was a member of a rescue team sent into Huntington Ravine to search out and rescue missing climbers from O’dells Gully. Dow, was killed in an avalanche mid-rescue and found buried under over 4 feet of snow.
After passing the rescue cache, the trees opened up a bit and granted me my first view into the ravine… it was an incredible sight! Looking up at the ravine headwall and the “Fan” was intimidating to say the least. From this perspective it looked so steep, like a rock climb rather than a hike.
As I got closer to the headwall the trails terrain got much more interesting. Giant boulders piled on top of each other made up the trail, some parts required climbing up and over, others required crawling underneath.
Now at the base of the ravine’s boulder field I found it hard to follow the trail (marked in yellow blazes). So I just started going up. Climbing from boulder to boulder through the talus slope towards the steep wall ahead hoping i’d eventually run back into the blazed trail.
I pretty much lost the trail completely as my pace slowed to a crawl. The line I was following ended and faded into some krummholz. I kept on moving in the direction of where I assumed the trail would be. A few steps later I spotted a yellow a blaze and continued to follow them.
The view of Central and Pinnacle gully was incredible from here. I really want to come back in the winter and climb the gully’s when they’re filled with ice! Pinnacle buttress, a huge mass of rock juts out from the headwalls landscape and is really incredible. This area of the White Mountains is so different. It’s reminiscent of some of the larger mountain ranges in the world… a real alpine experience.
Now for the fun stuff! I approached the famous “Fan” which is a large vertical slab of near featureless rock in the formation of a V or Fan. There’s an arrow painted on the rock pointing up… this is the trail!
I crossed over a stream at the base of the fan and continued up. Clinging to the rock with my hands and feet as best I could.
After the fan, the trail continues on upwards, very steep, very slabby, very rocky… it was AWESOME. Following the yellow blazes was difficult, and I faded off trail a few times.
Some sections felt like I was rock climbing, a fall here could easily lead to serious injury.
In this 1.1 mile section of trail I gained 1,270 feet in elevation!
Nearing the top, the trail got a bit more gradual and the giant cairn appeared. This signified the end of the Huntington Ravine Trail
Alpine Garden Junction
Headwall Climb Video
Here’s a video compilation I put together of some gopro footage from the climb up Huntington Ravine Trail!
I caught my breath, and carried on down the Alpine Garden trail. This trail is beautiful and brings you through rare alpine vegetation nestled on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. Cairns mark the obvious route.
Water above treeline… So rare in the White Mountains.
Surprisingly there was a stream of water crossing the trail. I made a mental note of this as it would be an ideal spot to resupply with water in a pinch.
Views up at Mt. Washington and across to the Carters and Wildcats were incredible. It was a clear day and the views went on forever. The Alpine Garden trail is essentially flat, with a slight decline. It’s very easy and very enjoyable.
Shortly later I arrived at Tuckerman Ravine and was granted views into the bowl. Even from high up on the headwall I could see hikers down in the ravine floor. A popular destination, and an easy hike for tourists.
Now at the junction of Lion Head trail I took a left and began my descent.
I’ve only been up and down Lion Head trail in the winter. During the winter the route changes a bit so this would be a new experience for me. The descent starts pretty gradual with constant amazing views all around.
I approached the summit of Lion Head, a large rocky knob jutting out from the rim of Tuckerman Ravine.
From the summit of Lion Head I could see the cars and buildings on top of Mt. Washington. Great views of Boott Spur (the opposing shoulder of Tuckerman Ravine).
I continued past Lion Head summit and the trail steepens significantly. This stretch seemed much longer than the last time I was here.
The views of the Wildcats and Carter range were great from here as I trucked on towards treeline.
Heading down Lion Head towards the trees.
Now, back in the trees. I descended few short steep scrambles. I passed a handful of people here…. not like Huntington I had the ravine to myself!
Lion Head trail is moderately steep with a few interesting scrambles and continues on until it runs back into Tuckerman Ravine trail.
Tuckerman ravine Trail
Now back on Tuckerman Ravine trail a flurry of hikers were making their way up to Tuckerman Ravine’s floor. I started down the trail at a brisk pace, jogging through some of the easier, less rocky sections. The heat of the day was much more present at these lower elevations… it was hot!
The last 1.7 miles were uneventful, standard Tuckerman Ravine Trail fair here. Lot’s of people, a nice wide trail and some beautiful outlooks.
My Garmin Fenix GPS Logged 8.1 Miles (with a lot of GPS inaccuracies from the steep areas) and 3400 feet of elevation gain. Almost all of that elevation was gained on Huntington Ravine. The entire trip took me 4 hours and 5 minutes. I wasn’t rushing but I set a decent pace. It was a great day and a fun experience. Huntington Ravine did not disappoint, it really made me want to get more involved with rock and ice climbing. I can’t wait to check it out in the winter some day!