Monday, August 2, 2010

Great Gulf (Mt. Washington) 7/31/10

View the pics HERE

The Great Gulf, Great in every sense of the word!We had this trip planned all week and the weather forecast for Saturday stayed looking perfect! We arrived at the Wilderness parking lot and headed down the trail bright and early at 7:15am. We planned for a 12 hour hike so we weren't wasting anytime. A man coming down said hi as he passed then blurted out, "you're entering bear country!" Yikes, you don't say!? That's OK, we came prepared, I threw a can of hornet spray in my pack for just such an unfortunate occasion. Pictures were kept to a minimum, well, for the most part! Mushrooms were numerous and the Gulf trail follows the river most of the way, and it is very difficult not to be stopping to view the continuous cascades.

Scott was burning up the trail today. I have never seen him take the lead with such speed. Perhaps it was the thought of the climb ahead. Fast forward >> we passed the Six Husbands trail and finally made it to the Sphinx trail junction. Here on up would be new territory for us. The trail immediately got narrower and less traveled. The cascades and waterfalls in this area are spectacular! We got a little confused at a small river crossing, finally seeing a small cairn upstream slightly that went up into an inlet brook. The trail crossed this stream various times, plan to get your boots wet if you take this trail! Luckily the waterproofing spray was working perfectly!

The trail makes some moderate climbs and finally comes to Spaulding Lake (4228'), which we reached at 12:00pm (exactly at book time of 4:45). Rather unique in it's own way, but really not much to look at we carried on looking for a rock with a view to eat lunch. Unfortunately there was no such spot until we got a little ways up the head wall. We finally got to inhale our lunch and take a breather. The Head wall wasn't as climatic as the other ravines and it really didn't look all that difficult.
Well, I ate those words. The climb up the head wall was very steep as it climbs up the small stream of rock and moss. Numerous flowers were blooming which made for some gorgeous scenery. Oh, and can't forget about the view down the gulf and up to the Northern Presidential's! It was neat to see how the gulf floor drops quite steeply just under the lake. From the top of the head wall the gulf floor looks level. We very carefully crawled our way up, a bad step on this climb could result in a very painful fall, or worse! Near the top of the head wall we past a few guys making there way down and an older man whom we chatted with briefly. He stated he was heading to the parking lot, and we would probably beat him there. It's funny, everyone including him were shocked to see us ascending the wall. Personally I would rather climb it, it's very steep and slippery and not something I would want to try and climb down!

A cheer from Scott meant we had reached the top of the head wall and our first view of Washington summit was ahead. So close to not keep going to the peak Scott once again took off! We stopped a couple times to answer trail questions (never fails on the Presi's!) and finally reached the observation deck at 2:15pm. Scott's third year of hiking, several attempts at summiting Washington and we finally made it. I hadn't been up to the summit in exactly 4 years! (7/30/10) What a coincidence!! The crowded summit sign was crazy, no surprise on a day like today. So we skipped standing in line amongst the chaos for a pic and just chilled and snacked a bit on the deck. We quickly had our fill of the noise and such and headed down the Nelson trail, over Ball Crag and on to the Wamsutta trail.

Wamsutta was Weetamoo's 1st of 6 husbands and man, he must have been a gentle person but with a fierce side! The trail starts off on the Auto Roads winter route then quickly breaks off headed down a partially open ridge visible ahead. The trail is gentle with soft dirt and pine needles underfoot. A few rocks to negotiate here and there, made difficult by the overgrown alpines blocking your view of whats under your feet and a small stream that the trail follows briefly. We were commenting on how lovely and comfortable the trail was, but I was pretty certain that would change once over the bluff. We reached the bluff with a unique view of Jefferson's knees right in front of you and views up to the Great Gulf head wall. Then the fun started!

Now the trail drop, drop, dropped! I think it is something like 1000 ft. in less than a mile! Ledge scramble after ledge scramble our tiring body's being pushed to there limits! Of all the hikes I have done, and of all the Great Gulf trails I've taken, this trail I believe is the steepest and most technical I've yet to see. It was awesome! Once below the ledges the trail once again levels off with comfortable footing. Happy to see the Great Gulf junction we started the long hike back down. Just below the bluff area we caught up with the man we chatted with on the head wall! We laughed and joked, this guy was pretty humorous. I poked a little fun with him, "You said we'd beat you! Just barely though!" We came to the climb up to the bluff, and he joked, "why do they have to put an uphill when your trying to go downhill!" He called us his heroes for tackling such a long and difficult loop, which made us feel pretty good, it's not often we take on such a huge trip and we felt we had done really good.

Down further near the Osgood junction two guys were standing next to the trail, one with a clipboard dressed like Curious George. I was caught off guard when the other guy said as we passed, "Jason?" Turned out to be Rich (lal12) from Hike-NH headed out from a Six Husbands-Northern Presi-Osgood loop. He caught up to us a little further down and we chatted about our day. Then we said our farewells and he bolted down the trail, a 3 hour drive ahead of him! Nice to meet you Rich! We trudged along what seems like such a long section of trail when your tired and finally crossed the bridge and arrived back at the parking lot at 6:30pm.

A beautiful day! Spectacular, wild and steep trails. Perfect temps. An overcast sky and hardly a bug! We couldn't have asked for better :) 14.8 miles, about 5300 ft. elevation gain, 11.5 hours.

View the pics HERE

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