I wasn’t sure hiking the Huntington Ravine trail today was going to happen but knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try. During my hike to the top of Katahdin yesterday, my head pounded with every step on the way down. My mind was active the entire climb with the high winds and rocky terrain keeping me focused on footing and balance.
To say the least, I was hungover from a hike. My body didn’t ache but my headache remained. Deciding to sleep-in until 7:30 am, I roll around in my warm sleeping bag inside the walls of my tent reluctant to get up. I boil water on the backpacking stove to make coffee and popped a couple of liquid gels to relieve the mild pain.
I smear a jelly pack onto half a bagel and am fueled to hike. Andy drops me off at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and returns to North Conway to work remotely from a cafe. He’s climbed Mount Washington several years ago in the winter and has opted out of this one. With a kiss goodbye, I estimate a finish time around 6 pm with a suggestion to get here a little early, maybe around 5 pm.
I talk to the hiking desk staff about Huntington Ravine Trail. He mentions the detours due to bridge rebuilding at the start. I make mental note as he continues to warn me about skipping the rocks along a part of the trail and recommends to join the trail after this section. I nod but take that recommendation with a grain of salt as most information desks advise risks on trails to keep the masses on the safer, more developed trails.
I find it interesting some of the information he did not care to share, like the steep boulder field and scrambling up vertical rock. Features that should warn off most hikers that aren’t familiar with alpine terrain and scrambling.
Huntington Ravine Trail to Tuckerman Ravine Loop Hike Stats:
- Distance: 8.6 miles
- Elevation: 4,349 feet
- Estimated time: 8 to 10 hours
- Actual time: 5 hours and 51 minutes
- Starting point: AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
- Ending point: AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
Time to hike the Huntington Ravine route! It’s been awhile since I went off on my own. With the updated weather forecast at the Visitor Center, I hesitate and double check to make sure I had my wind layers with me. Check and check. I didn’t want to be exposed to 60 mph wind gusts without a hard layer in the alpine.
I start on the detour route and merge onto Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The detour route is steep, and I don’t recommend unless you must, it’s a ski hill for a reason and a calf burner. I get into my groove and am hiking along the trail. A sign indicates the trail: Tuckerman Ravine. A trail looks like it branches off but is overgrown. Instead of looking at my Gaia GPS map, I continue on. I hike for a few more minutes before looking at my map. The overgrown path was my junction to the Huntington Ravine Trail. Can I reconnect somewhere else or should I back-track? Back-tracking was the right answer as I embarrassingly nod at hikers I passed earlier as I retreat to the junction.
The trail, at times, is hard to follow, but I use my app to continue on my way. I hop across the rocks along the river crossing I was warned about, again navigation was a little tricky but I find my way through the large boulders and running river. The trees start to thin as I begin to reach the alpine. I stop briefly to stuff my pockets with snacks and to hydrate.
Sitting on a boulder, I meet Rob and Amy, both New Hampshire locals. I chat with them and add gloves and a wind layer. Rob recommends not following the yellow paint blazes through the boulder field to avoid the bushes hidden around the boulders. I start my way up behind Amy and Rob joined us after his break.
Looking up the route, I am excited. I’ll admit I didn’t do much research on the route as the road trip has been long with meaning I’m in always-planning-mode. I chat with the other two and follow behind them learning about their outdoor experiences and asking questions while answering theirs. Rob has been to Washington a few times for some trips and we share our Rainier experiences. He asks if I am a climber since I seem comfortable on the slab foot smears and pulling myself up the Class 3 terrain.
As they take a quick break, I take the lead and continued to follow the blazed paint marks on the rocks until the rock becomes a little less vertical and turns into a path lined with giant triangular cairn markings to the summit. From here, a sign asks if you’re sure you want to do this route (assuming for the ones thinking to come down from the summit, which I wouldn’t recommend down climbing). We all laugh at the sign as they turn away from my summit route. I thank them for keeping me company.
The wind starts to pick up as I reach the crest of the mountain. I continue on my way towards the cement fortress at the summit. As I reach the top, I locate the summit sign with elevation and stand in line with mostly tourists who drive or take the COG train to the top. Asking the lady in front of me to take a picture to document my 3-hour hike to the top of New Hampshire. I feel accomplished.
I return inside to buy post cards for my niece and nephews and use the toilets before locating the start (or end) of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. I message Andy letting him know I’ll be done around 4 pm instead of 5 or 6, turn my phone back to airplane mode, and continue down the rocky trail meeting hikers I had seen at the beginning of the trail and saying hi as I pass.
I opted not to do the Lion’s Head variation to see the Tuckerman Ravine trail that is popular among backcountry skiers in the winter. As I hike down the trail, I imagine skinning up the trail and what lines I would take. Is it ski season yet?
I spend more time taking pictures on the way down with my hands free from scrambling up the rock. I talk with a few other hikers asking me how much longer or if they should leave their retreating buddy who had enough. I encourage them to go to the top as the weather is nice and the trail straightforward back to the bottom.
I reach the visitor center at 3:15 pm and sit in an Adirondack chair to relax from a perfect solo hike until my ride returns back to pick me up.
Check out my Huntington Ravine to Tuckerman Ravine Loop track on Gaia GPS.
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