Saturday, July 9, 2011

2011.07.09 - It's Time

It's finally time to give it a try, Mount Washington that is.  You see, this whole sudden love for hiking in my life began with a Mount Washington climb my wife accomplished for the first time last year.  I did not join her. 

In the weeks that led up to her goal to climb Mount Washington with a group of friends from our Church, Sue convinced me to do some practice hikes with her.  I had just completed rotator cuff surgery a few weeks earlier so I started on short hikes with no day pack.  We kept increasing our climbs and eventually my shoulder had healed enough for me to begin to 'carry my own'; day pack that is.  During this period we hiked ever more aggressive trails but were still hiking shorter distances and rather tame elevation gains as compared to now.  Nonetheless, we were both falling in love with the challenge of hiking, the beauty of the White Mountains and the peacefulness of being in the forest.

The very day she hiked Mount Washington in 2010, I was checked in at the Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield, NH in order to begin a week long business conference.  A little pitch here for the Mountain View Grand.  If you have never been there, I strongly urge you to give it a try.  I think the mountain views from the front porch and from every front side room are stunning.  It doesn't exactly match that of the view from the Mount Washington Hotel's back porch however, the Mountain View Grand is far less, can I say, 'stuffy'.

In any case, while sitting on that porch looking out at the mountains while Sue was hiking Mount Washington, I was rather upset that I had not made the journey with her.  No doubt however, I was not ready back then.  At that very moment I decided I would do what is necessary to accomplish the goal of hiking Mount Washington with Sue.  To do so I knew I would need to loose some weight, become generally more fit and do lots and lots of ever more challenging hikes.  For the rest of the summer and fall of 2010 we continued to hike and I became more capable.  We even accomplished a handful of 4,000 footers late that season.

For those of you who don't know, there are 48 'qualifying' 4,000 footers in NH.  I say qualifying because the sole criteria is not just summit elevation, though I could not clearly articulate all of the criteria to you (prominence, distance from nearest peak and whatever...).  Many hikers set a goal of 'bagging' all 48 of these monsters over some period of time.  That is not one of our goals.  You see, I am a bit selfish.  I learned early on that some 4,000 footers don't have any view from the summit whatsoever because they are not above the treeline or they don't have any open ledge at the top.  Working that hard and not getting a 'reward', as Sue and I call it, does not interest me.  That may change as I hike more.

We again began hiking in the spring of 2011.  We have hiked many more times this year than are posted in this blog because I did not start the blog until later in the season.  Since setting my goal of climbing Mount Washington last year, I have lost 20 lbs. but still I tip the scale at 245.  I had hoped to be 230 or less by now.  Losing weight has been more of a challenge than hiking these mountains.  I also have the additional disadvantage of being an asthmatic, something that has been with me since childhood.  There is no doubt that hiking has done wonderful things for my health.  I am stronger, more fit, have lost weight and have tempered the asthma, all as a result of hiking.  I am not whining, I am speaking to those hikers young and old, and even non-hikers, who can climb Mount Washington at the drop of a hat.  No sympathy needed or wanted, just setting the stage.

So far this year we have bagged a bunch of 4,000 footers and have hiked many other beautiful venues.  We are now true fanatics.  We have purchased more and more of the right equipment and learned more and more about the sport.  It seems that trips to Kittery Trading Post or Eastern Mountain Sports to buy new gear or to upgrade gear are almost a weekly event.  All of that said, I still consider ourselves very much novices.  We also don't (yet?) hike anywhere that would require sleeping in a tent or staying in one of the AMC's huts.  I often joke with Sue that until I can get a private room in the hut and until there is a flashing "Hilton" sign on the exterior, I probably won't give it a try.  Sleeping in a bunk room with as many as 10 other strangers just is not exciting to me.  At 57 yrs old I have come to love my privacy.  Okay, now I am the one sounding stuffy.

We've also not hiked in the winter (yet?).  Yes, people hike these monsters in the dead of winter.  I cannot imagine the challenges that hiking on snow and ice present.  I am intrigued by the thought of it though.  There are trails we have been on that I can barely figure out how to scale when there is dry rock let alone having snow and ice as a further impediment.  Maybe someday.....

So, I have finally decided it's time.  It's time for me to climb Mount Washington.  The weather for this coming Sunday looks great and that is key to this climb as this mountain is known for having some of the worst weather in North America.  The conditions can change fast and for my first attempt I have tried to pick a day with a somewhat perfect forecast.  Let's hope the meteorologists are more accurate this week than they were when we climbed Mt. Garfield last weekend (see that post).

Watch for my update early next week....

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