This was a hike that I was looking forward to for
some time. I was ready to tackle the Huntington Ravine Trail, which is
considered the toughest regular hiking trail in the White Mountains,
just a step or two below requiring technical climbing gear.
I wasn't expecting any real problems, though.
Steep exposed rock doesn't really bother me, and I even brought my rock
climbing shoes with me, intendin
g to change into them when I got to
the steep slabs where handholds were required.
Around 8:00, I started up the Tuckerman Ravine
Trail. It was déjà vu all over again, as I had been there less than a
month before when I took the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Mt Washington. The lower
part of the trail, from Pinkham Notch to Hermit Lake, is extra wide to
accommodate snow tractors, which are used by snow rangers and for rescue
About halfway to Hermit Lakes, the Huntington
Ravine Trail branched off to the northwest. The moment I left the wide
expanse of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, I was in a different world. The
trail at this point was rocky, root-filled, narrow, and twisty, with
many minor ups and downs. My pace immediately slowed down, and I started
to worry about how long it would take to get to the top at this rate.
Luckily, soon after crossing the Cutler River, the path became a bit
less rough and I was able to climb a little faster.
A quarter of a mile or so beyond the Cutler
River, the Huntington Ravine Trail intersects the Huntington Ravine Fire
Road for the first of several times. A bit of a misnomer, the Fire Road
is similar to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, a wide snow tractor road in
the winter. In the summer, it is not even close to passable in any kind
of vehicle, and in fact, is actually somewhat rougher and rockier than
the Huntington Ravine Trail. I took a slight round-trip detour down the
Fire Road to where I knew I would find the Harvard Cabin. Open only in
the winter, the Harvard Mountaineering Club maintains this cabin, which
is a popular overnight stop for ice climbers.
Continuing, I detoured once more onto the Fire
Road and returned to the trail at the next intersection, soon reaching
the Albert Dow first aid cache. The cache is named after a local search
and rescue member who was killed in an avalanche in 1982 while searching
for missing climbers (who made it out safely).
Not far past the cache, I caught my first
glimpse of the ravine itself. Dominated by the large Central Gully and
the spreading talus field below it known as the Fan, the ravine has
numerous gullies and buttresses that rock and ice climbers seek out. My
path, however would avoid the gullies and follow the right edge of the
Fan up to Central Gully, and then turn right to ascend the slabs.
Moving out onto the floor of the ravine, the
trail followed a winding path around, over, and even under huge boulders
at the bottom of the Fan.