Monday, March 5, 2012

The Monday Muse: Getting Winter George and Jeff

Alex and I have only four peaks left.  One of them, Flume, though difficult, is not a "perfect weather" hike.  Meaning, even if it's blowing at 60mph, we can probably still reach the top, since most of the trail leading to the summit is located within the trees.  Trees are good -- they block the wind.  You can do a "sheltered" hike in lousy weather if you have the proper gear and clothing.

We'd like to save Flume for our finish, so Sage and Hugh can be there for the final summit.  Therefore, our attentions are now focused on our other three remaining peaks: Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Monroe.

One usually does Washington and Monroe together.  Monroe is located on the way to Washington; its peak is a half mile from a major route up "Big George."  Hiking these two mountains means ascending three miles through the trees, then about two and a half unprotected, completely exposed miles in order to get both summits. 

To summit Jefferson in the winter, one can dedicate one hike to it, or one can add Jefferson to the day's goals.  From Washington, Mt. Jefferson is three exposed and unprotected miles away. 

The weather needs to be just right -- or, at least, "good enough" -- to get a Winter George or Jeff (Monroe by itself is not too difficult to bag, being only half a mile away from the trees).

What's "good enough" depends on your experience and comfort level.  For us, "good enough" means low wind speeds (25 mph or less) and little to no possibility of frostbite.  We'll take on higher winds when we can hold onto rocks and boulders and ascend like quadrupeds...but that's not possible during the winter.  I don't want anyone losing their balance and sliding off the mountain!

It can be impossible to know ahead of time if the weather will "good enough."  The forecasts vary from site to site.  That's nobody's fault; the weather above treeline can change rapidly and with little warning.  We're hoping tomorrow's wind speeds might be "good enough."  Two forecasts are on our side, three others are not.  Wednesday's forecast looks better...maybe.  The winds might blow at 25mph, or they might blow at 50mph.  This variation makes it difficult to plan ahead!

We're going to double-check the forecasts tonight, then early tomorrow morning, then we'll make an attempt at one or all three peaks...or we'll stay home and make the attempt on Wednesday.  If Wednesday doesn't work out, then we'll keep trying on each potentially do-able day until we run out of this year's winter.  There is no guarantee we will be able to bag any of these exposed peaks before March 20.

At this point, we are completely at the mercy of the weather.

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