Winter Mount Washington Summit Climb Logistics
Barring unforeseen weather or other variables, we’ll meet at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitors Center basement group prep area at 7-8am. We will plan to touch base with you on the evening prior to establish the final plan, but keep in mind that cell phone coverage is only reliable in the central area of Mt. Washington Valley (Conway/North Conway), so if you plan to stay elsewhere, let us know ahead of time. At the Center, we'll put the finishing touches on our gear prep, take a look at our route, answer any group questions, and then head up the trail. Over the course of the day, we'll travel over four miles and ascend then descend over four thousand feet. Times vary due to weather, snow cover, and the group, but it typically takes the full day.
For purposes of picking up any needed equipment, the North Conway area is the best place to stay on your night before the Summit Climb. There are many lodging options in North Conway Check out our Resources page for some ideas.
The White Mountain region can be conveniently accessed via two different airports. Maine's Portland Airport is the closest option (1h45m). New Hampshire's Manchester Airport is further away (2h30m), but it offers more flight options and more travel on the interstate. Both are great options—the final choice will depend on considerations of flight availability and cost.
We can outfit you with all climbing hardware, including boots, crampons, ax, harness, helmet, snowshoes, and avalanche transceiver as necessary. For more information about your equipment and clothing preparations, please see our Winter Mt. Washington Clothing & Equipment Guide.
Physical Prep for The Summit Climb Experience
It is no accident that Mount Washington is seen as a major winter summit. Though the total travel is barely over four miles, you’ll be gaining over 4000' of elevation on rough terrain in very tough weather conditions, with a 20+lb pack. The more you do to prepare for these specific demands, the more successfully you’ll meet them.
Complex training routines are unnecessary—people generally spend more time mapping out their training than they spend training, because the training itself isn’t much fun. Instead, the best training routine is one that is enjoyable (so that you’ll actually do it) and one that mimics the activity you’ll be asking your body to do. Complex training routines never mimic the actual demands of mountaineering as well as mountaineering itself. It is best if you start your training two or more months in advance. Two or more times a week, load up your pack with water jugs or other heavy items and go for a 1+ hour walk in the hilliest terrain around. If the weather is bad, that’s all the better—it’ll help to build the mental toughness the Summit Climb demands and it’ll allow you to learn the ins and outs of your clothing and gear. Complement this training by jogging, bicycling, rowing, or doing other aerobic activities that you enjoy on the other days.
If you are doing the Summit Climb with a larger group, getting together for weekend hikes is a great way to motivate one another and celebrate progress.
Food & Hydration
Food is our life-source in the alpine zone. The high activity and extreme conditions mean we need every BTU of heat energy that it provides. We don’t eat when we are hungry—we just eat…and eat. Alpine conditions rarely allow for a designated lunch stop, so your lunch needs to be easy to eat on-the-go type foods. Your lunch will likelly freeze, so bring food that will taste decent frozen (e.g., pieces of cheese but not a whole sandwich) and food that can be broken into smaller pieces before the climb (e.g., a whole Clif Bar will be rendered into an inedible brick unless you pre-slice it). If you have strong food allergies, please let us know in advance so that others on the trip avoid bringing those foods. Make sure you fill your water bottles with boiling water the morning of the climb, to delay freezing.
Packing & Prepping for the Start
We'll need the full day for our Summit Climb, so the more prepped you are upon arrival the better. Packing and preparing for winter travel is a lifelong craft and advancing your learning of that craft is one of the outcomes of this experience, but here are some key pointers:
- Be sure to check out the Winter Mount Washington Summit Climb Clothing & Equipment Sheet and make sure you’ve got it all covered. If you’ve got any questions about things, get in touch with us beforehand—that’s what we’re here for. It’s pretty easy to solve most gear-related problems with enough advance notice.
- The Summit Climb is hard work and we don’t want to make it any harder—so we don’t want to carry anything we won’t need. The Clothing & Equipment Sheet outlines what we feel you need for a successful experience. Please be very judicious about bringing any other “frills” (e.g., binoculars, large knives, etc). Also, work with your group to eliminate redundant items. For example, you can all share the same camera, cell phone, and sun lotion.
- Start the day with boiling hot water in your water bottles, then stick it in one of your spare socks (or an insulated holster if you have one).
- Remember it will be cold, so any items with batteries or any kinds of lotions, eye drops, etc, that you plan to use during the day should be kept in a pocket near to your body.
- Lunch food should be stashed in convenient pockets, keeping it warm and handy for the day's adventures.
- Pre-tape any hot-spots on your feet that you've noticed during your training hikes. It is much easier to tape up in the comfort of a warm room the night before than it is to take off your boot and tackle it above tree line!
With all of these things properly packed, we’ll be ready to go soon after arriving at Pinkham Notch, so make sure you arrive dressed for the day. Will depart the Visitors Center dressed so that we feel slightly chilled, as we’ll warm up very quickly on the trail!
With all of the above logistics covered, you’ll arrive ready for a great Winter Mount Washington Summit Climb experience. If there are any additional logistical questions that you have, feel free to contact us!