Dungeon of the Clouds [mile 1352.6; SOBO 334.2]
Did you ever see Titanic, where Jack says, “Last night I was sleeping under a bridge, and now I’m drinking champagne with you fine people”? That’s me! Last night, dining with the stars! Tonight, sleeping in an armpit! 😉 I love the armpit. This is the basement of the Lake of the Clouds. ‘Basement’ is generous. More like a dank, tiny, mildew-stinky airless doghouse! But there are bunks! And I’m hearing it’s gonna rain tonight! So indoors is good!
So, after yesterday’s debacle (the one where I almost spent the night on Mt. Adams because I lost the trail in the pea soup fog), the morning dawned spectacularly: pearlescent sky over an ocean of clouds. I had breakfast at the hut and hit the trail at 8:00 AM. Blue sky! Actual cairns I could see! Mt. Washington… I’m coming for you!
The day stayed cooperative. Those licheny rocks were a little slippery from yesterday. Big mean clouds kept rolling up the mountains and waving their fists, and I was nervous. Mt. Washington has notoriously bad weather. There’s even a sign about it—but only from the northbound side! What’s up with that? Do they want southbounders to perish in clouds and lightning? Probably not.
Anyway, the climb up Mt. Washington was long, but not difficult—easy hiking, terrain-wise.
Which brings me to what was on my mind today: Mt. Washington versus Katahdin! Cagematch! Both mountains have notoriously bad and unpredictable weather; Katahdin’s even named after a storm god. I had perfect days for both of them, so take the weather out of the equation. Just terrain-wise… I have to say, for me, it was no contest. Mt. Washington was a long climb, but it was just walking. I used my poles the whole way (had to toss them up ahead two or three times). Katahdin was a mile of hiking then a mile of steep hiking that required imcreasing gymnastics, and at the top a mile of Mt. Washington-ish rocks… but between those two sections, two miles of pants-peeing terror in which not only could I not possibly have used poles, but I was doing pull-ups more often than not, not to mention all the other contortions and stretches and reaches. Mostly hand-foot work, with potential death plummets on three sides. At no point climbing Mt. Washington did I feel even the tiniest risk of plummetage. Katahdin wins!
That’s, of course, just how it was for me: comparing my NOBO Katahdin ascent with my SOBO Washington ascent. I did find the Katahdin descent (SOBO) a little easier than the Katahdin ascent (NOBO). I’ve been told recently that a lot of NOBOs manage it purely on the adrenaline of the finish. In other words, they’ve come that far and it’s time to be done!
And of course, I still have a lot of descent to do here. But then I’ll be comparing my SOBO Katahdin descent with my SOBO Washington descent. Right? Did I say that right? (And weather-wise, Washington has a clear edge. Washington kills you with weather; Katahdin rains on you then chucks you over the side.)
So. The top of Mt. Washington was a hoot. Tourism is alive and well! I had pizza and soda and took pictures. The views were obscured by clouds, pretty much, but it was still amazing. There’s a web cam up there that refreshes every hour, and Blackbird kindly manned his computer and snagged a screencap of me. LOL! Thanks, Blackbird! I also got the usual summit photo.
Then it was an easy mile (practically a paved walkway) down to the stunning Lake of the Clouds Hut. This is the largest of these huts… which are kind of bizarre. But I’m in the storm shelter. The Dungeon! So far, there are two other hikers in here with me: Muenster Cheese from Germany is one of them.
Reunions: Up on Mt. Washington… Aquaman! I met him in Damascus. He’s the one who directed me to the Lazy Fox B&B.
And that was the day! Walking and such, then pizza and more walking. Now sleep. Tomorrow’s supposed to be rainy, I heard. Blah. No idea what the plan is. Depends on the weather and the terrain. It’ll probanly be something stealthish, if I can manage that. Muenster gave me a location.