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later climbed Wed, Jun 7, 2006|
What a day. We got up at 4:30a in order to be at the trailhead by 6a. A look out the window shows the parking lot is wet and a drizzle is falling. We pack up and head out anyway, hoping it stops by the time we get to the trailhead. We drove to Big Lake and found the usual starting location on the west side of the lake closed by snow on the road. Driving down the east side, we find a closer starting point at a youth camp that is currently closed. We park, but it's still raining and no one wants to go out. We unanimously vote for more sleep, lean our seats back, and doze on and off for the next two hours. Periodically I would wake up only to find the weather had shown no improvement. Oregon was looking really lovely by now. At 8a I suggest we could watch a movie since we've slept about as much as we could. Matthew picks out "Clerks", and I join him in the back seats to view it. Rick declines and sits up front while Matthew and I get some laughs from Jay and Silent Bob and the other characters.
The drizzle continues on and off throughout the movie. After it ends at 10a, we've now been sitting in the van for four hours. "What shall it be boys, head back to the motel, or go for a hike?" I suggest. Matthew votes we give Mt. Washington a shot, and in a few minutes we're packed up and heading out. Ten minutes into the hike I comment that I think our chances of summiting are pretty close to zero. A bit surprised, Matthew says that if he'd known that, he wouldn't have suggested we go for it. I reply that even a failed effort is better than sitting around town all day. Matthew doesn't agree. That might be why I held off my opinion until after we'd started. From the beginning we are mostly on snow, up and over uneven snow mounds under the forest cover. None of us really like hiking in a forest as the views are pretty bland after a few minutes. It's also very disorienting, particularly without the sun to help navigate. It is impossible to maintain our heading without help so I pull out my compass periodically to make sure we are on route. I set a course for 150 degrees and stick pretty well to it over the next hour as confirmed periodically by Rick with his GPS.
Eventually the slope grows steeper as we near the North Ridge and Pt. 6,323ft. We make a bullseye for the point and take a break when we reach it. It's all fog, cloud, and intermittent drizzle. After our break we continue along the North Ridge. I vote to turn back, but am out-voted. Rick is more confident than either myself or Matthew. After another 30 minutes we have reached 6,800ft, about a thousand feet below the summit we cannot see. We know there is a pitch of low class 5 climbing ahead on what has been described as "rotten rock," something we are only faintly familiar with having been spoiled on Sierra granite. The wind is blowing strongly now and our drizzle is threatening to turn to rain. We are wet and getting wetter, and I am very thankful I have four pairs of gloves should they be needed. It seems pretty hopeless, and Rick eventually throws in the towel. We return to base, dejected. At least the drizzle has kept up to make us feel good about turning back. Had it stopped and the clouds lifted we would probably have cursed the forest demons for smiting us. Oregon is certainly not looking so good about now, and our only hope lies in the weather forecast which suggests an improving trend the next day. Matthew is ready at this point to drive back to California, so for the sake of expedition unity, I say an extra prayer for some sunshine. What a day...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Washington
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