Mt. Pierce & Halfway To Eisenhower

Well, that was certainly an adventure. Where to begin though? First of all, it was cold. A guy coming down had a coldness-measurer and it was down to -20°F. Second of all, it was windy - really windy. See pic at right for today's Mt. Washington Observatory Conditions. It was an outstanding adventure for learning and testing conditions and gear - but MAN was it cold. The NWS had posted a wind-chill 'warning' (not just the usual 'advisory'). The MWO had published wind-chill warnings along with the admonition to hike with a buddy and check each-other for exposed skin. You know we did. It cut like a knife. We're guessing the wind-chill probably got close to -60°F (based on the MWO chart)

Mutha's Trip Report:

This was the coldest I'd ever experienced. This was some serious cold. Here are some factoids about how cold it was today:
  • I dressed entirely in the car, including putting on crampons. The wind was howling at the parking area.
  • After ascending about 60% to Pierce, I did the remainder of the ascent wearing a base layer, a poly top, a fleece top (that's right! fleece!) and my winter gortex shell.
  • Just before we left treeline we did the standard change of tops. I stripped to the tMail's Frozen Lashes
    waist to bare skin and had my smartwool base layer on in under 30 seconds. In that time I completely lost feeling in all my fingers and lost the ability to manage any objects. I thrust my hands in my mittens but didn't have enough on top to handle the cold, so had to take the hands out, put on some more layers and put the hands back in and windmill them, finally returning to the last layers, face mask, etc. My fingers came back on the summit of Pierce in the most painful experience of my hiking career. I actually said "aaaahhhhhh" from the pain. tMail got hit with the pain later and, as I recall, said the same thing.
  • Between Pierce and Eisenhower I changed into a balaclava w/ integrated face mask, additional face mask and additional fleece hat. The reason for the double face mask was that the wind was forcing through the holes in the first mask and burning my lips and nose.
  • The cold was punishing. It also forced under my goggles and burned my skin.
  • We turned back halfway to Eisenhower due to frozen goggles (we burned through four pairs). But also because my eyes were so incredibly cold. Yeh, it was too cold under the goggles. I got brain-freeze and cold eyes.
  • We did the descent - all the way to the car - in full battle gear. Yes, you're not hallucinating. We kept on our balaclavas and face masks, full mitts w/ chem heaters and gortex shells, and no we did not roast. About 20min before the car I took off the face protection but kept on my hat, and kept my hood on and shell zipped high. I almost regretted it. It was so freaking cold.
  • At the car, I pulled out a gatorade that I'd tucked in a gear bag on the front seat. I wasn't frozen at all - no ice. I couldn't open it, so tMail wrenched the top off and when I put it to my lips it was full of slush - a 60sec slushy - like he had the Midas Touch.
We also learned a lot of lessons about the ultra-cold hiking experience:
  • Bring three of everything. We both had plenty of gear and we needed it all. I had windstopper gloves inside insulated O/R Cornice mitts with TWO chem heaters in each and never went lighter - even on the way down to the car.
  • Drop chem heaters in your mitts - several in each mitt. You'll need spares as you go - to give to a buddy or to put somewhere else. When you stop to put ANY in your mitts, put in 2 or 3 in each mitt so they're hot and ready. There may not be enough oxygen in other places but your mitts should be fine.
  • Oh yeh, put a chem heater in the top of your nalgene - even if you put the nalgene in upside-down. Put it on the lid so you can get the fucking thing open and actually drink from it.
  • At those temps, get in-boot toe-style chem heaters. We both had liners and our heaviest expedition wool socks and got numb toes for a while.
  • More later ... Oh yeh, pics are posted HERE.
tMail's Trip Report:
Holy Shit:

I have never experienced bone crushing cold like that in my life...my fingers and feet (I think the crampons contributed to this taking the heat away from the feet) were gone most of the day...they would come and go. My right index finger still has pins and needles down to 2nd knuckle. I have never seen double hats, double face masks, fleece on the way up...it was historic

Definition of Cold:
a. Having a low temperature.
b. Having a temperature lower than normal body temperature.
c. Feeling no warmth; uncomfortably chilled.
a. Marked by deficient heat: a cold room.
b. Being at a temperature that is less than what is required:
3. Having no appeal to the senses or feelings:

Some of the experiences / conversations:

1. The envelopes for the parking fee are frozen (mutha) Fuck'em (tmail)
2. I am getting ready in the car (mutual)
3. 10 minutes later...I am putting my crampons on in the car as well (Mutha)
4. There is no wind we better drink and eat (tmail)
5. ascending up to Pierce "i need to put on another layer" mutha
6. Changing before Pierce "non of my clothes are wet" (tmail) "me neither" (mutha)
7. On Pierce the both of us started to rapidly detoriate...more on that later
8. We both learned a valuable lesson from MD don't scrap your goggles with the bottom of your poles, junk them instead.
9. After Pierce conversation was I can't see, let my try your goggles, lets turn around...that was it for convo

Observations lessons learned:

1. From the top of Pierce to the bottom of Pierce I lost my first set of goggles...mutha had bone crushing pain in his hands which i experience...it was pain and you just want to fall on your knees and f'n scream.
2. I walked with my head straight up in the air and my eyes looking down for 25-30 minutes as the second pair of goggles went to hell.
3. I realized in those temperatures and much colder how someone at serious altitude could walk by someone and leave them for dead.
4. What to do when shit hits the fan build a snow cave? drag the person? stay with the person? WOW major decisions.
5. Its amazing the weather up there...everything becomes a major hastle from getting water to adjusting masks, hats, mittens etc etc...
6. Moisture management was imperative.
7. All parts of me were cold...except my elbows.
8. It was more Artic than cold.
9. What a way to start 2009.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Though about you guys while I hit the local x-c trails since my road ride got cancelled this morning......all I kept thinking was how cold I was and how much colder you guys must be. Glad you returned with all limbs intact...and if you left any brain cells out there in the cold...you probably didn't need them anyway.

    SPUNGIE DAY awaits!

  3. any problems managing the temps of "the boys"?

  4. tMail, I moved your comment to the main post 'Trip Report'. MD, the boys were warm. Body parts other than hands and feet that got cold: eyes behind goggles, hamstrings, core.

    Funny story: on the way down I took off my outer face mask but kept my balaclava/mask on. I went into my pack to get out a hat because the balaclava's hood is pretty thin. When I went to put on the hat, I discovered I was wearing a hat over the balaclava. It was THAT cold out!

  5. I should add that I thought of putting a chemical hand warmer in my goggles while wearing them...