My friends and I recently did an overnight at the Hermit Lake Shelters near the base of Mount Washington. While we were there we met a group of 16 hikers who had driven all the way from Ohio to summit Mount Washington. They were part of the Ohio State University Mountaineers Club and this was an annual alpine pilgrimage for them. I knew that anyone willing to drive 17+ hours to climb a mountain would have a great story to tell. Read on to hear about the OSU Mountaineers and their epic journey. – Grant
Story By: Clay East (Publicist/Fundraiser OSU Mountaineers)
Most would think that spending 35 hours in a car, hanging out in -50F degree weather, and eating only fast food and energy bars over MLK Weekend isn’t ideal, but that’s what many Ohio State Uuniversity Mountaineers look forward to early in the school year. The OSU MountaineersClub is a student run organization and the lead outdoor enthusiast club on campus. We have over 150 members and enjoy everything in the outdoors from mountaineering to whitewater rafting. Our trips span across the country and have ranged from a few members to trips including over 80 people.
Over MLK weekend, the OSU Mountaineers made their annual trip to Mt. Washington, taking 16 eager club members. After weeks of gear preparation and trying to lose those few extra pounds put on during the holidays, we made the always epic Journey to New Hampshire all the way from Columbus, Ohio to conquer Mt. Washington.
|The long and snwoy road to New Hampshire|
We left The Ohio State Universities campus around 5:00pm on Friday evening. And if a 17 hour drive up wasn’t enough, we had to make the trek in a blizzard stretching ALL the way along our route. After a few minor adjustments to the rental vehicles (new windshield wipers and topping of on windshield fluids), we were off. As people got to know each other, it grew tougher and tougher to sleep on the way there, and the excitement could hardly be contained by the vans thin walls.
|Preparing near the trailhead|
After a few close calls on the road, we made it to IME’s (International Mountain Equipments) gear/rental shop to pick up those last few items needed to survive the mountain. After gathering the last of our gear we headed to the trail head up the road.
|Hiking to the shelters|
After unloading, checking gear, and stuffing our backpacks, we took off to hike up to the Hermit Lake Shelters where we would be spending the night in a frigid -16F.
|Near Hermit Lake Shelters|
After a quick dinner we hit the sack around 7:00pm knowing we had a long day ahead of us. Many of us tossed and turned throughout the night in the frigid cold, cuddling up next to whatever gear we wanted to keep warm in our sleeping bags.
Early Bird gets the summit. We woke at 4:30am, a time many of us would normally be going to sleep back at school. As we crawled out of our semi-warm sleeping bags into the thin cold air, it was a reminder that we were in for an epic adventure that day. After eating a quick breakfast, for many of us consisting of energy bars and candy, we got ready for the summit push. It proved difficult the night before to boil water in the freezing cold so none of us would be enjoying a warm breakfast or a warm drink that morning. We took off from the Hermit Lake shelters around 7:00am, and after a few crampon and layering adjustments, we were already staring at the edge of the tree line.
|Near the summit of Mount Washington|
The winds then kicked in forcing some to put on goggles instantly. We pushed on to Lion’s Head were we got our first good peak of the summit. We stuck together, if not all together at once, members of our club encouraged one another and helped one another push on towards the summit. Although some of us had only known each other for less than two days, we knew that we’d never forget this journey we made together. As we passed the sign pointing to the summit, many of us realized that we would accomplish our goal that weekend, as obscure as it may be, to reach the summit of Mt. Washington. The wind continued to pick up force the further we went. We slowed down but we continued on to the summit, all but one of us. Unfortunately one of our group members was struck by a migraine and had to turn around and make the long trek down.
The other 15 of us pushed on until we were standing at the summit, with a view of over 110 miles. A few of us snapped pictures at the summit sign in the -50F windchill and quickly returned to the shelter on the summit for a quick celebration and snack. We then headed down and enjoyed our last few views of the mountains before returning to the shelters and packing up the remainder of our gear. After a quick walk down the remaining trail, we were rewarded with hot showers. Most of us shook off the chills quickly, unfortunately that was not the case for one of our members, who would later realize that they had symptoms of the early stages of frostbite on their feet. It was a lesson to all of us, even with all the preparation and safety measures we had taken, mountaineering is still a dangerous sport and has risks.
|Dinner at the Muddy Moose|
After cleaning up we headed to dinner at the Muddy Moose in North Conway and enjoyed a well deserved meal.
|A long ride home|
We then loaded back into the vans and made the tiresome 17 hour drive back to Columbus, Ohio. In retrospect the whole weekend seems like some crude yet epic and rewarding dream, yet this dream, none of us will forget.
For more information about our club and for upcoming events, visit osumountaineers.com