About a year ago my oldest daughter Laura sent me a Facebook message about Mt. Washington, asking, “So Mom, when are we going to do this?” Seven years earlier when her step-father and I visited her in New Hampshire at her internship, she had asked if we were interested in climbing Mt. Washington. My husband’s answer was, “I know she hasn’t lived with me very long, but hasn’t she realized that I don’t even climb to the second floor?” Thus began the quest to climb Mt. Washington.
My answer was, “When you have time”. My other daughter Steph chimed in, “We will make time”. And with that, the plan was hatched; soon my cousin Kellie joined the quest. On September 2, 2018 we four headed for New Hampshire.
Mt. Washington has the most volatile weather on the east coast, so we allowed for three possible days to make the climb. Day one we got up at 5:00 a.m., to find out at 5:05 that they were calling for afternoon thunderstorms. I have no desire to be on the top of any mountain in a thunderstorm. Day two arrived and it was supposed to be a perfect day: 90 degrees at the base and in the 70s at the peak.
We arrived at the base at 7:40 a.m. to go into the camp store and see the display of all the ways people died climbing Mt. Washington. My cousin was questioning her decision to join us at this point. Standing at the base looking up, we were reassured by Laura that she did it before and we would be fine, so off we went. About 2½ hours in we got to the Forest Ranger cabin where we could fill our water bottles and take a break. We looked up to see a small waterfall coming straight down the wall of the mountain. Little did we realize that we would be climbing up right next to it in about an hour. It was at that point that Kellie said, “I told everyone I was HIKING Mt. Washington. I am changing that to CLIMBING!”
When we reached “the bowl”, Steph’s back started to spasm and she began to hyperventilate from the pain. She stopped to rest. Laura kept going, and when she made it to the parking-lot at the summit she waved her hands wildly and said, “This is it, Steph, this is all you have to do!” She lied!! As we crested the parking lot, in front of us sat the longest set of wooden stairs I had ever seen in my life!! You might be thinking, you have climbed a mountain, stairs should be nothing. When you have climbed a mountain and you see the stairs, you think, “You’ve got to be kidding me; I have to climb those to get to the peak!!!!” Legs trembling, we climbed those stairs, to get our picture with the sign at the peak, only to wait in line behind people who had “climbed” Mt. Washington in a car or the train. We made it!! But the climb was not over yet; now we had to get back down…..
After resting, we headed down the Lion’s head trail at 2:30 p.m. This was supposed to be the easier way down for bad knees, from which three of the four of us – not me – suffered. Karma must have felt I had an unfair advantage; at 4:15 p.m. I lost my balance. We were still up above the tree line, and the shrubbery was thin, so there was nothing to grab hold of to catch my balance. My head said “stop, drop and roll”. I know, that is for fire, but I wanted to protect my head, and I was going down one way or another, so my left arm took the brunt of the fall. My cousin yelled, “Miss, are you OK?”, my answer, “nope”, her answer, “Wrong answer!”. My cousin is an EMT. She rushed over, checked my arm, and asked me questions to try to determine the damage done. Not a scratch, not an abrasion, but my arm was highly questionable. She sent the girls to find sticks and she made a splint with two sticks and two bandanas. My daughter’s shirt became a sling and we were off again to finish the climb down the mountain and find an emergency room. We reached the base 7p.m. We got to an emergency room by 7:30 p.m., and by 8:30 p.m. we were out with my broken arm in a temporary cast.
As we all tend to do, I was beating myself up thinking, “What were you thinking climbing a mountain?”, but when I went to my grandson’s first birthday party the following Saturday, his other grandmother looked at me in my big cast and said, “What an awesome story!! You could have tripped on the stairs or fallen off a curb and done the same thing. YOU climbed a mountain!” YEAH, I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN AND THEN CLIMBED DOWN WITH A BROKEN ARM. How many people can say that? Wow, what a change in perspective! I am so proud of all of us and how we handled the entire experience. I would do it again in a minute, though my husband probably would not encourage it this time😊!
And now, for the rest of the story…a month later they were chipping ice off the weather station on Mt. Washington; 25 degrees with 30 mph winds.
By Michelle Poole, Director of Community Outreach