My favorite and most frequently climbed New England mountain will always be the 6288 foot high Mount Washington. I usually climb Mt. Washington at least once each year, typically going up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and down the Jewell Trail. In my subjective experience, these west face trails are less crowded and more enjoyable than most of the trails on the east face. Also, since I prefer staying in Littleton to staying in North Conway, the west face trailhead at the cog railway station at Marshfield is easier to reach. Nonetheless, I have a healthy respect for the east face's Huntington Ravine Trail which I have climbed twice in the last few years.
I have reached Washington's summit in every month from May through November inclusive, although not without incident. Over Memorial Day weekend in 1996, I took my familiar ascent up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. The snowfalls had been exceptionally heavy that year and the snow was easily still ten to twelve feet deep on many parts of the trail below the Lake in the Clouds Hut. The trail was relatively clear for the remainder of the climb from the hut to the summit, but the fierce winds pushed the chill factors way down and I was extremely thankful for the invention of Goretex.
The pictures shown in this section were taken in September 2000, just as the Appalachian Mountain Club's Lake in the Clouds Hut was closing up for the season. There are several pictures of the Cog Railway, probably the oldest continuously operating steam railroad in the U.S. Once the Cog Railway was owned by the Boston and Maine Railroad company which even had a spur line running up from Fabyan's to Marshfield to bring passengers to the mountain. Today its future is in doubt and this monument to the achievements of 19th century engineering may not be with us much longer, at least in its current form. Indeed, as of Labor Day weekend in 2009, all but one of the trains I saw operating were pulled by new diesel locomotives rather than the traditional steam locomotives. I doubt it will be much longer before the longest continuously operating steam passenger railroad in the nation is no more.
In July 2010, my wife and I climbed Mt. Marcy, the highest mountain in New York state. Mount Marcy is located about 10 miles (or twenty minutes) from Lake Placid New York in Adirondack State Park. This was a long tiring climb. We followed the Van Hoevenberg Trail from the parking lot (adjacent to the Adirondack Loj) to the summit. The actual vertical ascent is rather modest at 3162 feet but the trail is long: 7.4 miles each way for a 14.8 mile return journey. The ascent is especially gradual for the first 2.3 miles to the Marcy dam but after that it becomes a bit more rugged although the only serious climbing occurs in the last mile or so as you approach the summit. Almost the entire ascent is below tree line. In my case this meant that despite carrying several liters of water, I ended up becoming fairly dehydrated from the heat and exertion although I did successfully refill one of my water bottles on the descent by Indian Falls (about three miles down from the summit). On the day we climbed we were surprised and pleased to meet a young woman at the top of the mountain who was the "summit steward" for Mount Marcy that day. (Off season, she was a university student in Vancouver, BC.) She was very well versed in the specifics of the alpine microclimate (a remnant of the last ice age) that exists at the summit and was very helpful to all of the hikers who made it to the top. When questioned, she indicated that it took her between two and a half and three hours to handle the 7.4 mile ascent. I am ashamed to admit that our climb up had taken us a little over four and a half hours. In any event, we made it down at pretty much the same pace and arrived back at our car-- extremely tired and sore-- some ten hours after we had first started out very glad to have successfully scaled the highest mountain in the Empire State.
Mt. Katahdin, located in Maine's Baxter State Park, isn't terribly near anything. The Hunt Trail parking lot at the Katahdin Stream Campground is a good hour's drive from the Best Western in Millinocket (one of the relatively few hotels or motels in the general area). And Millinocket is a comfortable hour or more north of Bangor which, for most of us, isn't exactly the center of universe either.
And Katahdin, with a summit elevation of only 5267 feet, is hardly the highest mountain in New England... But, it is, at least in my somewhat limited experience, the hardest climb to be had in the northeastern United States.
I have made four attempts at climbing Katahdin, only two of them successful. Under the best conditions, the ten mile round trip to the summit on the Hunt Trail will probably take at least eight hours. We followed this course in July 1999 and spent eleven hours on the mountain. The message here is that you really need to start early, even if you're in good shape. Unlike Mt. Washington, where (with the notable exception of the Huntington Ravine trail) you rarely have to use your hands, much of the climb up Katahdin is all about using your hands. And with a base elevation of only about 800 feet, the vertical climb is close to 4500 feet, roughly 1000 feet more than the typical west face climb up Washington.
Mt. Katahdin's summit is the northern endpoint of the 2158 mile long Appalachian Trail which streches from Georgia north to Maine. Occasionally you'll meet a hiker who proclaims his or her intent to hike all the way to Georgia. It's a long way and a difficult journey, but if you can get up and down Katahdin, you're probably pretty well prepared for much of what lies ahead.
The views from the plateau at the top are lovely as the accompanying pictures from our climb in July 1999 illustrate. It's a great mountain, but not one I will climb every year!
One Sunday in September 1996, my wife and I climbed Mt. Chocorua in the southern White Mountains of New Hampshire. The ascent from the base to the summit was approximately 2700 feet and, despite the fact that at only 3500 feet the summit's elevation is quite low compared to most of the other White Mountains, the views were absolutely magnificent. The pictures shown were taken on that trip.
We returned to Mt. Chocorua most recently at the beginning of May 1999 and climbed to top, despite at least two feet of snow remaining on the ground near the summit. The weather, however, was beautiful, with temperatures unseasonably warm, averaging over 70 degrees farenheit! Mt. Washington, visible from Chocorua's summit, was still cloaked in the white, snowy costume of winter.