I’ve spent so much time hiking above treeline this year that I will soon qualify for a pilot’s license. I’ve got the bug bad. Standing among the cairns in the howling wind under brilliant blue skies, dwarfed by immense piles of rock and dust, there are few things that I find more exhilarating than a glorious climb up a big hill.
My latest mid-week jaunt took me up two of Mount Washington’s subsidiary peaks, Boot Spur (5492′) and Gulf Peak (4760′). Starting at Pinkam Notch Visitor’s Center, I climbed the Boot Spur Trail which ascends ~3500 feet in 2.5 miles and forms the southern wall of Tuckerman Ravine. From there, I headed south on the Davis Path, and descended via the Glen Boulder Trail passing over Gulf (Slide) Peak, to the Diretissimma Trail which leads back to the Pinkham Notch lot. Total distance 8 miles/3700 feet/7.5 hours.
The temperature was borderline chilly on this hike, in the 50’s above treeline and winds 25-35 mph. I had to bundle up when I came over the lee side of the Boot Spur summit and was hit with the full force of the wind. I tucked behind a rock and ate a few sunflowers seeds, but most of them got blown out of my hand by the wind. I had to laugh.
The climb up to Boot Spur is quite steep and is extremely exposed above treeline. It is magnificent though with great views of the Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines, the Wildcats and Carter Moriah Range, as well as the southern Presidentials. I think the Boot Spur Trail is now one of my favorites in the Whites!
Why these two peaks? They’re on the Trailwrights 72 peakbagging list, of course, although I’ll only get to count one of them based on the list rules. This section of The Davis Path (below the Camel Hump Trail) also provides an excellent alternative path to Mount Isolation rather than the long hike in from Rt 302. I’m going to file that away for a group trip to Isolation someday.
The summit of Boot Spur is not much to look at – just a small chunk of rock right before where the Boot Spur Trail intersects with The Davis Path. If you head north on Davis you walk past the Tuckerman Ravine headwall and to the summit cone of Washington. I toyed with the idea of hiking over to Tuckerman but decided to leave it for another day. I still had some serious hiking to do.
Heading south again, I walked down the Davis Path to the junction to the Glen Boulder Trail. The views were great: I could see all of the southern Presidentials from their southern aspect, a view that a lot of people never get to see. The wind was also blowing something fierce and I almost got blown over.
At the trail junction, I headed east onto the Glen Boulder Trail which is named after a huge glacial erratic precariously balanced below Gulf (Slide) Peak that be seen from miles away. Gulf Peak is right on the trail so I just had to continue down, dropping elevation rapidly as I made my descent.
I passed Gulf Peak without incident and kept heading straight, passing an unmarked side trail, which I believe is the Gulf of Slides ski trail. From here on the Glen Boulder Trail gets progressively more trashed from overuse damage by visitors and what looks like Hurricane Irene damage to the trail. It’s so horrific, I doubt I’ll hike back up this trail again. There are other nicer paths to the subsidiary peaks of Mt Washington.
All round another great day in the Hills.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- Exploring New Hampshire Map from the Wilderness Map Company
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