The Path Less Traveled: NE Ridge of the Pinnacle

Having spent far to much time in an office this summer, I decided it was time for a good adventure. Having not yet climbed the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle, I decided this would make a fine choice. I recruited my friend Steve, also stuck inside far too much, and we decided to take a long weekend and head out for some climbing. 

With rain slated for NH on Friday, we opted to stay in our home state of Vermont. We chose Marshfield ledge, an awesome isolate slab of granite located in the center of the state. Down on the far end is a Marshfield classic, Just for Goobs, which I had attempted earlier in the season but was forced to bail on due to seeping wet conditions. Lucky(?) for us it was a hot dry day and we had no problems with running water. Just for Goobs starts out on easy slab, which end abruptly on a steep tricky crux on pitch 1 before moving back onto slabby terrain for the remainder of pitches 1 and 2. Pitch 3 consists of a committing slab move off the belay to easier train above, and ends in a fantastic right leaning finger crack. A pitch absolutely worth doing if your ever in the area. 

Getting ready to rap from the top of 'Just for Goobs' at Marshfield Ledge. 

That evening we booked it to New Hampshire, and after a round of minigolf (which I won) and dinner alongside a windy river, we settled down early in anticipation of a long day tomorrow. 

The NE Ridge of the Pinnacle is a 7 pitch route that takes a direct line up Pinnacle Buttress, the most prominent rock feature in Huntington Ravine on Mt. Washington. A remarkable route, the Pinnacle consists mostly of low 5th class climbing, with two pitches of 5.7 mixed into the middle. 

We arrived at the Pinkham Notch visitors center at 7am, and on this perfect Saturday, the parking lot was already nearing capacity. We started up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail shortly after, surrounded by hundreds of hikers hoping to summit New England's highest peak. After breaking off onto the Huntington Ravine Trail, we were soon alone, winding through the trees and over gorgeous crystal rivers unhindered by the masses crowding the mountain back on the Tuck's trail. The four mile approach went quickly and before we knew it we were racking up to start the climb. Initially stuck behind a slow party, we quickly passed and made light work of the first few pitches. Swapping leads all day, Steve and I cruised forward towards the crux pitches. I took the first of the two, and inadvertently linked the two crux pitches via a variation, and before we knew it, we were back on easy terrain and cruised on towards the top, finishing the route in just over two and a half hours.

Steve topping out the crux pitch. 

The view from the last belay, on top of pitch 6. 

From the top of the Pinnacle we rejoined the Alpine Garden trail which brings you back to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, and of course, to the summit of Mt. Washington. Rejoining the masses was a stark contrast to the isolation we just experienced and we were immediately turned off by the immense throng. Even worse was the summit itself, packed edge to edge with folks in flip flops, having paid their way to the top. 

While on one hand I am thankful for the opportunity the auto road (a toll road that the public can use to drive to the top of the mountain) presents to those who are unable to summit under their own power, I am disgusted by the commercial aspect of the mountain. While this is clearly a larger discussion to be had, it does beg the question, at what point do the benefits of something like the autoroad out weigh the negatives.

What I will say is this, I am thankful that I took the path less traveled.  Reinhold Messner said, “Adventuring is adventuring. Only you can do it if your are on your own, and you carry all your responsibilities on ascent and decent”.