Posts in Category: Harvard Cabin

Cabin Update – December 19, 2014

December 19, 2014

Seasons Greetings Mountaineers,

Happy Friday! Despite a better then normal December on Mt. Washington, I’ll skip right to the chase. This weekend is going to be one of the highlights of the season! It was a beautiful day in the Mt. Washington Valley, however, things up high are only now beginning to clear, making way for a picture perfect, windless Saturday on the Rock Pile. Warm too, but not too warm! I know most of you are probably just cutting out of work, trying to finalize plans for the weekend. No surprise, I’m going to insist you to make the trek to Mt. Washington.

Sure, I’m biased towards the alpine, but conditions are actually pointing climbers to the higher elevations this December. Plagued with warm temps and plenty of Rain, I’m sure everyone is aware that things are pretty thin down in the valley.

We are happy folks are making their way up into the ravines this December. We’ve seen a lot of familiar faces over the last few weeks. Many helped out with the cabin atmosphere by staying a night or two. Others made a day of it, but were nice enough to stop in and say hello. Always encouraged and appreciated!

Trail and Ice Conditions

The recommended cabin approach is the Fire Road
via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.

If you have any questions ask a Trail Info Specialist at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.
Do not take the Huntington Ravine Trail!

Everyone will be happy to know that the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and the Fire Road are both sporting full-coverage and are well-packed. Micro-traction or skis and climbing skins will make life a bit easier, especially the latter, but are not required.

The Forest Service did a great job revamping and adding water-bars on the Tux Trail this summer. Water has drained nicely over the Fall months. Sorry if you were looking forward to the usual grade 3 ice problems that are typical on the cabin approach this time of year. That challenge appears to be absent this year.

Traveling above the cabin is actually very similar until you get up into the lower portions of The Fan where you’ll find the talus/boulder field remains. However, snow fields are developing nicely at the base of most climbs. So, don’t let your guard down when approaching the base of your favorite climbs.

As far as a brief run-down of the gullies I’ll have to say that Pinnacle is in it’s usual December condition, Protectable, but thin. Still, it’s seen lots of traffic. O’Dell is typically fat…good Grade 4 fun on the right. Yale is fickal as ever but, has also seen a fair amount of traffic. Though there have been some route finding challenges so far this season given the touchy snowpack.

As far as Central Gully goes, there is snow all the way to the ridge. However, early season snow pack tends to be thin at the exit and rests on pretty smooth, unprotectable rock slab. Overall, I think avalanche danger should keep everyone out of Central Gully this weekend. That said, tomorrow’s solar gain combined with last nights close to 100 mph/160kph winds might have a settling effect, but I do not have any current beta relating.

Damnation and North  gullies have also seen a fair amount of action this week. Thin but, fairly stable conditions make these both worthy objectives for this weekend. Don’t forget your rock gear!

And for you fellow powder-hounds out there, there is something to be said for skiing right now. Depending on your skill and commitment level, I would say there are some worthy objectives for this weekend – Left Gully in Tuckerman Ravine is skiing mostly top to bottom, Hillmans Highway could offer something fun from the top down through the narrows, and the Summit Snow Fields are fresh with some of the coldest snow we’ve seen so far this winter.

With all of this in mind, don’t forget to pay close attention to the past weeks snow data. Catch up by reading daily advisories starting with last Sunday. Find all the latest info at

Stocking Stuffer – Guided Ascent of Mt. Washington

Finally, in case you don’t know. The Mount Washington Valley is jam packed full of amazing Mountain Guides. Some are independent while many work for a guide service. Having done a fair amount of climbing in other parts of the world, I’m always surprised at not only the caliber of northeast climbers, but to a greater degree the high quality Mountain Guides that originate from the region. Is it in the water? I don’t know, but I am confident in saying that some of the best guides in the World come from the Northeast. Many of which call the Mt. Washington Valley home.

Now, I will never be included in this group of elite mountain guides. I’m far too lazy. Still, given the fact that I have a fantastic life-partner and co-caretaker and a money pit of aVan we’ll call home again this summer, it’s been decided that I should once again join the ranks of the gainfully employed. Heck, if I’m real luck I might qualify for the Affordable Care Act that another well-known Harvard Guy thought was such a good idea. Anyway, if all goes well, I will be guiding Mt. Washington Summit Climbs this winter through Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School in North Conway, NH. I’ll be guiding walk-ups from MondayFriday so that I can still maintain by duties at Harvard Cabin.

So, I know you all have friends and family that don’t really understand us climbers, but are sometimes interested. Instead of trying to get them to practice hard-skills on the green grass, why don’t you sign them up for a Mount Washington Summit Bid through the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. Being new to the whole guide thing, I can’t guarantee they’ll get a day with me, but I’ve been really impressed with the guide staff at EMS. More so I am impressed with the idea of a climbing “School” versus a guide “Service”. The quality climbing guides at EMS will surely remain objective, but the learning starts from the first second each clients arrives at the school. So, regardless of what the day brings, never-evers are sure to walk away with new skills, awareness, and a thirst for more.

I’ll just be working on Mt. Washington, in mostly non-technical environments. But, like all the fantastic guides and services in the Mt. Washington Valley, there is something for everyone regardless of skill level. So, go ahead and give EMS Climbing School a call. Tell them the Crazy Harvard Cabin Caretaker sent you.

1498 White Mountain Highway
North Conway, NH 03860

Upcoming Events

New England Ice Festivals
Mountain Fest: January 16-18, 2015 – Keene Valley, NY
Smuggs Ice Bash: January 23-26, 2015 – Smuggler’s Notch, VT
Mt. Washington Valley Ice Fest: February 6-8, 2015 – North Conway, NH

Harvard Cabin History

Finally, I am forever trying to become more aware of the cabin, it’s history, and the details of how exactly the cabin came to be. I’m humbled over and over again by the history of the cabin, the Harvard Mountaineering Club, and the people that that make them both noteworthy climbing institutions. So, this season I’m going to include some fun factoids about the cabin with every update. At least now, we’ll know who’s actually reading these updates instead of working on those TPS reports 🙂

Harvard Cabin Fun Fact:

Former HMC President (Class of 1963) Rick Millikan helped with the construction of the Harvard Cabin. He is the Grandson of George L. Mallory who vanished near the top of Mt. Everest in 1924. His other Grandfather, Robert Millikan was awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics for his oil-drip experiment which allowed him to make the first accurate figure for the electric charge of a single electron.

Think, the famous words “Because it is there.” And, for your engineers out there, Marcia wants you to recall that cool program on your graphing calculator called the Milliakn Oil Drop Program. Well, those must have been some big shoes to fell. But, Mr. Rick Millikan seemed to do okay in his own right. Among other things Rick was on the first team to make an ascent of Mt. Huntington via the Wickersham Wall.

More fun facts in a couple of weeks. Remember the future of the Harvard Cabin depends on you. We hope to see you soon!

Time to get up the hill! Stay Safe everyone…and don’t forget the Bacon!

Rich Palatino
Harvard Cabin Caretaker

      Rich and Marcia
Cabin Caretakers 2014/15

NOTE – Harvard Cabin is not affiliated with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Harvard Cabin is maintained by Harvard Mountaineering Club for use by the general public. The cabin is operated under a special-use permit granted by the USDA Forest Service. Cabin space and tent-sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis between December 1st and March 31st each year. Specific instructions for staying at the cabin can be found online at

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