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Huntington Ravine and the Last Week of the Harvard Cabin!

March 31, 2015
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Huntington Ravine

Well, I finally made it up for an overnight at the Harvard Cabin.  Before I mention anything else though, I should clarify that the Harvard Cabin is not affiliated with the Appalachian Mountain Club. The cabin is maintained by the Harvard Mountaineering Club.

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The Harvard Cabin

That said, we’re all here on the same mountain, in the same national forest, with the same special-use permits from the Forest Service. No reason not to be friends.So for the uninitiated: what is the Harvard Cabin?Where is it?

The Harvard Cabin is a fully enclosed, self-service, public-use cabin near Huntington Ravine. Its location makes it a great staging area for ice climbers, backcountry skiers, and mountaineers, but everyone is equally welcome.

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Inside the Harvard Cabin

Inside the cabin is a propane stove and plenty of cookware.  Water comes from a stream behind the cabin – clear, cold, mountain water.  The cabin is unheated, but there is a wood stove that generally burns from 4 pm until 9 pm.  There is room for 16 people to sleep in the loft, and another 16 may camp outside in the vicinity.  Outside the cabin is a privy (solids only).

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The sleeping area in the loft of the Harvard Cabin

Every morning at 7, the Mount Washington Observatory broadcasts the weather forecast over the radio. This forecast includes a general summary for the higher summits and the Mount Washington Valley, as well as specifics on temperature, wind, and precipitation.

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The Fire Road

Around the same time, the cabin gets a visit from the Forest Service Snow Rangers. The Snow Rangers visit Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine each morning to write a report on snow conditions and avalanche danger. The weather and avalanche reports are posted inside the cabin. Outside the cabin is a large advisory board, which is updated daily with both reports and specific conditions for the main climbing routes in Huntington Ravine.

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The caretakers, Rich and Marcia, live in the cabin all winter to keep things running smoothly.  They have spent eight winters in the cabin between the two of them, giving the place the feeling of home.  Rich and Marcia offer a wealth of knowledge, hospitality, and levity.  They are among the coolest and most amicable people around, and would love to have your company.

Overnights at the cabin operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Your best bet is to come by the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, where there is a registration book for the Harvard Cabin. The cabin is 2 mile hike from the visitor center. Take the Tuckerman Ravine up, passing over three snow-covered wood bridges, then hang a right onto the Fire Road when you see the orange sign for the Lion Head Trail. A few more tenths of a mile brings you to the advisory board and the cabin. Check in with Rich and Marcia upon arrival, with whom you’ll pay your fee of $15 per person per night to stay inside, or $10 per person per night to stay outside.

Some more beta, as they would say at the cabin:

  • The water is not filtered or treated.  Guests may bring purification or filtration methods if they would like.
  •  You are responsible for your own food, but no need to bring a stove, cookware, or utensils.
  •   Bring your own sleeping bag.  Sleeping pads are useful too, unless you enjoy sleeping on    hard wood floors.
  • Bring a headlamp.
  • Pets are not permitted inside the cabin.  
  • Please leave pet dinosaurs outside. 
  • Pack it in, pack it out.

The cabin closes for the season on April 5! One week left to pop in and check it out.

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After a night at the cabin, I headed to Huntington Ravine with Marcia.  We brought the whole outfit: crampons, ice tools, harnesses, helmets, hardware, protection, and rope.  Marcia hadn’t seen Escape Hatch yet this season and it was my first time climbing in the ravine, so we headed for the far left side of the ravine.  The conditions for the approach were great.  It was just soft enough for solid footing, just hard enough to avoid postholing.  Before the route got steeper, we donned our helmets, harnesses, and crampons.  Safety first.  Conditions were pretty mild though, so we were able to work our way up the snow slope without feeling the need to get out the rope

Before long, we made it to the top of Escape Hatch, which is marked by a shovel handle poking out of a cairn.  I’d share a picture, but it’s more fun to see it with your own eyes after earning it.  We ambled over to the Alpine Garden Trail and looked from side to side.  A frozen pool to the left, the Lion Head Trail beyond.  A dotted line of cairns tracing the top of the ravine to Nelson Crag.  A rock spotted slope up to the summit of Mount Washington.

Marcia and I hiked over to the Lion Head and began the descent. We carefully made our way down, as the trail is extremely steep. Making full use of the crampons and ice tools, we carefully passed one steep section after another, both of us hyper aware of the number of injuries that are sustained over this 0.4 mile stretch of trail. We safely got back down to the Fire Road, took off our crampons, and walked back to the Harvard Cabin for a hot drink.

Lion Head beta:

  • The first 0.4 mile of the Winter Lion Head Route from the Fire Road is extremely steep.
  • Crampons, a mountaineering axe, and the knowledge to use both appropriately are a must when taking the winter route to Lion Head or the summit.
  • This is one of the most common locations where visitors sustain injuries. Don’t take this lightly.
  • Depending on conditions, parts of this trail may be exposed rock, rock with verglas, packed snow, etc.  Be sure that you are prepared for a wide range of possible conditions.
  • Swing by the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, the Hermit Lake caretaker’s cabin, or the Harvard Cabin for the latest trail conditions.

As always you can check AMC Conditions for the latest report from the snow stakes and/or call us here at Pinkham to see what we’re seeing out our windows and for the best trail advice we can give you!

Starting March 23rd we are going to be starting the Bed and Breakfast Tuckerman specials here at Joe Dodge Lodge again for $49!

From skiing safety to lodging, check out our comprehensive resource for properly preparing for your trip to Tuckerman Ravine 

For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk. We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM or by email at amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org.

To make reservations
Please call AMC Lodges and Huts, at (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.

Happy Winter Adventuring!
Chris W.
AMC Backcountry Information Specialist

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