Pinnacle Gully is a favorite classic climb. Generations of climbers have tested their skill and resilience while climbing this modern day moderate. I can’t recall how many times I’ve climbed Pinnacle, but I do know that it has become a favorite.
After many multi day attempts by the regions best and most accomplished climbers, Samuel A. Scoville and Julian Whittlesey finally climbed the route in February, 1930. This marked the end of the Golden Era of climbing on Mt Washington. Consider the days equipment of 80cm piolet to cut the steps, crampons with out front points (these wouldn’t be available for another 35 years), wool knickers, leather boots, and surplus US Military mittens.
Fast forward to the early 1970s……Jim McCarthy leads a team up Pinnacle Gully without cutting steps, using modern crampons with front points and alpine hammers. They managed the route in a single day!
Each season I am lucky enough to take climbers up this historic route. Yesterday, I climbed it with Tim and Gina. We met at 6:30a at the Frontside. We chatted about the plan and headed up to Pinkham Notch where we packed beacons, shovels and probes, and headed up the 2 mile walk to the Harvard Cabin. After a colorful visit with Rich and Marcia, we quickly roped up and headed up through the fan into the gully and it’s rope stretching crux first pitch. A quick belay off of ice screws here gives great view of your team, and makes communication easier if it’s windy.
Above the first pitch, a snowfield of firm neve snow leads to a bulge and a belay off decent pins and some rock gear. Pitch 2 is about 50m and ends in a protected alcove with a good view of your partner. Pitch 3 Leads up low angle ice ramps ad bulges to the top of the gully. Again, belay off rock gear in solid rock. This pitch stretches a 60m rope out. A good anchor is important here as there can be some funky snow in this start zone. I’ve seen an impressive crown here on 2 occasions over the years. Sometime there is no snow, sometimes there is a lot. Take a belay and put the gear in. Scramble to the boulders and belay up your team. Congrats! The technical climbing is complete!
Some parties leading at the grade will likely pack a lot more, but what I bring is fairly conservative. I generally bring 8 screws, 4 small wires, and 4-5 small-medium cams, and a small repair kit (toe bail, linking bar, wrenches). After countless ascents, I have found this to be just about right and provides a good amount of versatility. It also gives options if there is a huge cue at the start of the route.
Add a 60m Sterling Nano Rope
Don’t forget to check the wx and avalanche advisory.
Historic jams for historic routes.