MONT WASHINGTON HIKE
DAY 1 : Beginning of the ascent
We start our adventure at 5 a.m. from Montreal, towards the Presidential Channel. Our team starts hiking at 10 a.m. The objective of the day is to reach the boundary between the forest area and the alpine area. The thermometer displays -27℃, the freshness of the mountains is felt on our faces, the climb is very steep, the snow is deep... The watchword: mutual assistance. The whole team supports each other during the steepest parts of the climb. We arrive at the alpine area, an amber luminosity appears little by little; the show is amazing.
The sun is setting, Marie-France, our photographer takes the opportunity to take one of the most beautiful pictures of the adventure. We are witnessing a real spectacle: this sunset will remain in our minds forever. After this first day of hiking, we arrive exhausted at the Gray Knob refuge. This one is like a small refuge without water or electricity. Inside the building, the temperature reaches only 5℃, although a wood stove tries as best as it can to heat the room. This first night away from the extreme cold allows us to rest before getting into the action. It also allows wet stocks to be dried on the edge of the stove. The evening takes place around a hot meal (meatballs in tomato sauce, served with semolina). This evening is only refreshing before the hard day that awaits our team tomorrow!
DAY 2 : A though day with nature
The departure is scheduled for 7am. From the very first steps, we understand that the day will be long and dangerous. The temperature felt is -50℃ and gusts of wind up to 170 km/h hit our faces at full power. These too extreme conditions then limit our progress. It will therefore be impossible for us to achieve all of our planned objectives (climbing the summits of Mount Adams and Mount Jefferson). We are forced to walk with as few stops as possible to prevent our bodies from cooling down quickly and thus endangering our body. Our breaks are short, limited to 2 minutes to avoid hypothermia.
We are hiking on what we have nicknamed "Death Row". A narrow corridor that can only be used by one person at a time. It was in this place that we really realized the power of nature. Some of us are carried away by the wind and find ourselves ashore. We receive a call by walkie-talkie, the team based at the bottom of the mountain announces that a storm is planned for the evening. It is essential to quickly set up a camp for the night...
We reach our new objective around 2pm. A small square supposed to be sheltered from the wind to set up our camp. Without wasting time, everyone gets busy shovelling the ground. Once the surface is flat, the tents can be placed. Only the wind starts to rise and the camp is not safe... The tent frames start to break. The only chance to resist this rough night is to build snow walls to protect yourself from the wind.
The walls rise as night sets over the valley. The work doesn't give us time to eat. During the evening, we move the equivalent of 5 tons of snow to build the 5-foot high walls. But these are not enough... One of the three tents is now unusable because it is too damaged. The only solution found is the following: organize into two groups, each group will be responsible for a tent.
The first group sets up a watch system in which its members take turns every 45 minutes to support the reinforcements from the outside. The second group decides to support the tent from the inside and then finds tips to re-strengthen the feverish reinforcements. This moment is definitely one of the most complicated of the adventure. It is -30° outside the tent with winds of up to 170 km/h. The storm only stops at 1 am. The relays continue with longer intervals. Despite physical and mental fatigue, minds remain united. " Face to adversity, extremes and unpredictability, the strength of the heart remains unwavering. ''
DAY 3 : The downhill
Today, we wake up with the sunrise. It is 7am, we put away the tents and prepare to leave. After a complicated night, we hit the road again for our last day of walking. Wounded and tired from the repetitive falls, we still keep smiling on this beautiful day.
A storm is forecast at 1pm, so it is impossible to carry out the last ascent planned: the one of Mount Washington. Remaining careful to get home in one piece is the golden rule! We then decide to start the descent. Without a hitch, we reach the foot of the mountain.
Our challenge stops here: nature has been cold, but it has warmed our hearts with its beauty. The spirits are forever marked by this adventure that ends under a beautiful blue sky!
Testimonial of Marie-France, reporter
'' This sentence, our expedition leader has often repeated it to us in recent months. This shows that all the physical, mental and technical preparation was not going to be enough. It was going to take heart and soul to face the extreme and unpredictable nature of the presidential chain. The courage was not lacking within the Indigo Construction team for sure though.
However, the mountain has given us some lessons of humility, reminding us that it always had the last word. As we entered the alpine zone, conditions quickly became hostile, exposing us to freezing temperatures of -45°C and constant winds of 120 to 140 kmh, with gusts up to 175 kmh. It is difficult to take one step in front of the other without being lifted off the ground or pressed against the ground, even when loaded with heavy shipping bags. The wind was brutal and powerful beyond imagination. But since the violence of the snow-covered giants is only equalled by their beauty, we were breathless by the vastness of the landscape, even more so than by the unevenness of the slopes. This is a reward for all our efforts.
The slope on which we had planned to be sheltered to set up our camp was exposed to violent gusts approaching 100 km/h. The whole team then mobilized and for almost five hours, a real construction site was set in motion on the mountain. While some were digging, others were busy building high snow walls to try to protect the tents. Despite all efforts, two out of three tents were broken by the wind, one of which was irreparable. But the team was far from running out of solutions. We spent the night working outside in teams of two to secure the tents. An hour and a half to warm up and try to get some sleep. Forty-five minutes braving the blizzard, holding the poles, then making a few squats to keep warm. And this in loop until sunrise.
Face to adversity, extremes and unpredictability, the team's core strength has remained unwavering. On the faces cracked by the cold, behind the hoods and ski goggles, we could see wide smiles and bold looks. Each step was heavy with determination, perseverance and solidarity. Every step brought us closer together. Each step made us stronger and more vulnerable, but above all more human. Each step was itself a summit.
And on the way back, as the White Mountains disappeared into the clouds, we quickly forgot our sore muscles, sprains and frostbite. Already, our hearts were turning to the next challenge, the stronger part of this unforgettable adventure. ''