One option is Keith Moon of Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School.
Operating out of Norcross Circle, in the village of North Conway, with a retail shop just a few miles south in the downtown village of the town, Keith is the manager and lead guide at the sports school.
Guiding and living in Mt. Washington Valley since 2008, Keith made his way east from Minnesota. When asked why he decided to veer east instead of west, like many of his counterparts did, he answered that it was the rugged terrain the East Coast is known for that swayed his decision.
Mt. Washington Valley has a lot of name recognition. Skiing in particular sticks out, especially with the iconic Tuckerman Trail, leading to Tuckerman Ravine. This trail is so pervasive, and photography of this route up Mount Washington is so stunning, it can help but explode digitally. Images of Mount Washington and everything it overlooks has cast a wide net, and sucked many an outdoor enthusiast in.
(But before you do anything, first, we implore you take the MWV Pledge to promise to protect them! Sign your name and join the others who pledge to care for the White Mountain National forest to ensure it sticks around for years to come!)
Mt. Washington Valley is constantly reinventing itself for me. The diversity of the four seasons keeps my attention, and just as I get tired of one season and the activities that come with it, a new season begins. I can ski in Mt. Washington Valley, hike, and mountain bike, and sometimes do all three in one day. Change is always around the corner, and the access to take on every activity is unparalleled in the valley.
It’s that access though that is a real paradox. Being a drivable distance from so many major metropolis’ such as Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Providence, RI; Hartford, CT, and beyond means that Mt. Washington Valley sees a lot of people. And we mean a lot. 40% of the US population can drive to Mt. Washington Valley in a single 24-hour drive, and be at a trail head. Having some of the most easily accessed trail heads, means taking a harder look at the initiative needed to maintain and protect them.
Keith’s advice? Find new trails to explore. Much of what fuels the need for impact management around Mt. Washington Valley’s natural resources is that many of them are so heavily trafficked. The Tuckerman Ravine Trail for example is one of the most heavily used trails in the United States - which makes sense seeing as it is one of the original trails used for backcountry skiing dating back to the early 1930’s.
And even earlier when we acknowledge that members of the Abenaki tribe trekked all over Mount Washington, including what is now called Tuckerman Ravine, well before the mid-1600’s. To learn more about the indigenous land we have the privilege to live, play and work on, click here.
Unfortunately Tuck’s - as locals fondly call it - fame could also be its downfall. There is no way the trail will be able to withstand the amount of feet determined to climb it in the coming years, unless we find new routes for those feet to climb. Which leads into the next question…
There are 2,000 miles of trails just a mere two miles north of Tuckerman Ravine. That’s 2,000 miles of forest to explore, which planning an excursion with Keith and the his team of guides at Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School can help you do.
Signature trips include a one-day Mount Washington Ascent to AIARE avalanche training, rock climbing and backcountry skiing clinics. One of the key aspects of hiring a guide for any of these expeditions is that they provide sound decision making skills. Keith is clear to note that whenever anyone enters the wilderness, the operative word to keep in mind is the word “try.”
Using the word “try” when planning to ascend Mount Washington or planning to ski a backcountry trail can make a drastic difference on the success of the trip, because you’re truly at the mercy of the elements. While it may be your plan to make it to the top, weather and terrain might think differently. A guide can help you interpret those elements which not only makes for a more pleasant outdoors experience, but can also help keep you alive.
And speaking of keeping you alive, we just had to know what Keith’s biggest piece of advice was when it came to packing gear.
The number one thing that Keith continues to hear go poorly for people who venture out into the forest alone is that of a light source. Packing a functioning light source that isn’t a phone is imperative. Thinking a phone’s flashlight app can be a sufficient form of light on an outdoor adventure is a common thought process, but relying on phones to be a navigation source, camera, radio, and a head lamp only means the phone will lose battery at a faster rate, and potentially die midway through a trip.
Being stranded on a trail with zero ability to create your own light is incredibly scary and dangerous. Petzl makes a high functioning lamp that is smaller than the palm of your hand. (And can be found at EMS’ retail location in downtown North Conway.) Which means there is no excuse not to pack it. It sounds simple, but packing a credible light source is my number one piece of safety and gear advice.
Keith’s second piece of advice? It’s all about the layering - with a focus on the upper body. When dressing for an outdoor adventure one has to realize that for the most part, their lower body is locked in. Changing out of pants and into shorts or vice versa on a trail is a lot harder to do than peeling off a layer from the top. When you think about regulating comfort for your upper body, think in a four-layer system that is going to protect you from wind, water, and air. This will be weather and season dependent, but the advice holds true across spring, summer, winter and fall.
Hiring a guide in Mt. Washington Valley helps support local economy, and it keeps you safe. Local guides make a up a huge part of the cultural and community identity of the Mt. Washington Valley. By hiring one for an excursion you'll gain expert insight on how to make your outdoor adventure in the White Mountain National Forest more fun, and interesting, and it will better prepare you for your trek into the wild; ensuring that you will go on many more for years to come.
For complete trip planning resources and information, explore this site, visitmwv.com, or call 800-367-3364 (800-DO-SEE-NH) to talk to a Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce rep. To learn more about New Hampshire vacations, go to www.VisitNH.gov.