Type: Trad, 900 ft (273 m), 7 pitches, Grade III
FA: Allis, Henderson, and friends
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Shared By: rdlennon on Nov 17, 2008 · Updates
Admins: Jay Knower, M Sprague, Lee Hansche, Jeffrey LeCours, Jonathan S, Robert Hall

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This description covers the rock route. The Pinnacle is perhaps more notable as a winter climb, and should be listed separately as such. The summer route is a classic alpine rock climb.

The Pinnacle, located high on Mt. Washington in Huntington Ravine, has been an objective of mountaineers dating back to the Underhills. It has a long and interesting history, explained at length in Webster's 3rd edition guide. An ascent of the route is a fine adventure, easy enough for the less experienced but classic enough for anyone to enjoy.

The Pinnacle is a prominent, blocky schist arete on the Huntington Ravine headwall. Its summit is a sharp ridge just below the Alpine Garden, and is a fine vantage point from which to view the ravine floor and the mountains to the east.

Pitch 1: Climb 4th class up a prominent, left-angling gully with some birch trees in it and reach a ledge. Continue up and right, staying close to the arete and entering 5th class territory as you climb a slab and a 5.5 right-facing corner. 5.5, ~150 feet

Pitch 2: Trend up and slightly left towards the steep, angular upper reaches of the Pinnacle. A well-traveled route up slabs and between bushes should be obvious. Belay at a flat area below a steep, right-facing inside corner. Easy 5th, ~150 feet

Pitch 3: Climb the corner. Clip a pin at half height and continue making technical moves until a jug on the right wall is reached. Mantle up and left onto a ledge. Here the line becomes less obvious as it moves left to a corner, then awkwardly up and right along a ramp (some crawl here!) before reaching a final mantle and a good belay ledge. 5.7, ~70 feet

Pitch 4: The original variation leaves the belay ledge and downclimbs a ramp to the left. After about 40 feet, a stance is reached below a chimney. Some belay here. With difficulty, climb a sloping ledge to enter the chimney. Ascend this, protecting using a chockstone and a few nut placements, to its end and a belay stance. 5.7, ~90 feet

Pitch 4a: The 5.8 direct variation. From the belay atop pitch 3, climb straight up on flakes, making long reaches between holds. Several pins protect the difficult moves. In 20 feet, after reaching an overhang, climb out left with considerable exposure, quickly turning right and passing between two blocks. Continue up easier ground to a belay stance, or continue 80 feet to an immense belay ledge (rope drag). 5.8, ~70 feet. *A 5.9+ variation leaves right from the p3 belay and follows steep ground up towards the arete proper.

Pitch 5: Ascend easy 5th class to an enormous belay ledge (size of a baseball infield). Easy 5th, 80 feet

Pitch 6: Walk 50 feet through alpine scrub and climb a steep 20-foot step. Taking the right side closer to the arete is more difficult at 5.6, while the left hand groove is around 5.4 and leads through a boulder tunnel to a belay ledge. The 5.6 pitch is recommended, as it puts the climber in a fine position close to the arete for the final 100 feet. 5.4 or 5.6, ~130 feet

Pitch 7: From a large belay area, either continue easily over blocks to the summit of the Pinnacle, or (vastly more recommended) move right around an overhang to the arete proper. With fantastic exposure, traverse across the top of the arete (Fairy Tale Traverse) to a niche and final corner, which is tackled to reach the summit. 5.5, ~130 feet

**Note** The Pinnacle is above treeline on one of America's deadliest peaks. The weather is unpredictable and often comes in from the west (over the Mt. Washington summit, thus invisible). Snow occurs in every month of the year on Mt. Washington, and high winds, driving rain, and thunderstorms are common. Be sensible. Check the forecast, get an early start, and be prepared to bail if things go bad. From most points on the route, it is possible to move left off the Pinnacle into a moderate gully, where descent would be arduous but safe. There is no excuse to be caught on the summit in poor conditions. In fact, on the approach hike, you'll see a yellow sign with the following text: "STOP. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad." Be careful up there.

**Other note** Mt. Washington and the Northern Presidentials are home to some of the east coast's rarest plants. Many of the sedges and dwarf alpine plant species only exist in a few square miles of northeastern alpine zone. Be careful of the plants and try to avoid treading on them as much as possible. This is especially true on the top, where a 1/4 mile hike through the Alpine Garden is necessary to gain the descent trail. Try and rock hop as much as possible to preserve the fragile alpine flora.


Getting there is the hard part! Park at the AMC's Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (free, get there early on a summer weekend). Locate the obvious Tuckerman Ravine Trailhead, and hike 1.3 miles up the wide trail, passing hundreds of fanny packers en route. Branch off right at one of the first junctions onto the Huntington Ravine Trail, a much more pleasant experience. Cross several streams and continue steeply onto the ravine floor. As the trail begins to move across the talus slope below the Pinnacle, move off left and scramble up towards the lower right end of the feature. The initial gully should be visible several hundred yards above the foot of the arete. The approach is around 3.5-4 miles in total.

To descend: From the summit, scramble up a loose talus slope to gain the relatively flat Alpine Garden. Rock-hopping to avoid the fragile alpine plants, continue straight for several hundred yards until a well-cairned trail is reached (the Alpine Garden Trail). If you're lucky enough to have a ride down, hike right to join the auto road near mile 6. Otherwise, hike left for one mile, take a left down the Lion's Head Trail, and rejoin the Tuckerman's Ravine Trail. Follow this to the parking lot for an approximately 4 mile descent.


Light rack of nuts and a single set of cams. Long alpine runners are essential in reducing rope drag. Many parties use double ropes.

There are many ways of climbing the Pinnacle. Most people will not rope up for all of the pitches. A typical climb might look like this: simul-climb pitches 1, 2, and 7. Rope up for pitches 3 and 4. Solo pitches 5 and 6. There is ample protection for much of the route, so it can be brought down to anyone's comfort level.