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Great Gulf Questions

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I made an attempt to reach the Great Gulf at the end of November. We started late on Saturday (3pm) and slept on the trail a bit before Spaulding Lake. We got a bit tired after loosing the trail a few times in the morning and since we had to be back in Montreal in the evening, we didn't push it. We turned around but, what a beautiful hike !

Now, I want to make another attempt. I'm wondering if people are using this trail in winter ? I don't expect the trail to be packed, but is it used now and then ? I intend to reach Spaulding Lake the first day. The next day, we'd hike up the ravine with crampons and an alpine axe, we'd go down via the Autoroad to Nelson Crag and then back to Pinkham. Has anyone done it and could share his/her experience ? I'm thinking that maybe the river froze and could be hiked. Is that realistic ?

Thanks !


Nice pics.  In my opinion best winter access will be via the "Old Jackson Road" trail from Pinkham- It's frequently traveled, and will cross the auto road and morph into the Madison Gulf trail, which intersects with the Great Gulf trail.  It's still a long way in to Spaulding Lake and the headwall.  If you were to ascend the headwall early in the day, you'd have many more aesthetic options to return to Pinkham than the auto road/ Nelson Crag-  Think Boott Spur or the Glen Boulder trail... Just my two cents. 


While not an area forecasted by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center the Great Gulf has some pretty serious avalanche terrain in it. The actual hiking trail will cross multiple slide paths on the head-wall that could be problematic. You should definitely have some avalanche awareness skills, and pay close attention to the weather from MWOBS for a few days before your trip. The Great Gulf has a similar aspect/elevation to Tuckerman Ravine, so if the rating in Tuckerman is Considerable/High I would expect it to be a bit dangerous in Great Gulf.

The Great Gulf is one of the largest most beautiful tracks of wilderness in the White Mountains. It truly is "wilderness" meaning you need to be 100% self-sufficient.

Also, a side note, during Spring melt-off it is quite impassible due to high rivers... would not go in there during any strong thawing cycles...

I believe Courtney Lea, Alan Cattabrigga and that clan shoot up air line or valley way and drop down over the other side of Madison. Don't quote me but I think that was what they said when I asked them about access. You can either drop down the Gulf Trail or Buttress Trail from there ( I think it was Buttress that gets you to or at least closer to the flow). Friends of mine tried the great gulf trail twice and got shut down both times due to deep snow and new growth.

I have done it the way Old School suggests above.

Very enjoyable day.


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