A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Castle Ravine Scouting Hike via Mt Adams

September 6, 2020
Emilie Phillips

This spring, we attempted to ski Castle Ravine but were stopped by open stream crossings. We had started at Bowman on the Castle Trail, then followed Israel Ridge Path and the Castle Ravine trail straight up the drainage. An alternate approach via Lowe’s Path and The Link stays away from the ravine until high up. This account is of our scouting hike with Larry and Thor, two of our skiing friends, and Thor’s dog Bear. First we summited Mt Adams, then we descended the ravine.

Tyson and Isaac on the Castle Ravine headwall

Starting from the top of Castle Ravine, the headwall is a jumble of rocks. The rocks are smaller than lunch rocks in Tuckerman’s Ravine, and probably get filled in with snow. The open bowl sustains a good 30-40 degree pitch for the mile descent. For hiking, the rock scramble was, as Thor put it, gnarly. So few people hike this trail that the foot bed barely makes a dent in the lush green sphagnum moss at the top. However, we all agreed the headwall looks like good skiing. Our only concern is that, because it faces northwest into the prevailing winds, Castle Ravine will get less snow than the popular ravines on the other side of Mt Washington .

Castle Ravine trail below tree line

The real problems start below the headwall, when the Castle Ravine Trail enters the forest. The trail is narrow with dense evergreen growth on both sides. Despite the trees, the ravine continues its steep descent. We scrambled down, under (Roof Rock), and between rocks. Then a brook merged in and ran down the middle of the trail. Tyson thought this stream would likely wash out the trail during the winter. The Castle Ravine Trail does not look skiable even on its upper sections. If you want to ski Castle Ravine, you’ll have to approach from the top.

With the exception of crossing Cascade Brook at the cascades, the Link trail and the lower part of Lowe’s Path looked skiable.

Mt Madison

As for the rest of our hike, the view from the northern presidentials is mind boggling. The rest of New Hampshire is so far below. It’s like you have hiked up and out of the world. We stopped at the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) Log Cabin shelter and Gray Knob four season hut. Gray Knob looks nice, like the 10th Mountain hut we stayed at this winter. As of summer 2020 it is closed for covid.

Thor, Bear, Isaac, Larry, and Emilie on the summit of Mt Adams. Mt Washington in the background

We took our obligatory summit photo on top of Mt Adams. The wind was blowing so hard I didn’t worry much about social distancing. The next group whopped and hollered for the joy of summiting. That’s not my style, but in this day and age, I can understand wanting to celebrate something. The best part of the trip as a mom was listening to Isaac chatting and laughing with Thor on the way down.

Us adults were tired when we got to the bottom, but Isaac and Bear (Thor’s dog) had enough energy for one last run across the parking lot.

All Photos

GPS Track


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Comments (4)

  • Comparing Gray Knob to the 10th Mountain hut, this is a quote from the RMC site …
    How cold does it get inside?

    The internal temperature of Gray Knob in the winter is a refrigerator at best and a freezer at worst.

    If the fire is lit, for a short period in the evening, the inside temperature could reach 35-40°F at the most. This is not warm.

    • I didn’t spot that comment. Elsewhere I saw it was insulated and had a wood stove. But it sounds like the caretaker minimizes the wood stove use.

  • Emilie, Your photographs are just wonderful. This time I was enchanted by both the subject and the quality and overall beauty of nearly every picture. There were many shots that made me want to be helicoptered in to that spot for a while – just to see it all – – then, of course, be helicopterd back out again. I never could get in or out under my own power.
    At the start I read the names of your traveling partners for the day but I mixed up two names in my feeble brain. In a couple later pics of two men and a dog, captioned, ‘Larry and Thor’, I wondered who the stranger was who kept photo bombing your shots. I thought ‘Thor’ was the dog. Kind of funny.
    Also clearly shows the lack of any genetic connection between you and me. ( yes, ‘me’ not ‘I’ )

    Thanks for the great post Love, Susan

    • It’s not quite the same as hiking up yourself, but you can see many of the same views from Mt Washington which is accessible by the auto road and the cog railway.

      For big vista photos like these, I focus on the lighting in my photos and adding a sense of perspective. For perspective, I look for contrasting foreground elements or leading lines. The hardest place on this trip to capture was the descent down Castle Ravine. Normally I shoot across the slope to show how steep it is, but the far wall of the ravine seemed to distort that view. I also tried some photos looking straight down with people for context.

      Let me see if I can fix the people intro at the top to clarify who is a person and who is a dog 🙂