Winter Cog Railway Opens New Approach to Mount Washington

The Union Leader reports there has been an increase in the number of hikers on Mount Washington thanks to the winter running of the Cog Ski Train but there have been no new problems. There is a new route to access the famed mountain in winter and early spring and perhaps an easier way up, some believe. The plowed rough, rocky and long Mount Clinton Road from Crawford Notch to the Marshfield Base Station is now a snowmobile trail, and the Base Road from Fabyan’s Station in Twin Mountain has been plowed to access parking to skiers while also allowing snowmobilers on a side trail. In the December 2004 issue of United Airlines’ on-board magazine is a historic illustration of the Cog, and an article about “The Cog that Could.” Its subheading was “A ski train ratchets up winter options on Mount Washington.”

It also states in bold-face type: “Mountaineers will benefit too. The Cog train brings the 6,288-foot summit a lot closer for climbers.”
Wayne Presby, owner of the Cog, says guests are encouraged to stay within the right of way. On March 8, 2004, Pelchat was among a team that retrieved the body of one of two climbers killed in the Great Gulf. Four men departed that Sunday morning from the Marshfield base station of the Cog Railway, with plans to spend the day skiing. Just before 3 p.m., they were in Pine Gully on the 5,541-foot Mount Clay. They had been on skis, but at that point had determined that the conditions were too icy to continue on skis. Mount Clay, the first peak on the north ridge from Mount Washington, has cliffs that drop away to form the west side of the Great Gulf headwall. The men were in the process of removing their skis and strapping crampons to their boots, when one man with one ski and one crampon, fell and slid about 1,500 feet down the slope to his death.
As another went to help, he, too, fell and slid about 1,000 feet to his death. “I think your hard-core skier is not going to ride the train. They want to enjoy the woods and solitude and their favorite sport. I don’t see the type of skier going to Oaks or Great Gulf really wanting to ride the train. They will use the Base Station Road to access closer to their favorite remote areas,” he said. The Cog deliberated the idea of offering winter access all the way up the mountain. Currently they only go halfway. The idea was met with alarm and a new federal rule that prohibits access of any kind for those who want to ski and slide in Tuckerman Ravine. An order restricting entry to the snowfields and ravine was issued in March 1992 by White Mountain National Forest Supervisor Rick Cables. By using this as the only entryway, it forces the visitor to hike and visually see the steepness before attempting to come down, said Alexis Jackson, WMNF spokesman.

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