+26 Airplane Gully Mt Washington

Trip Report Mount Washington's Mixed Bag POWDER Magazine
Trip Report Mount Washington's Mixed Bag POWDER Magazine from www.powder.com

The Airplane Gully on Mt. Washington: A Challenging Adventure for Thrill-Seekers


Mount Washington, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, is renowned for its extreme weather conditions and breathtaking landscapes. Among the many challenging routes on the mountain, the Airplane Gully stands out as an exhilarating adventure for experienced hikers and climbers. This steep and technical ascent offers a unique combination of thrill and beauty, making it a must-try for adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts.

The History of Airplane Gully

The name "Airplane Gully" derives from the resemblance of the gully's shape to that of an airplane wing. This natural feature has been attracting daredevil climbers since the early 1900s. In the early years, the gully was mainly used as a training ground for alpine climbers preparing for more challenging routes. Today, it has become a sought-after destination for climbers looking to test their skills and push their limits.

Location and Access

Airplane Gully is situated on the eastern side of Mount Washington, overlooking the picturesque Pinkham Notch. To reach the gully, climbers typically start from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and hike up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. After approximately 1.5 miles, the gully becomes visible on the right side of the trail, marked by its distinct shape and towering cliffs.

Technical Difficulty and Skill Requirements

Airplane Gully is classified as a Class 4 climb, indicating its high level of technical difficulty. The route requires climbers to have advanced rock climbing skills and experience with steep snow and ice terrain. It is recommended that climbers have prior experience with alpine climbing and be comfortable with exposure and route finding. Physical fitness and mental preparedness are also crucial for tackling this challenging ascent.

Season and Weather Considerations

The best time to attempt the Airplane Gully is during the late spring or early summer months when the snow has consolidated and the risk of avalanches is reduced. It is essential to monitor weather conditions and avalanche forecasts before embarking on the climb, as Mount Washington is notorious for its unpredictable weather patterns. Storms can roll in quickly, bringing strong winds, freezing temperatures, and limited visibility.

Equipment and Gear

Due to the technical nature of the climb, climbers should come fully equipped with the necessary gear. This includes a climbing harness, helmet, crampons, ice axes, and ropes. It is advisable to carry additional safety equipment such as avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels in case of emergencies. Adequate clothing layers, including a windproof and waterproof outer shell, are essential to protect against the harsh alpine conditions.

Route Description

The Airplane Gully begins with a steep snow or ice slope, followed by a narrow rock section that requires careful navigation. Climbers ascend the gully by using a combination of front-pointing, ice tool placements, and rock climbing techniques. The route is exposed and demands focus and precision. As climbers progress higher, the gully widens, allowing for more comfortable climbing. The final stretch brings climbers to the summit cone of Mount Washington, where they can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.

Safety Considerations

Given the technical difficulty and potential hazards of the Airplane Gully, climbers should prioritize safety at all times. It is recommended to climb with a partner or in a group, ensuring proper communication and teamwork. Checking the stability of the snowpack and assessing avalanche conditions is crucial before attempting the gully. It is also advisable to consult with experienced climbers or local mountaineering organizations for up-to-date information and guidance.

Alternate Routes and Variations

For climbers seeking different challenges or looking to avoid potential crowds, there are alternative routes and variations near Airplane Gully. These include routes such as the Right Gully, Central Gully, and the Chute. Each route offers its own unique characteristics and technical difficulties, catering to a range of skill levels and preferences.

Training and Preparation

Preparing for the Airplane Gully requires a combination of physical training and technical skill development. Climbers should focus on building strength and endurance through activities such as hiking, running, and strength training. Additionally, honing rock climbing skills and practicing snow and ice techniques are essential for navigating the gully's various sections. Seeking guidance from experienced climbers or hiring a professional guide can greatly enhance the preparation process.

The Rewards of Conquering Airplane Gully

Reaching the summit of Airplane Gully is an accomplishment that rewards climbers with a sense of achievement and awe-inspiring views. Standing atop Mount Washington, with the vast expanse of the White Mountains spread out before you, is a truly unforgettable experience. The combination of physical exertion, technical mastery, and the beauty of the surroundings creates a special connection with nature and a lasting memory.


Airplane Gully on Mount Washington offers a thrilling and challenging adventure for those seeking a unique outdoor experience. With its steep slopes, technical terrain, and stunning views, the gully attracts climbers from around the world. However, it is crucial to approach this route with caution, ensuring proper preparation, and prioritizing safety. For those who are up to the challenge, conquering Airplane Gully will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression and create memories to cherish for a lifetime.