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Wet Will(e)y...part 1

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Back when I was a kid, there was something called a 'Wet Willey.' If you are unfamiliar with the term, let me briefly explain what it is.


First, you find your victim. Second, you put your index finger in your mouth and sop it up with as much salvia as you can manage. Thirdly, being as stealthy as a ninja infiltrating the palace of some long time warlord, you sneak up behind your victim and plunge you soaked and wet index finger into their ear and loudly proclaim "WET WILLY!!" As if you have just done the impossible and are proud of your achievement.


"What's the point of that?", you might ask yourself. That being a very valid question but the answer is likely far less so because....well...there is no point. It was just something to do I guess. Back before every kid had a cellphone and every home had a TV you had to entertain yourself somehow. Pretending to be an ear-assaulting-ninja I guess counts. Nowadays, you'd probably get sued for assault and battery.


Anyway, why bring this up? Well, it was what I was thinking about as I was climbing Mount Willey in the White Mountains. You see, I had been told the weather was going to be great that weekend. There was a 0% chance of rainfall in the forecast from many different weather dispensing applications I could find and websites.


Well, let me tell you, they can lie to you. A shock I know! The thought that a weather forecast would be unreliable is unsettling and instilling doubt amoung our climate experts. I mean, we can all trust the scientists who say climate change is real. Which, you know how insanely obvious that statement is? Climate which is defined as "the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period" ALWAYS changes. That's like saying the sky is blue.


Now the measure of WHY the climate is changing is where the nuance is. I won't get into that topic, but no matter what side of the o-zone layer you are on, you should be very skeptical of people that can claim they know everything there is to know about the weather but when you ask what's going to happen two days from now they routinely get it wrong.


That leads me back to my 0% chance of rainfall. The mountains can be unpredictable. So I understand the complications that would play into a forecast. But when you tell me 0%, that means...none, zip, zilch, nada chance of rain. That is less than a snowballs chance in hell, and less than the chances of Joe Biden going through a speech without screwing up a word.


Well my friends, big shock to tell you that, it DID rain. And while not a downpour, it rained...


...a lot. I'll get into that in a moment.


My plan was to start at Crawford Notch, hike up to Mount Willey and then past that summit to hit up Mount Field and Mount Tom, bagging three more peaks off the NH48 List. From Mt Tom I would sweep down and west to the A-Z trail and circle back to Ethan's Pond to set up camp.


The view of Ethan's Pond


However, with my constant worry of not being able to get a campsite, I eventually decided to take the 2-ish mile detour to set up camp first at Ethan's Pond, then back track and go up Mount Willey. That excursion, which in hindsight was a good decision, left me with not much time to do the whole loop like I had planned. But why was it a good decision?


Well, just after I got my campsite up and I was starting my way back to the trail to get up to Mount Willey, the rain started. A drizzle at first, it was annoying with a glimmer of hope that it would pass soon. Continuing on though, it seemed that would not be the case. In fact, the rain did not stop until about 2:30AM (many & many hours later). How do I know that time? Well I couldn't sleep, and I was passing time watching One Piece on Netflix from inside my tent hearing the pitter-patter of the non-stop rain upon my rainfly.


Flashback to my current situation, I left the campsite, rain starting and thus drastically slowing my progress up the mountain. Now, realizing that I may have to hike a big portion of the trail in the dark if I continue to do the whole loop, I had another decision to make. Instead of doing a loop, maybe I can just get to Mount Tom and then back down, cutting off miles of trail that would inevitably put me in the boonies at night. While I don't mind hiking in the dark, I much prefer it when I am closer to a campsite rather than further away. So I elected to change my plans again and cut out the loop and do an out-&-back (Mt Willey -> Mt Field -> Mt Tom and back).


At that point though, I had to break out the emergency poncho, because you see - I didn't bring a rain jacket because of the 0% chance of rain and the rain was getting worse. Luckily though, I always carry an emergency poncho around - which reminds me, I have to get a new one - once you unfold that, you never get it back in its little pouch.


After climbing Mount Willey a bit more, I realized how slow my progress had been. Granted, this was the steep stuff, once I would have gotten to the top of the range it would have been better. But getting there was slick.



I am no fan of wet rocks. They are the bane of my existence, my worst enemy. Second only to wet leaves. Why are wet leaves only second? Because you can avoid them by not hiking in the fall! Wet rocks are there in every season...


So now another thought crossed my mind, I was alone on the trail, only someone as daring and courageous (or as stupid) would have done this. Well - okay - that's a bit harsh, as I said it wasn't a downpour, but I know when I am exposing myself to more and more risk. Last thing I want to do is twist an ankle in the middle of nowhere slipping on a rock. So I decided, for a 3rd time on this trip, to change my plans and cut it short and just get to the top of Mount Willey slowly and safely. Every foot hold, every hand hold, every step, well thought out as to avoid falling and if I fall, what is the best way to do so. This was an instinct instilled upon me during my mountain biking days where it's inevitable that you will fall, the trick is to make it as safe as possible.





I admit I was stubborn at that point. I didn't drive 2.5hrs and hike all this way to not get at least one peak off my list! I continued on up Willeys infamous ladders which were not as hair raising as I had expected them to be, even wet. Granted I wouldn't want to fall down one, and going down them after I reached the top could be considered more frightening.


That being said, I finally reached the top of Mount Willey, knocking one more off the NH48 list. A short stay at the top, I started to head back down. With it getting darker and no sign of the sun peaking through I figured it would be best to go. Mount Tom and Mount Field will have to wait for another day.


The view from Mt. Willey


The way back down went even slower that going up. Wet rocks seem to be worse when you aren't fighting gravity. Luckily I managed to make it down without a slip. All the falling would come the next day...ironically AFTER the rain had stopped and on flat terrain...go figure, but I'll save that for a future blog post. So make sure you sign up for the newsletter by entering your email and follow along!






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