|Mount Washington NH Travel Guide|
|Mount Washington, highest peak east of the Mississippi, in New Hampshire's White Mountains, offers spectacular views and some of the world's worst weather.|
Loacted at the intersection of three major storm tracks, the summit has an alpine climate that is renowned for its erratic, severe weather and high precipitation which claim the lives of numerous experienced hikers and climbers every year.
New Englanders delight in exchanging horror stories of the latest report: winds of 150 miles per hour (the record for wind recorded by humans, not part of a tropical cyclone, recorded here on the summit, is 231 mph/372 km/h!). Temperatures of -47°F/-99°C are not unheard of. The wind-chill factors don't seem earthly.
Regional news media often carry the reports even though they don't really affect anyone but the eager climatologists at the Mount Washington Observatory who volunteer to sit through the storms on the mountaintop.
I've hiked up Mount Washington into a blizzard, in a temperature of 14°F (-10°C) and winds gusting to 100 mph (161 km/h) at the summit, on the last day of August!
You can check current weather conditions at the summit on the Mount
Washington Observatory website.
How to Reach the Summit
The Mount Washington summit is the centerpiece of Mount Washington State Park. The Tip Top House and Sherman Adams Visitor Center at the summit provide for visitors needs from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
There are three ways to reach the summit:
Riding in a coach of the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway
Since 1849, more than 219 people have died climbing Mount Washington. The leading causes of death are falls, heart attacks, hypothermia, and avalanches. Mount Washington is a "small mountain" compared to the Rockies or the Alps, but it is just as dangerous!
Do these things to climb safely:
1. Study the weather forecast so you know what to expect.
2. Wear/bring proper clothing for the weather at the summit. On that day in August, I started my climb in shorts and T-shirt, and changed to jeans, heavy sweater and sturdy windbreaker, barely enough to keep me warm in the summit's 14°F (-10°C) temperatures and and 100-mph (161-km/h) winds. In winter, have a sleeping bag and shelter so you can survive overnight if you get lost.
3. Study your route and learn its hazards. Stay on the trail. Falls—the leading cause of death—usually occur off the trails.
4. Hike with a companion, and leave notice of your plans with friends so they can alert authorities if you do not keep to your schedule.
5. Don't hurry, don't push yourself hard, and "When in doubt, chicken out." You're doing this for enjoyment, not to tempt death.
If you need to be rescued—if you can be rescued—you will bear the cost, probably in the tens of thousands of dollars.
—by Tom Brosnahan