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Backpacker Magazine – October 2008

America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes - Mt. Washington, NH

It'll blow you away

by: Kelly Bastone


The Hike Known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world, 6,288-foot Mt. Washington boasts some scary stats: The highest wind velocity ever recorded at any surface weather station (231 mph) was logged here on April 12, 1934. And 137 fatalities have occurred since 1849. No surprise: Most are due to hypothermia–and not only in winter. "They call them the White Mountains for a reason," says Lieutenant Todd Bogardus, SAR team leader for New Hampshire's Fish & Game Department. "We see snow right on through the year." Several weather patterns collide on Washington and produce its notoriously foul weather, which can move in quickly. In 60-mph winds, hiking becomes nearly impossible: Traveling north along the Crawford Ridge from Washington's summit, hikers routinely–and unknowingly–get blown off course by powerful westerly winds, which shove them down off the ridge into the Great Gulf or the Dry River Valley. "It's human nature to go with the wind rather than into it," says Bogardus. Unfortunately, hikers often find the winds have steered them many miles from trails and roads, thwarting their safe return.

Exhibit A Staff at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center warned 23-year-old Gabriel Gauthier that 1 p.m. was too late to start a summit bid. But sunny, 70°F weather in the valley convinced him otherwise, and on September 21, 2006, he and three friends hiked up the peak in little more than shorts and T-shirts. The mercury plummeted 40 degrees as they climbed, and Gauthier's body temperature dropped as well, ultimately rendering him unconscious. His pals continued to the summit and summoned help by breaking into buildings that had been closed for the season, but rescuers couldn't revive Gauthier. He lives–but with massive brain damage inflicted by profound hypothermia.

Survival Plan Lots of New England's nor'easters are predicted well in advance, so check the Mt. Washington Observatory forecast (mountwashington.org/weather). And most accidents occur in shoulder seasons to hikers not expecting winter to last so long or summer to end so quickly. Plan for high winds and icy temps, and pack warm, weatherproof layers and an emergency blanket or bivy sack. Check hikesafe.com for more tips on surviving Washington.




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paul dourlet
Dec 24, 2012

I hiked up Tuckerman Ravine to Hermit Lake (1900 ft vertical) I have hiked in Colorado,Wyoming , Montana,Utah, Arizona, N.M and California and New York's Adirondacks but I have never gotten a scarier vibe from a mountain then I did on Mount Washington. I have driven up it 5 times. The scary thing is that being able to drive up it lend people to underestimate it even more. I will make sure I have a bivy bag and winter gear gear ,even if its the summer. I have never seen weather change faster.

Moosegame96
Oct 20, 2012

11/26 No. You have left sanity behind. I only climb solo. I have years and many miles of experience without the safety net of hiking pals. I would recommend the hikes I complete to no one. On Tuesday the 16th I summited Katahdin via the Cathedral Trail in the rain. Up top this turned into a delightful early snow storm. However, if you have to ask if something is wise, it is safe to say it isn't. 12 hours you say. There will not be 12 hours of daylight on that date. And then you ask for the funnest route up with rocks?!? If winter delivers early, there will be no rocks on any trail. If you like ledges come to Huntington Ravine in the summer on a dry day.

Andy D
Jul 19, 2012

After a cliff climbing accident I took the recently rehabed freind and two brothers up lions head in 78'. despite their injuries we did it in 1:45. Ive enjoyed reading the stories I hope to get back up to the summit again some day when I get a new knee. Is there still ice bridges over the streams in august?

Dan
Jun 01, 2012

Hiked it when I was about 15. As we got above the tree line, the clouds rolled in, very quickly. Just like in the article, temperatures dropped and it started pouring. We were close enough to scramble up to the top and take shelter from lightning and wind in the shack. Thankfully we caught the final shuttle van of the day to the bottom.

Brandon
May 28, 2012

I hiked Mt washington when i was 19 with 3 friends, we smoked pot and shot whiskey all the way up, summited in shorts and tees during june of 2004, whaat a good time, damn it was nice being a young hiker, leaving massachusetts tomorow for the mountain to see if i still got what it takes

Christy
May 24, 2012

Washington can be a disaster or a cake walk depending on your preparedness and the weather! Even the average summer day can be dicey if you aren't prepared for the typical forecast of "mostly sunny with a chance of afternoon thunder showers"! When the temps drop, the wind picks up and you're soaking wet and you only brought a water bottle you're *******. That's an extreme, but you get the idea. The weather can change on a dime and the conditions it very often presents are NOT hiking weather. You have to be smart and be willing to put the trip off to another day. OH! The current wind record for a "manned" observation station is still Mt. Washington Observatory's of 231mph.

Rob G
Mar 29, 2012

Climbing Mt Washington in the winter can be the easiest thing you've ever done, the hardest, or in some unfortunate cases the last thing you've ever done. Weather and conditions change dramatically. It can go from serene to apocalyptic in a matter of hours or sometimes minutes. I've been up about 50+ times in the winter and every time it's pretty much a different experience.

Russ Natualist
Jan 20, 2012

For a couple of decades I and a group of friends would camp at Hermit Lake Shelters or Harvard Outing Club Cabin for a winter summit trip on New Years Eve, trying to be the first climbers to summit on New Years Day each year. We made it up about half the years. Other years the weather was bad (we'd have to wait a day or 2)or someone got sick. Another good tip: don't attempt Mt. Washington unless everyone is feeling 100% healthy!

Russ Natualist
Jan 20, 2012

For a couple of decades I and a group of friends would camp at Hermit Lake Shelters or Harvard Outing Club Cabin for a winter summit trip on New Years Eve, trying to be the first climbers to summit on New Years Day each year. We made it up about half the years. Other years the weather was bad (we'd have to wait a day or 2)or someone got sick. Another good tip: don't attempt Mt. Washington unless everyone is feeling 100% healthy!

randy neiser
Jan 17, 2012

about 20 years ago my best friend asked me to go with him to hike mt. Washington. At the time I hiked a lot in pa. Where we live near blue mt. Ski area. I said yeh sure why not, I knew a little about the mountain but turns out not enough. We were lucky because it was july but it was not like the july we knew on the summit. The weather turned to crap at the bottom of tuckerman with misty rain n light wind all the way to the summit. We made it but wet n tired, wayne wanted to hike back down and I talked him out of it.
We sat inside n warmed up and the wind out
Side hit speeds I have never seen in my life ever. We took the shuttle off the mountain. Best 15 bucks I ever spent! Since then I have hiked there 4 more time and skiing tuck's but we were well geared up. I still to this day tell people that mountain can kill u if u r stupid or think u have big balls!

smarter than a 5th grader
Jan 12, 2012

it doesn't take a real man to hike mt Washington in January in shorts. it takes an idiot.

smarter than a 5th grader
Jan 12, 2012

it doesn't take a real man to hike mt Washington in January in shorts. it takes an idiot.

Todd Mulligan
Jan 03, 2012

Is it really that dangerous? I just watched a video of some girl who did a solo, night ascent of Mt. Washington:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4housdZL4s

craig calabrese
Oct 28, 2011

For your safety dont overextend yourself and be in shape many people have died from pride and from failing to return to ground below the treeline in bad weather the deaths will continue on mount washington people making bad judgements and there continuing to trust lady luck will add more names to the death list its tradgic and most could have been prevented by being prepared and using common sense and having respect for a mountain that has taken so many lives

craig calabrese
Oct 28, 2011

For your safety dont overextend yourself and be in shape many people have died from pride and from failing to return to ground below the treeline in bad weather the deaths will continue on mount washington people making bad judgements and there continuing to trust lady luck will add more names to the death list its tradgic and most could have been prevented by being prepared and using common sense and having respect for a mountain that has taken so many lives

craig calabrese
Oct 28, 2011

For your safety dont overextend yourself and be in shape many people have died from pride and from failing to return to ground below the treeline in bad weather the deaths will continue on mount washington people making bad judgements and there continuing to trust lady luck will add more names to the death list its tradgic and most could have been prevented by being prepared and using common sense and having respect for a mountain that has taken so many lives

craig calabrese
Oct 28, 2011

For your safety dont overextend yourself and be in shape many people have died from pride and from failing to return to ground below the treeline in bad weather the deaths will continue on mount washington people making bad judgements and there continuing to trust lady luck will add more names to the death list its tradgic and most could have been prevented by being prepared and using common sense and having respect for a mountain that has taken so many lives

craig calabrese
Oct 28, 2011

For your safety dont overextend yourself and be in shape many people have died from pride and from failing to return to ground below the treeline in bad weather the deaths will continue on mount washington people making bad judgements and there continuing to trust lady luck will add more names to the death list its tradgic and most could have been prevented by being prepared and using common sense and having respect for a mountain that has taken so many lives

cosman
Oct 26, 2011

Im planning on hiking nov 26/27. Im expecting it to be cold. Im on a solo mission. Is this wise. Driving from canada. Cant find any buds to go with. I will take 12hrs up boott spur n down lions head?? What ghe funnest n challenging routes up with rocks??

cosman
Oct 26, 2011

Im planning on hiking nov 26/27. Im expecting it to be cold. Im on a solo mission. Is this wise. Driving from canada. Cant find any buds to go with. I will take 12hrs up boott spur n down lions head?? What ghe funnest n challenging routes up with rocks??

anonymous
Sep 15, 2011

Only an inexperienced backpacker/hiker would attempt to go up Mt. Washington unprepared. What is this "pride" thing, anyway? Do you really think it's pride or is it just ignorance? In either case, I would not want a hiking partner afflicted with one or both. Chose your trails wisely, your gear wisely and your partners wisely.

Rich
Aug 15, 2011

We just got back from there and Saturday, 8/13 was a perfect day on the summit of Mt. Washington. I have been up there many times and rarely do you get clear weather for the entire day without something else going on. Clear skies and very slight breezes for the entire day got sandwiched in between 4 day spells of tough weather.
Sometimes you just get lucky!

VT Hiker
Aug 11, 2011

I spent a day near the summit of washington years ago counting hikers and goofers for the AMC. this was in the late July at a trail junction. I was wearing a down jacket, winter hat and gloves because it was snowing prety hard for a few hours. There were lots of walking idiots who did not belong there.

Thop
Aug 11, 2011

I did Mt. Washington in Feb 2008. Blue sky lower, but it was a full storm by the time we hit the summit: socked in with 60 mph wind, as per the Observatory, but "warm" at only 14F. It must have been 80 mpg lower along the ridge. Had the correct winter gear, so no problem, other than the near white-out conditions. Lot of fun.

Some earlier posters mention the Knife's Edge. If they mean Katahdin in Maine, that is more a blunt edge. The crux there is the 30' notch you have to navigate at the north end. The actual Edge is nothing at all. Capitol Peak in Colorado is the real Knife Edge, where you can literally straddle it, with 1,500 feet shear on both sides - hold on! But I really enjoyed Katahdin, and if you chose the right trails, it is a good workout.

JD
Jul 24, 2011

I did mt. washington in january with shorts on. Not too many people can handle this, but I can. It takes a real man to do it.

Clayton Kern - I hiked Knifes edge with a BAC of .2. ohhh, knifes edge, aahaha!

Clayton Kern
Jul 19, 2011

I agree with you Frank, I think Knifes edge is considerably more dangerous than several of these hikes. Also the official land speed record is now claimed by Barrow Island Australia since 2010. I've climbed Washington once during the summer and it was a cake walk, but after 2 failed winter summit bids I finally made it on my 3rd attempt in 2010. It was one of the toughest but most amazing things I've ever done.

Anonymous
Jun 19, 2011

dsf

Anonymous
Jun 19, 2011

dsf

Kerry Welch
May 15, 2011

We typically leave central Vt round 4:00 a.m.knowing but still praying for a great day. Tucks was our goal ,to ski as many runs as possible.Parked,we headed in t-shirts but plenty of gear.The first to reach the ravine high fives were about still with mother nature on our side.We dropped our packs and booted up the corn/stiff snow with wind breakers around our waists.No more than 15 minutes later thin clouds rolled in . Now we knew the snow was not to get softer with the help of the sun. The left gulley seemed to be safe until the out of nowhere wind chose to ventury directly about face. I could hardly get my wind breaker on . Foolishly we tredged forward. My turn to lead we made it past any visible cover and out of nowhere the wind launches an iceball that wacks my mouth chips my front tooth and I spit blood. The fun was over long before that. We skiied down with the wind pushing us down the steeps. FEAR, we made it but the mountain won again.

Richard Halliburton
Feb 21, 2011

Anyone who climbs Mt. Washington without being properly prepared is taking a very unwise chance. In good weather, anyone in good condition can make the climb, but good weather on Mt Washington is hard to find. I climb this mountain once a year and have experienced harsh conditions 3/4 times on the mountain. The weather can change in 10 minutes and turn a beautiful climb into a fight for survival. At any rate, be prepared and do not be ashamed to turn back if conditions turn south. Stay away feom Hunnington ravine if there is ANY chance of bad weather or if you have any fear of heights. That being said, do climb this mountain!!! It can change your life.

Climber Man
Feb 19, 2011

Prudence is a good thing, but what you carry is also dependent on what your goals are. I have made the Webster to Washington ridgeline traverse at least 4 times in under 10 hours, with only a light jacket, small lunch and 1 liter nalgene bottle. Granted, these were late June and early July trips, but our goal was speed and to physically test ourselves. In those 4 or 5 years, we had near-perfect weather maybe twice, the other times, we hit fog and at least once a "from-nowhere" thunderstorm that we had to wait out. There is no need for technical gear or all the new-fangled "comfort gear" if speed is your aim and it is summer. By the way, we wore cotton polo shirts and cotton khaki pants and tennis shoes.

Red
Jan 09, 2011

The wind vain was broken this year due to the wind being so fast it could not read it, so it has had faster winds than reported in this article now.

East Coast
Oct 15, 2010

Look I’ve climbed this mountain many times. weather it be ice climbing, skiing or hiking the one thing you need to do to be safe is suck up your pride and ask the rangers at Pinkham notch or Crawford notch visitor's center. YOU NEED TO KNOW THE WEATHER PATTERNS.... the weather on Wash can change before your eyes. I’ve been up there when it was a beautiful spring day not a cloud in the sky. 10 mins. later we were hunkering down with a space blanket over us dug in behind some rocks just to stay out of the rain and wind. if the ranger says high winds late in the day LISTEN. Just be ready and it is an awesome hike . -East Coast

jjfdlt
Sep 27, 2010

You know the record for running this is under an hour.

maine hiker
May 29, 2010

Okay, so you should definitely go prepared and in good physical condition. Start early, take layers and water, and check the weather before you go (and turn around if it deteriorates). Be careful not to slip when you're scrambling over boulders on the last 1/3 of the trails. It's a long, challenging hike. But at the same time it's not the Himalayas. I would definitely not consider it one of America's 10 most dangerous hikes. If you're in good shape, go prepared, and pay attention to the weather your chance of mishap is relatively low.

maine hiker
May 29, 2010

Okay, so you should definitely go prepared and in good physical condition. Start early, take layers and water, and check the weather before you go (and turn around if it deteriorates). Be careful not to slip when you're scrambling over boulders on the last 1/3 of the trails. It's a long, challenging hike. But at the same time it's not the Himalayas. I would definitely not consider it one of America's 10 most dangerous hikes. If you're in good shape, go prepared, and pay attention to the weather your chance of mishap is relatively low.

Abby
May 27, 2010

My husband and I took the cog railroad up a few years ago and hiked down. We were pretty inexperienced and did not have the right gear. Luckily, the weather was great but it was still a tough hike down. The following year, more experienced and well prepared- we hiked up and did a 2 night hut to hut. Mostly good weather but there were storms looking the whole time. We saw so many people headed up past mid day with sandals/sneakers, no water or any other necessities and with dogs and small children in tow! I love hiking and backpacking now but I have a very healthy respect for the wilderness and the weather. I agree with the comment that the extra gear, even if you don't need it, makes for a good work out!

Anonymous
May 21, 2010

I've lived in NH my entire life, and this is the only mountain that scares me, I almost got lost on the summit in a fog bank around 10 at night onetime after a solo from the lakes in the clouds hut. I've also done it in mid November with no shirt on, I guess it just shows you the unpredictability of the weather up there. The important thing for anyone looking to hike this mountain is to check the forecast, and try to pick a nice day. Also know what gear you'll need to bring with you.

Frank Kositz
May 21, 2010

I can't believe this hike or a couple of the others on this list are more dangerous than knife's edge in baxter state park.Summited Katadin 4 times and crossing that ridge I have seen more rock huggers than anywhere else in my life! I mean Abrams falls?Give me a break,

Rob Gallucci
May 15, 2010

I have hiked My Washington many times, once a year is the goal. Paying it forward, it was the first mountain my neighbors from the city took me to when I was 15 and it changed my life, so I try to bring a newbie from the city every year. That said, I like what Scott wrote: "I prepare to break my leg and spend the night in the worst possible conditions...” Even in July, the only month that doesn’t get snow, I plan to be caught exposed and, although it has never happened, it has served me well many times. I also carry extra gear for others, for as others have written, it is a guarantee that some idiot will be hiking in jeans or running shorts and cotton t-shirt above tree line when the worst of it hits. Knowing it will happen, I cannot in good conscious hike without taking into consideration their plight. I always justify the extra weight by saying it is a better workout.

Anonymous
Apr 06, 2010

I have lived in VT and NH my whole life and have spent many days in the White Mtns. Take Harrison Reed's coments lightly...The Whites are very challenging and deceptive to most folks. On any of the mountains or ridgelines that rise above treeline be prepared for winter like weather at any time of the year; this is especially true in the presidential and franconia ranges. Mt. Washington provides exceptional scenery and challenging terrain. You should feel proud to have completed this summit, if the weather will allow. The final 1/2 of a summit bid is loose rock and steep pitches, and the descent can prove to be more difficult than the ascent. Be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time and don't base your trip solely on mileage calculations. A proper first aid kit, proper footwear, fleece, shell, hat, gloves and plenty of h20 and food are must haves!

Robert H
Feb 16, 2010

Great stories and advice here. I made 2 attempts in the '70's and was turned back both times.

The first time was with my brother. We started early and it was a gorgeous summer day. We made it to the Tuckerman's shelter and then it started to rain. And rain, and rain, and then torrential rain, all night long. Woke up drenched and shivering (the shelter didn't provide much shelter) and knew we had to give it up. The trip down was treacherous, it felt like hiking down a muddy waterfall the whole way.

The second trip was the culmination of a UMass course that was offered over winter break - "The Mountains in Winter". So it was January, I guess. Once again, it was a beautiful day when we set out. There were 3 experienced mountaineers leading the course, and maybe 8 or 9 students. The leader was an old guy, maybe even older than I am now, and I was right behind him most of the way. He set an amazingly steady pace. I remember just watching and following the steps of his "moon boots" as if in a trance. As we ascended it started to snow. When we got above treeline the weather turned really nasty. The wind was raging and gusting to maybe 65 or 75mph, the visibility was less than 20 feet, and the snow had turned to sleet. If you exposed your face to the weather it felt like getting a shotgun blast of rock salt. But we were well equipped and slogged on. Oh maybe not so well equipped... We were all wearing crampons of course, but somehow we were short one ice-axe. One of the instructors gave his to a student, and a few minutes later the wind blew him off the trail and out our sight. He got back to us (I don't remember how) and then we had a group "talk". We were certain that we were within 300' of the summit, probably less. But it was getting late, and as has been mentioned here, the descent can be even more treacherous than the ascent. And people were being literally blown away. So we all kind of silently agreed to bail out. And then we all just sort of stood there in a disappointed, silent,(except for the howling wind) huddle for a minute or two. Then we started down. But in that minute or two when we huddled, everyone had accumulated a coating of solid ice from head to toe! It was pretty amazing to see and hear humans breaking out of their "shells".
I know we made the right decision, but damn, so close!

Ah, well. I paid one more visit the next Spring and skied Tuckerman's with a good friend on a beautiful day. With just a few mud portages, we managed to ski all the way to the parking lot.
If you are an avid skier, put that on your bucket list!

Mike McArdle
Feb 01, 2010

I have summited twice in my lifetime, with a third ascent turned back due to an incredibly fast moving, gale force storm that literally came out of nowhere. Fortunately, in that latter attempt, as a very experienced hiker and camper, I was at least prepared with sufficient foul weather/cold gear, emergency blankets, and a Plan B. Despite the well placed warning signs and other available information concerning this dangerous mountain, each time I was amazed to encounter casual hikers neither wearing, nor carrying, appropriate gear. Some did not even have hiking shoes on (the Jewel Trail is fine for that below timberline, but after that and in general, what a mistake). Anyone who is reading these postings who does NOT have extensive, in depth knowledge and experience with mountain level outdoorsmanship should NOT tackle this ascent from ANY trail, on ANY day of the year or in ANY starting weather conditions, period.

Munjoy Megs
Jan 07, 2010

I've hiked Mt Washington several times and each time has showed me a different reason why this is a dangerous, but truely rewarding mountain. I've hiked it in September in freezing rain, pea soup fog, and 35 degree weather. I've also hiked it in August where we have left the Joe Dodge Lodge in 70 degree, blue bird day, with no wind only to climb above the Tucks to be pelted with 60 mph winds, grape sized hail, and steady rain at about 40 degrees. Things change quick. Be prepared. And don't count on the shopping mall at the summit. You may never make it there. However, it is a great hike adn I will continue to make the trek at least once a year.

Kingery Clingenpeel
Dec 31, 2009

I have reached the summit six times in the past seven years and have been turned back a few times. Things happen very quickly on Mt. Washington. You leave in a sunshine filled valley, climb for a couple of hours and look behind you to see a mass of black clouds edging up the ravine. Soon it is raining, then comes the flash of lightning. Since you are in the cloud, it is like a flash bulb going off and telling where it came from or hit is nearly impossible. I've never been so terrified as the one time a T-storm caught me unawares on the flanks of Washington. Then there is the incessant wind, total exposure and some serious rock hopping. Come prepared - proceed with caution!

Robert A. Coggeshall
Dec 31, 2009

The correct spelling is the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

Anonymous
Dec 31, 2009

dk, amateur meteorologist
Dec 11, 2009

Here's a few fun weather facts about those thinking of hiking this "little" mountain regardless of the season. Today Mt. Washington has colder temperatures, higher winds, and lower wind chill values than the summit of Mt. Rainier even though it is more than 8,000 ft. higher. Yellowknife in the Northwest Territory of Canada has an equivalent wind chill but there the wind is calm, it's not snowing, and the fog is'nt freezing. Mt. Washington feels colder than any reporting weather station in Antarctica, of course, it is the warm season there. Only in the "pole of cold" in the northern part of the Siberian region of Sakha where the coldest Northern Hemisphere temperature was recorded are the wind chill values lower. But, once again, there the wind is calm, it is'nt snowing, and the fog is'nt freezing. So pack your day bag well and have fun hiking this "little" mountain to its summit if you can. I have.

Stephen Scott
Dec 02, 2009

I am from New Hampshire. I worked at a Boy Scout Hiking Camp back in the late 70's. I have climbed Mt. Washington many times. It's such a thrilling climb! I had one experience were a group of us were in Edmonds Col and a Thunder Storm swept in really quick. There was lighting going off all around us within a very, very short amount of time. We beelined it below treeline. I have never before or since been as absolutely terrified by the lightning we saw. There we a few strikes extremely close to us. A very, very, very scary time. There was one other instance that deserves comment. I took a friend of mine years back on a Pemi-Wilderness trek. We were hikling up to Bond Cliff, there was a steady rain on a very warm Summer afternoon. When we crested above treeline, we were in a freezing rain, 40 - 50mph gusts, possibly higher. We quickly debated turning around, but, being in excellent shape, the right clothing and knowing the area quite well, we marched on to "the Perch". It was a awesome hike! The caretaker was incredulous at the site of us. He hadn't seen anyone all day. Awesome trip.

darker scott
Nov 24, 2009

This harrison reed chap has one coming to him, I'd say. Not that he's the worst of them, preparedness-wise, but man it's just that type personal over-confidence that will get you squished. you don't need threee liters of water; standard two is fine, there's lots along the way and at the top, just be mindful. I would never call someone a "fool" for carrying too much gear- first of all, you don't know what anyone else's plans are- and when it hits the fan, they are the first people there to help you. besides, if you only hike to feel smarter and tougher than everyone else on the trail, it's time to reassess your goals. the "rock pile" is a rather sustained stretch, after getting up the ravine, and very high exposure. light rain makes it a bit slick and the jumbled boulders make a broken foot, ankle, or leg a distinct possibility. don't let yourself be fooled by a young hotshot with a high opinion of himself- this is not an easy hike. start early. I bring: GOOD first aid kit, wire mesh splint, ace bandages and hiking poles (splints and crutches) full rainsuit and gaiters, hat and gloves, thermal pants, a heavy sweater, 1200 extra calories, on top of a full change of clothes for the summit, regardless of conditions. this is the summer kit. I prepare to break my leg and spend the night in the worst possible conditions- then I can rest assured that barring a long fall, I won't die. If you're not ready to hike both ways don't start. there are easier hikes you can do; and it really doesn't count if you only go one way anyway. if you just want to get to the top then drive.

Herb Andrade
Oct 30, 2009

For some one who seems to have hiked a lot Harrison Reed's comments about only needing certain limited clothing for a warm weather hike is missleading. I've been hiking the "Whites" since the 60's. The northern presidentials, especially the "Rock Pile" can be unforgiving. I've had it snow on me in August with wind chill factors way below freezing. Piece of good advice, when hiking Mt.Washington be prepared for the worst. If you luck out and have a good day so be it, you only carried a few extra pieces to the top. If you are an experienced hiker that shouldn't matter any how. By the way "Franconia Ridge" a few short miles away seems to claim a few ill-prepared hikers every year or two also.

Vladimir L
Sep 04, 2009

I have attempted Mount Washington at least four times in the past 10 years. I have summited twice and turned back twice at Lake in the clouds (once because of weather and once because of time constraints). The two times I've summited I've had to come down either on the Cog Railway or on the Auto Road (due to exhaustion and time constraints). I plan on going up tomorrow for what will most likely be my last time. I'm planning on 10 hours for the hike and a "reserve" hour of sunlight. Weatherwise it looks doable tomorrow, 48 deg. F and 15 mph winds--not perfect but .

Harrison Reed
Aug 14, 2009

If you have hiked for a while, this mountain is pretty easy in the summer other than the weather. Physically this mountain is a simple climb. Weather was pretty bad for us, but not terrible. My girlfriend and I hiked it yesterday for the first time. I started up wearing shorts and a rain jacket over a hiking shirt, because it was very foggy as we started out. I had in my pack 3 liters of water, plenty of food, a map, long johns (just in case), and a compass. You don't need any other gear in the summer. Shortly after starting up the tuckerman ravine trail, however, the jacket came off because the humidity was about %100. In about an hour we reached the hermit shelter, and the weather got pretty clear. The ravine was steep, and there is definately an element of exposure as you wind your way up the north east side of it. Getting at the top of the ravine is a giant rock pile, but this is also very easy going for someone with sure feet. We arrived at the top of the mountain after an easy 3 hour hike (for comparison we hiked monadnock in about an hour and greylock in about 2). The top is pretty ridiculous, because you climb up these dumb stairs to the summit. There is no "freedom of the hills" on this hill. THIS IS WHERE THE ACTUAL CAVEAT COMES: Once you get to the top you are by no means done with the hike. Coming down is always harder and more dangerous on any hike. It immediately began raining on our descent, and the rock pile became very slippery. The ravine descent was by far the most dangerous, and if you slipped here you would fall about 500 feet to your death. Also there are several spots that are only turf and gravel, and it appears that these might errode away in the rain some day under some poor fool's foot. We got down the mountain in about 3 hours due to our need for caution. We saw some people running down it, but this didn't appear very wise. In the end I think the people who get hurt on this mountain don't really know how to hike or what to take with them. We saw many fools with packs big enough for a multi-day expedition (and they clearly were not on one). We saw many fools with no gear, boston red sox shorts hat and tee shirt, and nike flats. We passed all of these fools on our way up and did not see any of them on our way down. Take clothes, take water, take a map. Take care of your feet and wear boots. Use hiking poles if you have them. Don't take the cog rail down.

Mario sarrica Jr
Apr 27, 2009

I just came back from a trip to the summit with a guide from Ems and I'm so thankful I did ! I went up this past saturday it was 90 in the valley . As we went up the snow had melted so fast most of the climbs were vertical up rock face with freezing water coming down on your hands! We took the Lion Head winter trail which I only reco if your are in fantastic condition! . I had trained very hard for one year for this trip . And needed to dig down very deep !. The route is used by mountaineers who are training for Mount Everest know lie! I We where soaked with sweat many times then had to put layers on very fast not to get hypo! When you get above the tree line it is very scary , you are are much higher then the tallest skyscrapers on the planet! I don't think hikers really prepare for this and Vertigo can come on fast! The constant sheer up is very very hard to keep up plus the elevation is so fast your body screams. We had crampons and Ice axes and I had slid several times down ice and snow . I really could not believe how hard this was and how many time I really thought wow If i slip at all I could die! The real gut check is if you can make it to the top of lion head. The wind is so fast around 60 plus as you look over Tuckerman's ravine and the skiers look like ants! My right leg had given and fast with no warning! As we a sat, in a position I had never faced in my life my body just giving out on me so high up I was terrified! Again in the best shape of my life very strong fit really thought nothing could break me wow it was scary!. I asked my guide where the summit was , he replied up there I turned and looked up to the summit cone and was scared out of my mind! This thing is about a 50 degree slope! about 1k high! all snow . I really went to some dark places in my mind sitting in the rock ledge trying to stay warm talking it over with my guide, About iF I tried to go for it if I would have anything to get back with! Knowing full well if I slipped coming down I was most likely going to die. We talked for around 30 mins as I Rubbed my leg and tried to fight off the most fear I have ever felt in my life!
I Just said this was the moment I had heard of with climbers who had gotten to the point where you have to find out what type of person you are ! Mind you at this point my guide had given up hope I would have a chance to make it to the summit which he later told me. We agreed to walk across the few hundred feet across an ice and rock field to the base and see how the leg felt. I cant even tell you what went threw my mind as I went across about my wife who is 7 months pregnant and my 3 year old daughter and if this was going to be the biggest mistake of my life. When we got there It was ok, so we agreed if I could go at good speed to the first rock out cropping a few hundred feet above this white cone from hell we would keep going . Most people when they see ca mountain from a road or a picture you never see the hell it takes to get there , I really think this is how many get into trouble. As we climbed my legs hurt in way impossible to understand I had crossed over in my mind and was going for it and going to make it ! The cone is so high and so steep if you lean back you will slip and probably die . After getting to the top of the cone my guide said we have a great pace lets keep going and finish this! I really at this point as you hear in stories and movies had become a different person the kind that could push beyond the limit and do something heroic . Over the last rock field 3o mins to the true Summit! My guide and I both shocked I had made it rested and came back to earth! I called my wife some how got reception and cried I made it! The way down we had to motor as the weather has turned! My tank was empty! but I had no fear it was gone I had pushed it aside I Really crossed over! we had to use ropes and every trick in the book to get down as the route was gone! melted by the freak heat wave! Sheer melting ice straight down! We let 3 other hikers use our ropes on the way down as if not for my guides ropes they would have been stuck on the route with no way down! This route is hell in winter and no matter how strong you are you can get into big trouble fast. I had almost gone up solo if I had I would not be writing this no joke. The entire climb I had thought wow I could die here if I slip , seeing my guides face when it got steep saying wow this is bad! was very scary. The trip up lion head is so very hard but if you can make it you will leave a different person ! I would not reco going at this time of the year but in the summer My guide had showed me spots in the climb where others died So just know this mw is no joke even for the best climbers in the best of shape with the best gear. Best of luck and yes I got a cool summit pic!

Dave Tosten
Jan 29, 2009

I heartily recommend that anyone interested in hiking Mount Washington get a copy the book, "Not Without Peril" by Nicholas Howe. In the early 80's I spent a summer working on the summit, and have hiked the mountain in every season. Proper clothing is essential. Also, a willingness to turn back, is critical to survival if the weather conditions deteriorate. I think that there have been over 150 untimely deaths on Mount Washington. Most of these deaths were preventable.
The closest I came to disaster was when climbing the Huntington Ravine Trail after a light October snow. The shear exposure and risk of falling were very real and I never again attempted climbing Mount Washington via Huntington's Ravine. Also, I once climbed to the summit on New Years Eve with three friends when we all worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club. Read the book, NOT WITHOUT PERIL, and you will get a feel for what to expect. If you do not believe the weather could be that bad on Mount Washington, you should access the weather station's website on the summit at www.mountwashington.org . Just check out the weather on their homepage. In the winter the conditons are often horrendous, with very low temperatures combined with hurricane force winds. Check it out. One guy who climbed Mount Everest, was turned back a couple times before he could reach the summit of Mount Washington in the winter. No Joke!! Happy Trails.

Skip Rogers
Dec 09, 2008

Please understand also that treeline on Mt. Everest is aboput 15-18 thousand feet-Tree line in the Whites is about 4100 ft. Please ask your self, Would you climb to 17,ooo'with only shorts and a tee shirt? Please be prepared. Thanks!

Kevin
Nov 30, 2008

I was with a group of High Adventure Scout headed north on Crawford Trail. Day 1 was beautiful T-Shirt and shorts weather 65 degrees or better. Woke up the next morning and 30 degrees, 20 MPH winds, 50-60 MPH gusts, horizontal freezing rain, maybe 50 foot visability above the treeline ... this was the middle of JULY!!

Kingery Clingenpeel
Nov 26, 2008

I've summited six times and have been chased off three times. Be wary of the mountain. My first time was with my wife - and she was terrorized at times by the wind and exposure. Carefully assess if you want to do this mountain.

Granite Stater
Nov 16, 2008

Do not listen to Greg. If you hike Washington, you cannot count on the Cog or the Auto Road as a bailout option. What if you arrive on the summit after the last train of the day? What if the train has stopped running due to bad weather? if you climb via Ammonoosuc Ravine, the section of trail between Lakes of the Clouds and the summit is dangerously exposed and difficult for inexperienced hikers. Be prepared and hike safe.

Park Ranger
Nov 16, 2008

I have summited Washington three times and each time was beautiful. Of course it could suddenly turn around and be horrid. I agree if you climb "rock pile" go when it is pretty.. Otherwise I too turned around.

Bill KaS
Nov 14, 2008

It's also a good idea to bring dry clothes to change into. You get quite sweaty on the way up and it can get cold pretty quick above tree line. a fleece jacket and gloves and hat is a good idea even in the summer.

Greg M
Nov 14, 2008

My wife and I did Mt. Washington on a 70 degree day in Oct. By the time we got on top it was 19 degrees with snow. Start at the Cog Railway and do the Amanoosic (spelling?) trail. This way if the weather really goes south you can bail and ride the train back down. No matter what the weather take cold weather gear. We had it but my wife still was turning blue!

Craig Trottier
Nov 14, 2008

I have climbed the "rock pile" about 40 times – including winter solos. Word to the wise, when you hit tree line, if it is not a beautiful day, then turn around. Also, bring winter or cold weather gear, even in August – then no worries.

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