Friday, September 20, 2013

Sept. 17, 2013

Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington is the tallest mountain in New England.  It is also home to the worst weather on earth.

The morning began pretty foggy in eastern Vermont campground we stayed in last night but soon burned off to a bright clear day (this is important – stay tuned).  We arrived at todays camping stop about 11am.  We wanted to take advantage of the good weather so packed a lunch and drove eight miles south to the Mt. Washington Auto Road.  Like Pikes Peak, Mt. Washington has a road and a cog railroad that go to the top (and trails).  There is one big difference.  The Pikes Peak road is longer and climbs higher but it has several spots where the road levels or even descends as it goes over some ridges.  The Mt. Washington road starts climbing about 100 feet beyond the entrance station and it NEVER stops going up until there is no more up available.  Decent road – paved most of the way and wide enough for two cars – just.  Average grade is 12% and climbs around 5000’ in eight miles.  Great views for passenger(s) but driver is stuck with looking at road.

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Driving to the top is pretty popular.  Midweek, off season, school day, and still the three good sized lots on the summit were almost full and the cog train was full with each arrival. 



They run two trains at a time.

Todays weather might have had an influence on large number of people.  Todays summit temp. was 34 degrees with a ‘breeze’ of up to 25 mph (yielding a wind chill of 26 degrees).  Balmy day for Mt. Washington.  Visibility today – over 120 miles.  If you knew what you were looking at you could see the Atlantic Ocean, Maine, Vermont, Canada, Massachusetts, and even New York.

View from the top

View from the top


Ski area is in New Hampshire.  Just beyond front ridge is Maine.


Visibility yesterday – five feet.  Mt. Washington is clear fewer than 30 days a year.  60% of the time it is in clouds or fog. 

More typical picture of Mt. Washington weather:  wind is a constant, often much more than today – hurricane force winds occur more than 100 days a year, in winter about every fourth day.  Highest wind speed ever observed by man was measured here (231 mph). 


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It gets cold here – highest temp. ever recorded on summit is 72 degrees (twice).  Below freezing daytime temps even in summer – in winter often below negative 40 degrees.  Combination of cold and wet air (fog/clouds) produces hoarfrost or rime frost.  Even today there was a dusting of it in protected areas. 

Rime Frost

In winter thickness is measured in feet. 

It snows here – several years over 47 feet.  There are many days when all this stuff (wind, cold, frost, snow) happens at the same time.  There is a weather observatory on the summit that is manned year round – no thanks. 

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Weather observation station


Geologic summit.

They had some neat videos in the summit museum showing people outside in some of that weather.  Might be able to see online.  Google Mt. Washington weather.

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