An break from the routine and deceptively inviting weather.

2012-03-08 16:29:10.000 – Brian Fitzgerald,  Summit Intern


Traveling to the summit of Mount Washington for work each week is easily the most interesting ‘commute’ I’ve ever had. Sure, we all drive to the base of the mountain, which seems normal enough, but each Wednesday during the colder months the Observatory’s Snowcat chugs up the eight-mile Mount Washington Auto Road, affording spectacular views (when we’re not in the clouds) for miles around. Today my trip up to the MWOBS was even more out of the ordinary as I hiked to the summit via the Lion’s Head Winter Route. Starting at Pinkham Notch Visitor’s center this morning at 8:30 it was already 54 degrees, which for this time of year was impressive and unusual to say the least. Before heading up the mountain I made sure to check the Observatory’s website for today’s forecast. The Higher Summits Outlook called for rain showers in the afternoon with winds out of the WSW from 70-90 mph, increasing to over 100 in the evening with even higher gusts, which was something I did not want to get caught out in. So with my early start I sped up the trail hoping to beat out the impending cold front only to find bright sunny conditions along the trail with gentle warm breezes every now and again. This is where I realized so many people get into trouble hiking on Mount Washington. It’s a serious challenge to prepare for a hike up the mountain when like me, you start out in a major metropolitan area like Boston where it’s going to be a warm, sunny spring day. Even though I work at the Observatory and take weather forecasts up here very seriously, I almost found it impossible that the sunny warmth would leave me on the trail. I know better- and once I reached the top of Lion’s Head I was instantly reminded of the full force of the wind. All it took was a couple steps for me to go from 15 to 25 mph winds to full gales topping 70 mph, which sent me scrambling for my wind jacket and layers. It’s fascinating how quickly your situation can change in the White Mountains, and for that reason it’s always good advice to check the weather before heading out and pack accordingly. If you’d like to see just how much weather varies throughout the White Mountains, click here to see the MWOBS Regional Mesonet. For those of you who might be interested in experiencing our ‘commute’ please check for more information on our winter overnight EduTrips or DayTrips. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check our higher summits and valley outlooks before your next adventure in the woods. And finally, for more information on hiking safety and preparedness you can also visit the US Forest Service’s website .


Brian Fitzgerald,  Summit Intern

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