Exploring the Alpine Zone In Winter

2015-03-23 20:01:55.000 – Adam Freierman, Summit Intern


Occasionally a break in my work schedule affords me the opportunity to get outside and explore the summit. This is one of the great pleasures of living on top of Mt. Washington, being able to leave the observatory and immediately be in the middle of a spectacular alpine environment. For the most part, the weather this winter has limited my excursions to quick loops around the summit cone, ducking behind rocks to get out of the wind and peeking through holes in the fog to try to catch a glimpse of the views. At the end of my last shift week, however, I was fortunate enough to a squeeze in a break from work under some of the finest conditions I’ve seen up here, so I headed down to Lakes of the Clouds to stretch my legs.

After quickly dropping down through some small snow fields to get off the summit cone the Crawford Path became a bit hard and icy, but made for a great walk with crampons on. After a final traverse across a deeper and softer snowfield the cairns led me past the lakes to the half-buried hut and a great view back at our home on the peak.

I wasn’t quite ready to head back up, and I had a little time before I needed to start working on that evening’s forecast, so I did a little exploring around the lakes. It is amazing how different all the nooks and crannies of Mt. Washington are, and they all hold plenty of secrets. After spending so much time atop the rockpile that is the summit cone it was refreshing to poke around the black spruce that are nestled in around the lakes.

It was a warm and sunny day and I could smell the spring on the diapensia that have patiently waited through the winter.

The small scale topography of the hollows in which the lakes lie create some curious features, like this near circular bulge of wind-blown snow that was 6 feet across.

And while the lakes were mostly covered by snow and sastrugi there were a few patches of deep blue ice exposed, filled with ice-filled air bubbles and intricate cracks.

Looking back at these photos from two weeks ago I am excited to explore the summit again. And with winds dying down tonight, and a warm (10 degrees) clear day in the forecast, tomorrow might be a perfect opportunity.


Adam Freierman, Summit Intern

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