Fall Season Information

2018-10-07 11:05:57.000 – Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist


October has arrived, the month when the summit typically sees warm and muggy summer-like weather giving way to cold and snowy winter-like weather. During my years working here, some Octobers seeing us jumping off the deepen straight into winter while other years see a more gradual progression.So far 2018 is shaping up to be a more gradual progression.However, looking at long-term models this morning, snow isn’t that far off possibly coming by the mid-month time frame.This far out though, a lot can change, so we will see. While I look forward to a return of more winter-like weather up here, I am also just as happy to enjoy the colors of fall foliage that our lining our neighboring mountainsides and valley floors.While October brings changes to the weather and scenery on and around the summits, it also brings other changes. Some changes are already in effect and others will be coming in the following weeks.
One of those changes is the operating hours of our Weather Discovery Center (WDC) in North Conway. On October 1st, the WDC has returned to our “winter” hours and will be open daily from 10 am to 3 pm. While the WDC will be closing earlier, everything else remains the same – two daily live connections with the summit (at 11am and 2pm), plenty of hands on exhibits, and our gift shop (a great place to pick up some weather related items for the upcoming holiday season).
As touched upon earlier, another change is the weather October typically experiences. October temperatures will continue to be in flux as we continue to transition from Summer to Fall (meaning some days will be mild and others frigid). Statistically speaking, average daily temperatures on the summit go from just above freezing at the start of the month to mid-20s by the end of the month. Snow typically starts to accumulate during the month and the 30-year average for snowfall for October is 17.6 inches. Hurricane force gusts (>73 mph) statistically become more common in October occurring 1/3 to 1/2 of the available days. So, while some days might be gorgeous, others can be pretty brutal.
A common tale we hear every year – people started out on trails where conditions were clear, calm, and mild and they continued up and wound up caught off guard in fog, snow, and temperatures below freezing. In this day and age there is no reason to be caught off guard and find yourself unprepared, as there are plenty of resources you can check to know what to expect before stepping foot on the trails on any given day. For one, you can check our 48 Hour Higher Summits Forecast which is updated twice a day by 5 am and 5 pm. Another option can be found on the NWS recreational forecast page HERE.
While automated smartphone apps are rarely if ever correct for the summit, using these will at least provide some weather information; after all, some weather knowledge is better than no weather knowledge. And if you need help on how to pack and prepare, the Hike Safe web page is a great place to start. And if looking for more information on hiking Mt Washington, the AMC page dedicated to hiking the summit is another great resource. And if all else fails, ask someone (online or in person) before you go; there is no shame in seeking the advice of others.
If heading above treeline, note the operating schedules of AMC huts and shelters. Our closest neighboring hut, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, is closed for the season. Our neighbor to the north,Madison Spring HutMadison Spring Hut, is also closed for the season. And later this month, additional AMC huts will be closing for the season or going to self-service for the winter season. So, if you are thinking about staying at a high elevation hut or using one for water/shelter/etc, please check for their availability prior to venturing out. For a full rundown of AMC hut closures and availability, head HERE. Or if an RMC hut or shelter is in your plans, their operations are available HERE.
If heading to the summit of Mt Washington, it is important to check the operating schedules of the Mt. Washington Auto Road and The Cog. The operating hours of the Mt Washington Auto Road can be found HERE. The Cog’s operating schedule can be found HERE. Note that weather can affect the operations of both the Mt Washington Auto Road and The Cog. And both forms of transportation are independent from us; so please contact them directly or check their webpages/social media pages for the most current information and any changes that might occur to their operating schedules and expected closing dates.
Trails to the summit can be used day or night. However the New Hampshire State Park (NHSP) Sherman Adams Building (ie, the building with bathrooms, water, food, shelter, etc) is day use only. Their operating hours can be found HERE. And similar to the transportation methods, some of their operations are weather dependent. NHSP operates independently from us so please contact them directly or check their webpage for any changes to their operating schedules and for their expected closing date.
The last note of change is daylight. This time of year, the summit receives less than twelve hours of daylight as the sun continues to rise later and the sets earlier. If hiking is your means of transportation, an earlier start than what you would do in June is strongly advised. And while you should always have a headlamp with you no matter the time of year, with shorter days, it becomes even more important to have one this time of year. And if you hike up, you are fully responsible to get yourself down. Transportation methods can/do sell out and/or cease operations due to weather; so hikers should always be prepared to not only hike up but hike down too. And camping is never allowed within the NHSP boundaries. (Additional back country rules and regulations for the White Mountains available HERE ) I hope this information helps in your planning and that you have a safe and enjoyable autumn ahead.


Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist

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