2008-08-17 09:24:56.000 – Jim Salge, Temporary Observer
Hail accumulating during the storm…
Well, shortly after I posted yesterday’s comment, the forecasted thunderstorms moved in, with a strange breed of ferocity. Absent from the storm was the typical winds and fog, present was frequent, visible lightning and A LOT of hail. Pea size hail poured down upon the peak for about an hour, covering the ground with a significant coating of ice.
For the bike racers yesterday, it was distinctively easier for top racers to meet their personal race goals than those who were not among the elite. While roads remained dry for the first 1:45 of the race, it thereafter quickly became coated with hail. This surface acted like ball bearing forcing some from their bikes.
Once the road opened up and the bikers headed down, hikers began to arrive. Hail continued to pour, lightning persisted for four hours, winds picked up, and yet people continued to come up…by the hundreds. Folks soaked through cotton clothes with small packs and no rain gear. People heading out on the trail as lightning struck neighboring peaks in front of them. Hypothermic dogs needing treatment in addition to people…including one Chihuahua. Ponchos and plastic bags fought losing battles against the wind and other partnering elements above treeline. The scene defied the tenets of HikeSafe, a hiker responsibility code whose website is today’s recommended reading #1.
Most recognized their poor decisions, and piled into extra hiker shuttles that this mountain fortunately allows. Overheard was one photographer claiming his shot as proof that they “had stupidly summited this mountain.” This is not to say that there were not prepared, patient hikers yesterday, but it appeared not to be the norm on this peak that exhibits such popularity among the uninitiated.
It’s perhaps timely then that today the Boston Globe published an article in their magazine entitled “A Beautiful Place to Die.” It highlights the risks that one takes on when hiking the summits of the Whites, and some of the crazy, but all too common stories of the unprepared. Many in the White Mountain Community are interviewed, including our own Brian Clark.
Fortunately by mid afternoon, the crazy weather abated, and the sun returned complete with a rainbow set down in Pinkham Notch. I truly believe this break staved off a busy night for the rescue community. There was also enough hail remaining on the ground to stuff our new LLBean ice cream ball and indulge in some peanut butter cup ice cream. A great positive end to a busy and exciting day.
Jim Salge, Temporary Observer