Mother Nature Rules the Rockpile
2017-02-05 11:35:26.000 – Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern
Wednesday morning my shift met at the base of the Auto Road just like any other typical shift change morning. A weak system was departing New Hampshire at the time and had left a few inches of additional snow in the valleys and notches surrounding the summit. With the potential of some upslope snow showers continuing through the day in the Whites, it was pretty clear that the snowcat trip would be a slow and cautious climb. We ended up making pretty good time to near treeline despite the falling and drifting snow, but close to 4,000 feet, the visibility rapidly deteriorated and it became difficult to make out the road in front of us. It was decided that the safe and logical choice was to turn back and give it another go the next morning.
The process was repeated again Thursday morning, and this time the conditions at the base were more favorable. It looked like perhaps we had found a perfect window to make our ascent. Once again, our trip to around 4,000 feet was extremely smooth and timely. The visibility bottomed out around treeline just like it had the morning prior, and we were once again unable to push any further as complete whiteout conditions overtook our line of sight.
Friday held better fortune for the summit crew, and finally we found ourselves safely able to reach our destination. The temperature had dropped significantly, but with care, the fog was passable. While it isn’t all that often that shift change needs to be delayed to this extent, it is clear that the mountain holds a different set of dangers each day, especially during the winter. Be sure to check the summits forecast before venturing out above treeline, and always have a secondary plan in case conditions worsen. It is the best way to ensure your own safety and the safety of everyone on the mountain.
Wind sculpted snow near tree line along the road
Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern