2010-09-14 16:33:31.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist
Today is September 14th. Tomorrow will be September the 15th and it is supposed to be partly sunny, 65 degrees with a light breeze in the valley. On top, it’s going to be close to freezing, foggy, with winds gusting towards hurricane force. The middle of September is notorious for hypothermia cases because the absurdly pleasant valley weather is not indicative of the weather on the higher summits.
155 years ago, a family of three hikers made a few fatal mistakes, resulting in the untimely death of Lizzie Bourne, a young and vibrant woman who was engaged to be married. She wanted to hike to the summit so she could experience a famous Mount Washington sunrise. On their hike, they encountered someone who told them the weather on the summit was not very favorable. They decided to keep going.
They made it to Cow Pasture for sunset, and even though it was dark, and fog descended upon them, and temperatures were falling – they figured they were close enough to the Tip-Top house to continue.
After awhile, exhaustion and cold required they stop and spend the night on the rock pile. Lizzie’s uncle worked frantically to create a shelter from rocks, periodically stopping to check on the Lizzie and his daughter and to warm them (he was getting quite warm from exertion). During one of these checks, he determined that poor Lizzie had passed. The saddest part is when the sun rose and the fog broke, they were only a couple hundred yards from the Tip-Top house.
For all of you who are planning to hike in the vicinity of Mount Washington this fall (and any time), we at the Observatory strongly encourage staying as up to date as possible on the weather conditions. Hiking to the higher summits in the fall requires rain gear (even if its not raining, the fog is often very wet), winter gear, extra socks, extra food, and extra water.
If the weather turns bad, remember the mountain isn’t going anywhere. It’s been here for hundreds of millions of years, and will be here for a couple hundred million years more. Mount Washington has a morbidly long list of victims, many who might have died a natural death victim if they had turned back when the weather got bad.
Keep this in mind, and I hope you all enjoy, safe, happy, fun hiking!
Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist