Summer Hiking Tips

2012-07-12 23:49:22.000 – Mike Carmon,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist


With summer hiking season in full swing, and our annual Seek the Peak hike-a-thon coming up in a little over a week, it is quite prudent to discuss some important guidelines for those of you that plan to spend some time above tree line over the coming months.

Mt. Washington and the White Mountains present many unique challenges to the summer hiker, particularly due to the fact that tree line is, in comparison to other mountainous regions, quite low (generally around 4000-4500 feet). Weather conditions above tree line tend to change much more rapidly than conditions below, which can put one in a dangerous situation if unprepared for the worst.

ALWAYS check the weather forecast before you set out for your hike! A picturesque sunny summer morning can easily turn into a stormy afternoon as instability builds with the heating of the day. Violent showers and thunderstorms hold many dangers, in particular, cloud-to-ground lightning, sudden and significant increases in wind speed, heavy rain, and hail. Due to the unpredictable nature of lightning, avoidance of the situation is the only sure way to protect yourself from a lightning strike. Don’t put yourself and your loved ones in harm’s way, and never be afraid to turn around if the skies begin to take on an ominous tone.

Dangers that many associate with the winter months–namely hypothermia and frostbite–are alive and well above tree line during the summer. 80 degrees at the base of a mountain can deteriorate into 50 degrees at higher elevations, which, if combined with gusty winds and thick fog, can easily lead to hypothermia. If you’re thinking twice about packing that extra layer…pack it!

Above all else, if the forecast for the day looks bleak, be prepared to be flexible. There’s no harm in postponing your hike. The mountains will always here for your safe enjoyment!


Mike Carmon,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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