The Century Club
2013-11-24 18:41:14.000 – Mike Dorfman, Weather Observer
Pushing Against the Wind Back Up the Deck
Today was a bit more than just a normal day. All eyes were transfixed on the dials in the weather room, waiting for the next big gust. Temperatures were well below zero (hovering between -5 and -15 the whole day) with winds sustained above 100 miles per hour for much of the day.
Some of you may have heard about the Century Club, an informal fraternity of elite observers who can walk around the deck in sustained hundred-mile-an-hour wind. There are only a couple of rules-one cannot use traction (such as microspikes or crampons) and one cannot touch knees or hands to any object. There are some videos floating around the internet of (usually successful) attempts at the century club, but I can tell you right now it is MUCH harder than it seems in the videos.
Imagine running down a steep hill. The faster you get going, the harder it is to stop until you fall over and start rolling. Starting the walk with the wind at my back, this is exactly how I felt as the wind accelerated me to a sprint across the deck. After hitting some snow and some weaker winds, I was barely able to stop before reaching the other side of the deck. I then took a minute to rest behind the chimney (I’m in relatively good shape, but it felt like I had just finished a run), then continued on alongside the deck.
Going into the wind is quite the opposite. Imagine trying to climb up a hill that’s quite slippery, but the hill goes from steep to straight up in a matter of seconds. That is what the gusts felt like as I pushed my way into the wind. Just barely able to keep my toes gripping the deck, I took it one step at a time. Finally, about a quarter of the way back up the deck, one of my feet lost grip. Soon after, the other lost grip and I was gliding on a thin layer of rime ice down the deck. Even after dropping to the ground, I was only very slowly decelerating. I eventually reached a patch of snow, which stopped me quickly. At this point, my goggles were fogging up and my dreams of joining the century club today were nowhere in my mind. I wanted out, but I couldn’t get to the door I started at. Only after about 5 minutes of crawling foggy-goggled, perpendicular to the wind in the general direction of the front entrance (down-wind of the one I started at) did I finally reach a spot where I could stand up. Out of breath and out of motivation, I walked back to the weather room through the front entrance.
I sat for a couple of hours in the weather room, thinking about how I wanted to try again, but then remembering how difficult and (psychologically) terrifying it was. Finally I compromised-I made my way back out to the deck, and walked the perimeter while hugging the railing in up to 122 mile per hour gusts. Although it was difficult and not exactly what I wanted to do, I’m happy I was able to experience the full force that Mount Washington has to offer.
Just in the off chance that this comment motivates someone to come up here and try to join the century club, it is not only highly discouraged, but also extremely dangerous to be traveling around above tree line in these types of winds. People housed on the summit are really the only ones who can have a chance at completing this feat. If you would like to get a chance to see crazy conditions on the summit, consider joining one of our Edutrips, themed overnight, winter trips that stay overnight on the summit.
Mike Dorfman, Weather Observer