Total White Out

2014-12-14 16:27:57.000 – Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/IT Specialist


Being socked in the fog for days at a time is nothing new for the summit of Mount Washington. Nor is it uncommon for the dense fog and blowing snow to be limiting visibility to zero feet during the winter time. So yesterday morning when I went outside for an observation it was not surprising to see the fog and blowing snow limiting the visibility.

I proceeded to walk towards to the center of the observation deck to try and collect snowflakes on our snowboard. This helps us to determine if it was still snowing or just blowing snow. After a few moments of standing at the center of the observation deck it was clear that no whole snowflakes were being collected and that the snow showers had come to an end. I turned back to start walking towards the tower and was amazed how poor the visibility was. Only a few steps after that I saw the faint outline of the deck railing. It was then that I realized that between the extremely poor visibility, and the flat white conditions of everything on the summit, that I had become disoriented and veered about 45degrees off my intended path. After realizing that I was at the north side deck railing I quickly got my orientation back and was able to quickly return back inside to complete my observation. Then by the next observation visibility improved enough that making the same journey was not a problem.

Observer using snowboard
An observer using the snow board later that day.

During my time here on the summit I heard countless stories about how people have gotten lost or disoriented during white out conditions. This showed me how easy it really can be. Taking that walk to the center of the observation deck is something that I have done countless times and through all kinds of visibility. I am very familiar with the deck and the land markers around it, but still became so disoriented in the conditions that I didn’t realize I was walking in the wrong direction. Hopefully this brief story, while innocent as it was, serves as a reminder to hikers of the extreme and sometimes dangerous weather conditions seen on Mount Washington. Even basic and routine travels can become dangerous during times of poor visibility.


Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/IT Specialist

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