Transition Season Reminders
2009-10-11 16:55:39.000 – Brian Clark, Observer and Meteorologist
Any kind of change can be difficult to deal with, especially the kind of change that comes in transition seasons. A lot has been written here in the Observer Comments over the last couple of weeks about the transition season and subsequent changes we have been experiencing here on the summit. Some of these changes are obvious. The summit staff has traded vests for down jackets and gloves as temperatures have dropped. The storm windows have been installed to protect the inner windows from snow and ice. Other changes may not be so obvious, especially to people who travel from afar to visit the area.
This became painfully obvious yesterday, as somewhere around 40 to 50 hikers waited for hours to get rides down the mountain. These people showed up (some grossly unprepared for the winter weather) expecting to be able to hop on the Auto Road’s hiker shuttle, which typically runs daily in the warmer months of summer. With temperatures yesterday falling into the low 20’s and glaze and rime ice forming, that hiker shuttle was in fact not running. In the end, these people were very lucky that Howie, the manager of the Auto Road, decided to have chains put on a couple of the Stage Vans so that people could be brought down.
The moral of the story is that you should never expect to be able to get a ride down the mountain once you get to the summit regardless of the season, but especially this time of year. The Auto Road plans to operate to the summit until October 19, however this is completely dependant upon the weather. Lately, the weather has not allowed the road to open to the summit (they have been open to just above halfway though), and with the current cold weather pattern forecasted to continue through this week, that is likely to continue to be the case. If in doubt, call ahead to the Auto Road and see what their plan is. Of course, no matter what your plans are when hiking, be sure to know what to expect as far as weather on the mountain is concerned. This time of year, the valley can have temperatures in the 50’s or even 60’s with sunshine while the summit is in the clouds with snow, ice, and temperatures well below freezing.
The bottom line is to be prepared, be safe, and use common sense. As stewards of the mountain, we want to see people enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of Mount Washington, but we want to see them do it safely and responsibly!
Brian Clark, Observer and Meteorologist