View Full Version : Trip report - Summit of Mt Washington

02-07-2009, 09:41 AM
This is a non-hiking trip report. But, it was probably one of the best days I have ever had.

Early yesterday morning my son, Bill, and I headed to the base of the Mt Washington Auto Road for a fantastic day. The Mt Washington Observatory hosted 5 of us for a day trip to the summit. Scot Henley led the expedition and one Trustee came along also - plus our driver, Gus. I heard about this trip about 9 months ago when a special newsletter came to the house. Small groups - significant MWO supporter - never been to the summit in the winter. That was me. I was so excited I could not sleep. I signed up first thing the next morning.

Our transportation yesterday was the new (to the Observatory anyway) snowcat that had been in operation at a ski resort in Montana. This was its second trip to the summit. You think we are bundled up in the picture below. Wait till you see us on top! We are all carrying crampons to go on our boots to be able to walk on the ice on top - and they prevented us from being blown away.

During the ride up we stopped several times to let us soak in the view, take pictures, and get cold.

Above tree line the snow was always being blown around (mainly down into the ravines on the east side of the mountain range). So, the snowcat had to plow its way through some of the drifts on the way up. It was more like building up a highway to make a "smooth" place to drive as opposed to plowing the snow out of the way. At this point in the winter some places the snow was 20-25 feet deep on the road. That will get plowed for real in the spring.

We got to the summit and the clouds were closing in a bit just around the summit.

The winds were up to 45-50 MPH and the temp was about -6 F. So, depending on which wind chill calculation you use, it was either -45 F or -63 F. In either case, it was cold and you had to make sure there was no skin exposed at all.

We got a tour of the summit facilities, had a great explanation of why Mt Washington has so much bad weather, went up in the tower and froze, lunch, then suited up for a "walk around the summit". This meant putting on every piece of clothing you could find, crampons on your feet, balaclava around your face and neck, mittens (not gloves) and goggles to cover that last bit of skin around your eyes.

Both times we were out on the summit my camera lens froze over with rime ice within a matter of minutes. So, some of these pictures were taken thru an icy lens.

We walked around the summit buildings and then went for a little walk down the Auto Road. After that we headed back up to the summit, warmed up and then headed back to the snowcat for our ride down. Quite quickly we got out of the clouds and the views were fantastic! A great day - and a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a great organization.

To see the complete set of pictures, go to http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet/travels/2009/summit-mwo/

And the Conditions image from the Mt Washington Observatory web site while we were up there.

I know I am not in condition nor do I have the right equipment to hike to the summit in the winter. It is brutal out there! My hat is off (after I get home and am warmed up) to anyone who can do it. It was a great day and a big thanks to MWO for making this possible.

02-07-2009, 10:00 AM
Looks like a great trip Brad! One day I'll get up there for a winter visit. Having only been there during StP, it all looks so surreal in the winter pics.

02-07-2009, 11:23 AM
Looks like you had a great trip up. Glad everything went well for ya's. Wish I was on shift this week to a) say hello and b) try the new cat out.

02-07-2009, 11:29 AM
What a fantastic day! I'm incredibly jealous...

The pictures are amazing. There are a few in the full album that I like even better than those in the post (but they're all great). Thanks for taking us along on the virtual trip.

02-07-2009, 11:41 AM
Wow what outstanding shot's. It looks like everybody had a fantastic time I envy you. Thanks for taking the time to post and share your adventure with us.

02-07-2009, 11:59 AM
This type of trip is one of the many benefits of being a MWO member. (I do have to put a plug in here.) The organization works hard to reach out and keep members engaged and informed. Putting together a day trip like this takes time and effort. Plus, having a long time Trustee and Scot on board was wonderful. So, when we were not looking out the windows at the view or freezing our whatevers off, we were able to ask all those questions we just never got a chance to ask before.

A tour through the facility in the summer is great especially when you have hikers with you who have never been there before. It would be hard to count the number of MWO summit tours I have been on. But, yesterday the tour was extra special. It was not rushed. We could ask whatever questions we wanted and we all learned a lot - even me.

All last year we kept on challenging folks to become a member or to increase your level of membership. As you get to the higher levels, this is the type of opportunity you get. It is a wonderful trip to be able to do!

KD Talbot
02-07-2009, 12:27 PM
Glad you finally got up there in winter! Looks like you had a great day and a great time! Thanks for posting!


02-07-2009, 06:07 PM
You lucky dog. :) I was going to make my first winter attempt on The Mountain today, but I had car issues. Woulda been a great day, too....

Ended up climbing a measly 1300 foot foothill within bike range of home. :(

02-07-2009, 09:09 PM
Congrats on your day, Brad and Bill! Really nice pictures, and great "TR"!! :D

02-07-2009, 09:41 PM
My son posted his pictures today at http://public.fotki.com/o2bnme/events/2009/mtwashington-20090206/

02-07-2009, 10:03 PM
Wow looks like an awesome time!! Great pics too!! I hope to do a tour someday and get to meet all the nice peoples of the Observatory, and of course can't forget Marty!! :D

02-08-2009, 08:22 AM
What gorgeous pictures, thank you for sharing them :)

I'd love to do a tour like that soon. Very awesome.

02-11-2009, 08:17 AM

02-28-2009, 11:35 AM
After reading some of the posts about the drifts...do people actually walk up the auto road to the top? I know it's not the same as hiking the trail. But avoiding the snow depth and making it to the top might be a nice compromise on a nice windy day eh?

Bill O
02-28-2009, 12:04 PM
After reading some of the posts about the drifts...do people actually walk up the auto road to the top? I know it's not the same as hiking the trail. But avoiding the snow depth and making it to the top might be a nice compromise on a nice windy day eh?


It's twice as far, it's closed to pedestrians and the snow drifts are just as big.

But, there are a lot of people in the world so it's safe to say that more than a few have done this.

02-28-2009, 12:06 PM
And it seems you would spend far more time above treeline expose to the wind.

02-28-2009, 02:27 PM
Yeah, Bill and Brad!

What you BOTH said!