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View Full Version : what time of year is most dangerous for climbing Mount Washington?



David
10-12-2010, 09:50 AM
I am wondering what time of year is most dangerous for climbing Mount Washington, when the most deaths and rescues occur. Of course, conditions are worst in the winter, but I am thinking they may also be bad enough even in summer. Additionally, aren't people generally more prepared in winter than summer and late spring early fall?


David

billysinc
10-12-2010, 10:49 AM
Just my opinion but I would say for the average person late fall. Obviously any time of the year can be dangerous up there. There have been deaths in every month and with the unpredictability and ease of access the odds are higher there than pretty much anywhere.

However in late fall the hazards go up. Warm temps at the base lure the unprepared for what might lie ahead. Shorter days. Flash icing. Wet leaves down below treeline. The services at the summit have closed up shop for the season. All sorts of hazards with little room for error.

While climbing it in winter is inherently more dangerous typically the people doing it are experienced and better prepared. The average person would just avoid it altogether.

Note: I just took a quick peak at the book Not Without Peril and looking at the deaths. The month with the most deaths is August, the least..... December. But they were all pretty full :(

mtruman
10-12-2010, 11:08 PM
I'd be interested to see the actual stats, but my guess is that Billy is right. We were actually wondering how many rescues there might have been last weekend. Nice autumn weather in the valleys with sub-zero wind chills and near 100MPH winds on the summit much of the time. Lots of folks aren't thinking to check this when they head out for a fall hike. Both shoulder seasons are dangerous but it's a little more obvious in spring when you start running into snow early in the hike. Of course the unexpected weather that blows up in the summer takes plenty of people by surprise as well and those in shorts, t-shirts and sneakers are certainly not ready for what can get thrown at them.

Bill O
10-13-2010, 08:49 PM
I agree wit Billy's analysis, but there are many ways to interpret that data.

August is the highest because it is far and away the most busy month on the mountain, but the accident rate is probably the lowest and just the opposite for December. In terms of accident rate and objective hazards my bet would be on December. Short days, very windy, minimal snow cover and rapidly changing conditions.

The data also needs lots of filtering. Does a heart attack or suicide count? Both have nothing to do with the weather or the mountain. All Auto Road and Cog deaths should also be omitted.

smithtim
10-14-2010, 12:21 AM
While climbing it in winter is inherently more dangerous typically the people doing it are experienced and better prepared. The average person would just avoid it altogether.



yep! very good point...... not just anybody is going to get out of the car at Pinkman's when it is 20ish degrees and blowing like hell, and of those brave few ( who I call "aspens") are probably not going to get into any trouble up there on MtWash






Note: I just took a quick peak at the book Not Without Peril and looking at the deaths. The month with the most deaths is August, :(

That makes sense due to the numer of people out in summer. It would be intresting to look at the % ratio of esitmated number on mountain to number of detahs......... I've kinda got a feeling that it would be late autumn when it is clear and say 50ish degrees in the morning down in the valley, but later in the day a storm moves in leading to just below freezing tempratures up top with a steady wind/snow

billysinc
10-14-2010, 07:51 AM
The data also needs lots of filtering. Does a heart attack or suicide count? Both have nothing to do with the weather or the mountain. All Auto Road and Cog deaths should also be omitted.

That's for sure. I only briefly skimmed over the numbers. I did pull out the ones caused by airplane crashes and cog incidents. Plus the data ends in 1994 for the copy I have. August jumps out but I agree the number of hikers who venture there in August is staggering.

Chance2450
11-04-2010, 02:37 AM
I'd be interested in when the BEST climbing weather is. What time of year, since this mountain has the most extreme type of weather.

smithtim
11-07-2010, 03:15 PM
Depends on how you define "best"...

I personally enjoy late Dec/ early Jan for a real challenging weather hike

But I'd say early spring, maybe mid March, is the best. As you get a hike that still has descent snow conditions, but with a much milder temperature. Of course be careful of heading out on a spring day when the temperature is too warm as that tends to lead to crappy melty snow on the descent.

John654
12-02-2010, 05:49 AM
I want to visit Washington next year and i really like a challenge. So i think that i will be coming around eary Jan.

Brad
12-02-2010, 08:56 AM
I want to visit Washington next year and i really like a challenge. So i think that i will be coming around eary Jan.

John, welcome to the forum - and Mt Washington. Have you hiked Mt Washington - in the summer and "good" weather? There is a lot of information here on the forum on hiking, conditions, what to bring, how to watch out for the weather, etc.

DanielW
12-02-2010, 10:05 AM
I would agree with the below statement.
"August is the highest because it is far and away the most busy month on the mountain, but the accident rate is probably the lowest and just the opposite for December."

I am really interested in climbing it, considering do some sort of charity work and climbing next year.

Allinoneprinter2
12-21-2010, 06:33 AM
I agree with above opinions. However, I think it is Feb.

Bill O
12-22-2010, 07:39 AM
I agree with above opinions. However, I think it is Feb.

What an insightful post...any reasoning behind that or are you just throwing darts?

Given February is almost 10% shorter than most months I doubt that proclamation is correct on that basis alone.

Brad
12-22-2010, 08:12 AM
I would agree with the below statement.
"August is the highest because it is far and away the most busy month on the mountain, but the accident rate is probably the lowest and just the opposite for December."

I am really interested in climbing it, considering do some sort of charity work and climbing next year.
What better charity work than to participate in Seek The Peak next year? This is the major fund raising event for the Observatory, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. A lot of us here - and another 400 of our closest friends - get donations to our hiker page. Then at the end of July we all hike - meet each other - and have a great awards dinner afterwards.

Brad
12-22-2010, 08:14 AM
I agree with above opinions. However, I think it is Feb.
I would not put February in the "dumb month" category. Anyone who tries to hike to the summit in February knows they are in for tough weather and are prepared. In the summer we all see things that make June, July and August really "dumb months".

Knapper
12-23-2010, 01:26 AM
According to the SAR stats, the death list and WFA/WFR training, the peak "danger time" on the summits is in late July and early August. This doesn't equate to it being the most dangerous per say it's just normally when the most unprepared people hit the trails and get in trouble. And this curve is very gaussian in the variations I have seen. But each season holds its own dangers. Winter has snow, cold, avalanches, ice falls, winds, white out conditions, hypothermia, glasading accidents, ice axe injuries, etc. Spring has avalanches, ski accidents, ice fall, post holing dangers, drastic temperature differences with unprepared people, etc. Summer has overcrowded trails, slick rocks, lightning, disorienting fog, dehydration, heat stroke, and drastic temperture differences (snow or rime while 80 in the valleys), etc. Fall has mixed trail conditions, slick rocks, post hole dangers, hypothermia, unprepared people expecting rides down, shortening days, etc. Working up here, each month has its own challenges and rescue needs. I tend to agree that late summer and early fall are our peak rescue season but nailing down which month is the most dangerous is like asking people what color is most beautiful or which weapon is the most dangerous. And rarely are you going to get two people to ever agree on this topic based on their own personal experiences.