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/bradbradstre...09/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.