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Thread: what time of year is most dangerous for climbing Mount Washington?

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    Default what time of year is most dangerous for climbing Mount Washington?

    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

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    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
    Last edited by billysinc; 10-12-2010 at 11:23 AM.

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    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.
    Mark

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    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.
    Bill
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill O View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by billysinc View Post

    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



    Quote Originally Posted by billysinc View Post

    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
    Last edited by smithtim; 10-14-2010 at 12:27 AM.
    'when it starts to hurt your nearly halfway and probably should get out those ropes & put your crampons on"

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