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Health & Safety Requirements

Mount Washington is one of the most extreme and remarkable places on the planet, but not everyone is suited for this environment.

The New Hampshire Fire Marshall's Office requires that all trip participants and summit volunteers meet one basic requirement: In the event of an emergency, you must be physically able to "self-evacuate" from the summit. This means you must have the physical ability to get yourself down the mountain, even in extreme conditions. We urge all participants to take this requirement very seriously.

The Mount Washington Auto Road, which we use to access the summit, is about eight miles long. Approximately half of the road is above tree line. Weather above tree line is often severe, and can turn deadly if you are unprepared, ill-equipped, or unable to hike to safety in the event of a vehicular breakdown.

Note: Trips will not be made far above timberline if the weather is judged to be extraordinarily severe, but even normal weather on Mount Washington can prove lethal to those who are unfit or poorly prepared.

Winter Weather

Our winter operating season is defined as the time when ice and snow engulf the summit, and the Mt. Washington Auto Road is closed to private vehicles. Generally, this is mid-October through mid-May.

An average mid-winter day on Mount Washington finds the summit in rime-ice producing fog, with visibility limited to 100 feet or less, a temperature of about 5°F and a wind speed near 50 miles per hour. Gusts of 70 miles per hour or greater are likely. A typical wind chill would approach -25°F. It is not uncommon to experiences temperatures as low as -45°F, with winds gusting over 100 miles per hour.

Hiking conditions may include drifted snow, glare ice, sub-zero temperatures, hurricane force winds, and near zero visibility.

Summer Weather

Our summer operating season is defined as the time when the Mt. Washington Auto Road is open to private vehicles. Generally, this is mid-May through mid-October.

An average mid-summer day on Mount Washington has a high temperature of about 53°F and an overnight low of about 42°F, but freezing temperatures can occur during any month of the year. Winds average about 25 mph, with hurricane-force gusts possible. Thick, wet fog occurs on about 90% of the days in summer, and measurable precipitation is recorded about every other day.

Hiking conditions may include frigid temperatures, high winds, blowing precipitation and limited visibility.

For more information about average conditions, please visit our Normals, Means & Extremes page.

Due to the severity of these conditions, we require that all participants:

Required Forms

Health Disclosure Form
Purpose: To alert us of any potential health problems, and to notify us of any special dietary needs so we can ensure that appropriate food is delivered to the summit in time for your trip.
Due: Prior to your trip.

General Release and Assumption of Risk (PDF)
Purpose: To make you aware of your personal liability, and absolve the Observatory of responsibility in the instance of illness, injury, or death.
Due: We will have you complete this form on the day of your trip, before we depart from the base.

Confidential Health Questionnaire (PDF)
Purpose: To document any health issues, allergies, or medications that you would like medical professionals to be aware of in the event that you need medical attention.
Due: We will have you complete this form on the day of your trip, before we depart from the base. You will keep it concealed in your pocket, only to be accessed by medical personnel in the event of a medical emergency.

Required Clothing & Equipment

Summer overnight gear list
Fall day trip gear list
Winter day trip gear list
Winter overnight gear list

Home of the World's Worst Weather
Administration: 2779 White Mountain Highway, P. O. Box 2310, North Conway, NH 03860 • Tel: 603-356-2137 • Fax: 603-356-0307 • contact us
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