Climbing Mt Washington in Winter – 10 Suggestions for a Profitable Hike

Climbing Mt Washington in Winter

Backpacker Journal bought it proper after they named Mt Washington (6288′) one of many 10 most harmful hikes in America. Whereas avalanches are a priority, secure routes exist to climb the height so long as the climate is favorable. Nevertheless it typically isn’t, as a result of a number of climate patterns converge over the summit and produce life-threatening climate with excessive winds, low visibility, or deep snow.

Regardless of these hazards, it’s potential to climb Mt Washington in winter when you do it in good climate, give your self loads of time, carry the precise gear and provides, and go together with skilled companions.  Having climbed Mt Washington a number of occasions in each month of the yr, listed here are my high 10 tricks to efficiently hike to the highest of Mt Washington in winter and to relish the views from the highest.

1. Climb Mt Washington with different skilled winter hikers.

Climb with other experienced hikers or hire a mountaineering guide.
Climb with different skilled hikers or rent a mountaineering information.

End up a bunch of skilled winter hikers who’ve climbed Mt Washington earlier than and hike with them. Climbing Mt Washington isn’t simply any previous winter hike. It’s a protracted climb in powerful terrain, the cairns marking the paths are tough to find in cloud or fog, and chances are you’ll want mountaineering expertise with full crampons to get to the summit. The wind is commonly ferocious and whiteout situations are all too widespread. Going with a bunch of skilled winter hikers or a mountaineering information, who will hire you the required gear, will enhance your security and delight of the day.

2. Postpone your hike if the climate is dangerous.

Mt Wash Forecast Dashboard
Mt Wash Forecast Dashboard

There’s a climate station on the summit of Mt Washington known as the Mt Washington Observatory that publishes a twice-daily forecast for Mt Washington and the Northern Presidentials (Jefferson, Adams, Madison) known as the Greater Summits Forecast. It’s best to make some extent to observe it fastidiously for a number of days previous your hike and be prepared to postpone your hike if the climate is harmful. Winds over 40 mph, blowing snow, cloud cowl and fog, or temperatures near zero could make a Mt Washington hike extraordinarily hazardous, particularly when you’re injured and wish a rescue.

Too many individuals schedule a hike up Mt Washington on a selected day, months prematurely, and can try to climb the mountain even when it’s unsafe. Give your self just a few days while you go to, so you’ll be able to decide a peaceful day to do your hike.  Higher but, climb it on a sunny day, when you’ll be able to see one thing from the summit.

3. Don’t cut up up.

Adding layers at treeline in cold fog
Stick collectively in low visibility and chilly fog

When mountain climbing in a bunch, be sure you stick collectively. If the mountain is smothered in cloud or fog, visibility can simply drop down to fifteen yards, making it tough to see your companions when you fall behind. If the wind is blowing arduous, you won’t be capable to hear each other above the roar of the wind, so work out a system of hand indicators prematurely. Don’t ever cut up your group into quick and sluggish hikers, since you lose the flexibility to speak route adjustments or assist each other if somebody wanders off-route or has an accident.

4. Deliver scorching water in wide-mouth insulated bottles.

Wide mouth bottles filled with electrolyte drinks and insulated in Neoprene sleeves
Broad-mouth Nalgene bottles stuffed with electrolyte drinks and insulated in Neoprene sleeves

Deliver boiling water or scorching liquids with you in your hike in wide-mouth bottles which might be insulated or buried deep in your backpack along with your insulating layers to remain scorching all day. Uninsulated bottles, hydration reservoir hoses, and bottles with skinny necks will freeze in winter, so don’t depend on them. I wish to spike mine with an easy-to-digest electrolyte combine like Pedialyte or Gatorade.

I like to recommend bringing 2-3 liters of water on a Mt Washington winter hike and consuming an extra least 1 liter of water on the trailhead earlier than you begin your climb. Dehydration makes you silly in winter and reduces your efficiency, so attempt to power your self to drink periodically even when you don’t really feel thirsty.

5. Eat a giant breakfast earlier than your hike.

Munroe's Family Restaurant in Twin Mountain, New Hampshire
Munroe’s Household Restaurant in Twin Mountain, New Hampshire

You’re in all probability going to burn 5000-6000 energy when climbing Mt Washington in winter, so it’s greatest to pile on the energy very first thing within the morning since you’ll be working at a caloric deficit all day, even when you snack incessantly. Consuming loads of meals will enhance your metabolism, which is able to generate physique warmth and aid you keep hotter, so pile on the energy earlier than and through your hike with excessive calorie snacks that received’t freeze. My favourite pre-hike meal for Mt Washington are waffles, hash browns, and two sides of bacon. Close by Munroe’s diner in Twin Mountain, NH makes a hearty breakfast.

6. Begin early within the morning.

Starting a climb before sunrise is called an Alpine Start.
Beginning a climb earlier than dawn known as an Alpine Begin.

The times are very quick in winter with solely September 11 hours of daylight, and also you need to be sure you get under treeline earlier than darkish when route discovering turns into harder and it’s simple to fall or slip. The hike up Mount Washington is a ten+ mile hike with over 4000 ft of elevation achieve. Assuming a median of 1 mile per hour which is fairly normal for winter, it’s going to take you at the very least 10 hours to climb the height and get again down. One of the simplest ways to keep away from getting caught out at the hours of darkness is to get a really early begin as a way to climb to the treeline (about 4500′) earlier than dawn, supplying you with extra time to finish the climb and get again down earlier than sundown.

7. Costume in layers.

Layering Up for the Ascent to the Summit
Layering Up at 5000′ for the Ascent to the Summit

You need to keep away from sweating in winter as a result of it’s going to chill you while you cease transferring. One of the simplest ways to do that is to decorate in layers so you’ll be able to strip off garments while you get too heat and placed on layers while you get chilly. For instance, it’s not unusual for individuals to strip right down to a baselyaer jersey when climbing as a result of they’re sweating a lot. If you get above the treeline, the place the wind can chill you, many individuals will placed on a midlayer and a windbreaker or arduous shell jacket for the ultimate climb to the summit, including gloves, a hat, a facemask/balaclava, or ski goggles as wanted. On the summit, most individuals placed on a heavy down parka to remain heat.

 8. Deliver full face safety together with a facemask and goggles.

Be sure to bring full face protection including a facemask and goggles
You should definitely carry full face safety together with a facemask and goggles

Frostbite is a really actual hazard on Mt Washington, particularly when the temperatures are under freezing and the wind is up. Make certain to carry a facemask and ski goggles with you, in order that there isn’t any pores and skin in your face that’s uncovered to the weather. When you’ve by no means hiked in winter with a full balaclava and goggles, be sure you get some apply beforehand. Strolling over ice-covered rock is treacherous sufficient with out sporting fogged-up goggles. It’s greatest to debug any fogging points earlier than you try the height, lest you be pressured to abort your hike and switch round.

9. Practice on your hike by mountain climbing different White Mountain 4000 footers in winter situations.

Mt Lafayette and Mt Lincoln on Franconia Ridge
Mt Lafayette and Mt Lincoln on Franconia Ridge

The one efficient technique to prepare for winter mountain climbing is to go on winter hikes. Mountaineering in chilly climate, understanding when to layer and delayer, working towards along with your traction aids, and packing and organizing your whole winter gear isn’t one thing you’ll be able to prepare for on a treadmill or within the health club. When coaching for a winter hike up Mt Washington, you need to do just a few apply hikes up different White Mountain 4 thousand footers in winter situations which have lengthy strategy hikes and a big above treeline part. Peaks resembling Mts Madison, Garfield, Carrigan, Eisenhower, North and South Twin, Moosilauke, or North and South Kinsman will aid you develop the stamina and expertise wanted to climb Mt Washington.

10. Assist the Mt Washington Group

The Ultimate Winter Hiking Desination - Mt Washington in Winter
The Final Winter Mountaineering  Vacation spot – Mt Washington in Winter

Climbing Mt Washington in winter is a bucket checklist expertise, little question, even when you don’t summit the primary time. Nevertheless it’s vital to appreciate that there are lots of people and organizations that make this expertise potential and might use your assist so others can expertise it too. The Mt Washington Climate Observatory, the Mt Washington Avalanche Middle Forecasters, NH Fish and Recreation rescue coordinators, the all-volunteer mountain rescue groups, skilled and volunteer path maintainers, and your mountain information when you used one, all have a hand in making Mt Washington safer to hike in winter. Take into consideration how one can assist them with a donation, a beneficiant tip, or an excellent phrase. Climbing Washington in winter could be a really completely different expertise with out them.

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We solely become profitable if you are going to buy a product by way of our affiliate hyperlinks. Assist us proceed to check and write unsponsored and impartial gear evaluations, newbie FAQs, and free mountain climbing guides.

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8500 miles in america and the UK and written over 3000 articles because the founding father of, famous for its backpacking gear evaluations and mountain climbing FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine mountain climbing and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails within the White Mountains twice and has accomplished 10 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 footer checklist with over 550 summits in all 4 seasons. He’s additionally the creator of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free on-line guidebook of the most effective backpacking journeys within the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click on right here to subscribe to the SectionHiker e-newsletter.

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