Ascent of Mount Washington on 2011-07-23

Climber: Alan Barber

Date:Saturday, July 23, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Washington
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:6288 ft / 1916 m

Ascent Trip Report

We landed at Boston Logan airport, rented a car, and were immediately bogged down in about the worst traffic I have ever seen on an Interstate. We finally bypassed the "parking lot" by getting off the interstate and driving around the jam. However than put us an hour later on the trip plan and were bumping up against the closing of the Mount Washington road.

We drove up I-93 into northern New Hampshire and went into the White National forest around Gorham. The road took us through a “notch” where there evidently is an Indian Face in the mountains. We did not see it although there were several signs for it. Mount Washington is known as the "Home of the World's Worst Weather" and the CD we listened to on the drive up the 6200 foot Mount Washington Auto Road was both informative and entertaining. It frequently referred to the fastest wind speed ever measured of 231 mph on April 12, 1934.

Mount Washington is the tallest peak in the Presidential Range (these include the 5 highest peaks in New England). We actually gave a ride down the mountain to two Lutheran seminary students who were hiking these peaks in one day. One had turned his ankle and could not continue the hike.

There are two fairy easy ways to the top: a cog railway and the toll road we chose to drive. The Mount Washington Auto Road is a “steep, spectacular eight-mile scenic road” that leads to the top of Mount Washington. We started at the base by paying a $31 fee at the toll booth and stopping at the gift shop. There were several large tents in the meadow at the bottom and a celebration of the society which supports this privately owned road was in progress. Included with our toll pass was a "this vehicle climbed Mt. Washington" bumper sticker and a CD we listened to as we drove up and then down the mountain. The narrator gave us the history of the road and pointed out interesting facts about the mountain as we went up and down the mountain. We also received an instruction sheet regarding driving safety. The instruction told us to turn off the CD once we were at the top and gave us a running commentary of what we were seeing. The scenery on the drive up is dramatic but as the driver I focused on the road leaving Sherry the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. The drive is around 8 miles, with roughly a 5,000 foot ascent (the peak is just over 6,200 feet in elevation). Most of the road is well-paved and comfortably wide enough for 2 cars to pass - there is a section a couple of miles in length in the second half of the climb which is not paved but was in good condition. The trip took around 30 minutes each way. We stopped occasionally at turn offs to take photos.

The temperature at the base was 78°F, but at the top it was 59°F. It was windy but wind gauge indicated it was varying between 20 MPH and 50MPH with an average of 30 MPH.

Once we finished the drive to the top, we parked in the lot and climbed a set of wooden stairs to the summit. The elevation gained from the parking lot to the buildings was about 2 stories and then from the level area to the top (a large pile of jumbled rocks and the sign marking the summit) was about 20 feet. It would only take about 5 minutes to get from the parking lot to the summit but there was a lot to see and we spent about 30 minutes on top. There was a building in which the scientists who had documented the high wind stayed. It was literally chained to the ground!

There were several buildings at the top. The visitor center at the summit offered food, a gift shop, a post office, and a small museum. They also sold one way tickets down the cog railroad for $45 (which was a bit pricey compared to the round trip rate of $62)! There were two flap poles with the American Flag and the New Hampshire flags. It gave a great illustration of the winds which seemed to be blowing two directions at once!

After a short climb up a rocky pile, we made it to the summit for the summit shot! The USGS marker was nearby.

After leaving the summit, we drove back down the Auto Road dropped off the two seminary students at their car, and drove back to Gorham for dinner. With the sun setting we turned west toward Vermont and its high point, Mount Mansfield.
Summary Total Data
    Quality:1 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Very Windy, Clear

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