Mt. Washington Winter Ascent 2012

Now that winter seems to finally be upon us, although compared to last year it might as well still be considered summer right now, what better activity to plan than another winter ascent of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire? I’ll be heading to North Conway, NH in just a couple of weeks, with plans to be there on February 3rd, to climb the 4th, and return to Connecticut on the 5th (just in time for the Super Bowl).

For those of you who don’t know, while Mt. Washington is not a very tall mountain(6,288ft or 1,917m), in the winter it still packs a punch. Last year on the summit we had conditions of up to 35-45mph sustained winds and gusts up to 60mph, with wind-chill temperatures at -27 degrees F (-32.7 C). I’ve been monitoring the weather this year and until recently it didn’t look like it would even come close to those conditions last year. But as I said winter is now upon us, a few cold fronts have pushed over New Hampshire and Mt. Washington dropping some snow, and lately the conditions on the summit have ranged from 60 – 100mph winds, and wind-chill temperatures -20 to -50 degrees F (-28.8 to -45.5 C). The plan, as it always should be when climbing Mt. Washington in the winter, is to head up Lion’s Head trail to at least the tree-line and to see what the weather conditions look like from there. At temperatures as low as -35 to -50 F and decent speed winds, frostbite can set-in on exposed flesh in less than ten minutes. Since I’m leading a few unexperienced mountaineers up the mountain, no unnecessary risks will be taken when it comes to weather. Safety must always come first in winter mountaineering.

I’ll probably also be adding a little extra weight to my pack with some camera equipment. I haven’t decided 100% if I want to risk taking my DSLR into these conditions. I’ve asked quite a few professional photographers for their opinions on this and I’ve gotten a bunch of great tips on using camera equipment in extreme cold weather. It definitely seems doable, but I think my decision to take it or not will be made last-minute. (Any other suggestions on this matter would be greatly appreciated)

Either way, I’m looking forward to grabbing the ice axe, stepping into the crampons, and setting-out on another winter mountaineering trip. I’ll certainly at least be bringing a point-and-shoot with me. Check out my post from last year to see some photographs of the same trip taken one year ago with a point-and-shoot.

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Author: Nathan Bush

Nathan Bush is an avid traveler, adventurer, and professional wedding and landscape photographer. His absolute favorite pastime is hiking all the while lugging his camera equipment into the backcountry in order to capture beautiful images of the wild. He currently lives in Colorado with his soon to be wife, Florence.

7 thoughts on “Mt. Washington Winter Ascent 2012”

  1. This is something I would love to attempt one day. I think my first hike up Mt. Washington will be in the summer though 🙂

    I had plans to do it this year, and then life got in the way and it didn’t happen 😦 I’m hoping this summer will be the year to put this, and a few of NH’s other 4,000(+) footers in the rear view.

    1. Hey Jeff,

      I’ve only been up Mt. Washington out NH’s mountains, but in the summer it is still a great hike. I actually find it maybe even more physically tiring in the summer because the rocks will be exposed meaning you have to literally pull yourself up (both with your legs and arms in some places) constantly. It’s like walking up an uneven staircase all day long. In the winter, the rocks are covered by a slope of ice and snow so it is more of a gradual incline that you walk up, but on the other hand you have to battle against wind, blowing snow, and freezing cold. Either way it’s a great experience and a challenging day-hike! Good luck planning for this summer, I’ll look forward to seeing some of your photographs from the mountain.

      Nate

      1. Lack of the proper winter gear, and a very limited budget, will likely prevent me from summiting in the winter any time soon. But I have most of what is needed to safely hike it in the warmer months.

    1. hahaha, you’ll be surprised how fun it is with proper gear. Besides, what fun would this world be if you could only play outside for 2/3rds of the year?!

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