June 29, 2010

Mount Washington, Presidential Range, New Hampshire

So, onto the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. and the highest outside of North Carolina east of the Rockies. Mount Washington is famous for its terrible weather, especially in winter. Still home to the highest wind ever recorded at 231 mph, it is often coated in hoar frost and buried in many feet of snow.

Mount Washington can reach below -40 F in winter and only averages a high of 54 degress in summer, thus it has conditions more similar to Barrow, AK than New England. The summit is often shrouded in fog and averages over 100" of moisture a year. We were very lucky it was a nice and warm day with little wind that day. That night a doozy of the rainstorm rolled through and we wouldn't have had another chance at the summit for several days.

As we scaled the final steep ascent to the summit of Mount Washington, the landscape became a talus slope of large lichen-encrusted boulders, consisting primarily of ancient metamorphic schist and gneiss. The climb was difficult in the final stretch where large boulders were predominant.

Mount Monroe below and stretching out along the ridge to Mount Eisenhower in the distance

As we made it to the summit, we found the parking area and cog railroad station where hundreds were arriving the easy way. Thirsty from the unexpected distance and elevation gain we'd made from the bottom, it was slightly frustrating to stand in such a long line at the concession stand for a drink.

Anyways, there were spectacular views of the northern part of the Presidential Range, including Mount Madison, Mount John Adams, and Mount Jefferson, all over 5,000 feet.

Northern Presidential Range

We could see the cog railway working its way up the slope and great views into the New Hampshire Northwoods, Franconia Notch, and into Western Maine. Below you can see the entire length of the southern Presidential Range consisting of the largest alpine ecosystem anywhere in the Eastern U.S.

Below is the view to the east well into Maine
Lichen-covered mica schist and gneiss

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