As the wind whipped my hair in my face and the bitter chill nipped my skin, I pulled my leather jacket in tighter. Clouds enveloped me, making my line of sight difficult. It was hard to believe that just this morning I had been sitting under clear sunny skies eating a bagel and reading a magazine.
I was at the summit of Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet, it is the highest peak in the northeastern United States. Not only that, it’s also home to the Mount Washington Observatory where the “highest wind ever observed by man” was recorded. During a violent storm on April 12, 1934, the crew’s instruments measured a wind velocity of 231 miles per hour. After learning that, I felt pretty thankful to only have to be dealing with getting hair in my mouth.
There are many ways to reach the summit. For the adventurous, hiking to the top is an option. You’ll trek up Crawford Path, which was first laid out in 1819 and is said to be the oldest hiking trail in America. You can also opt to drive the Mount Washington Auto Road, which is 8 miles long and starts from the eastern side of the mountain in Pinkham Notch. Admission costs $25 per vehicle, and $8 per additional adult. For a historical journey, ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s oldest mountain climbing cog railway that has been transporting people up the mountain since 1869.
No matter what way you choose, you’ll get encompassing mountain, forest and valley views and journey through several climate zones. At the top, you’ll be immersed in the clouds, and will be able to visit the Mount Washington Observatory Museum and the Tip-Top House, a restored historic hotel from 1853.
[Image above via Shutterstock; Gallery images via Jessie on a Journey]
New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington has long been hailed as having the “worst weather on the planet”. The summit is regularly pounded with high levels of precipitation and snow storms are a routine occurrence every month of the year, with annual snow fall averaging over 21 feet of accumulation. The place is also well known for its high winds, and for more than six decades, it has held the record for the highest wind speed ever measured. But now that record, which has long been a source of pride for the state, has been broken.
Way back on April 12, 1934, a sustained wind speed of 231 miles per hour was recorded on Mt. Washington, and until recently, it was widely recognized as the faster ever recorded on the planet. But it has now come to light that Typhoon Olivia, which moved through Barrow Island off the coast of Australia in 1996, managed to generate winds of 253 miles per hour. The new record was confirmed last week by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a branch of the United Nations that studies global climate patterns and changing weather conditions. The Barrow Island record was uncovered largely by accident while examining data from the typhoon.
While the loss of the speed record may take a little of the luster off of the mountain, it will no doubt remain a major draw for hikers and climbers alike. Standing 6,288 feet in height, what Mt. Washington lacks in stature, it more than makes up in challenge. While the altitude and trails aren’t especially note worthy in and of themselves, that legendary weather is a constant shadow over any trek. Experienced climbers looking for the ultimate challenge should give it a go during the winter months in particular.