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  1. #1

    Default Still the most dangerous small mountain in the world

    Hiker succumbs to hypothermia on Mt. Washington: https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/20/us/hi...ire/index.html

    With weather and trail conditions that can change dramatically in minutes Mt. Washington has a well earned reputation of the worlds most dangerous small mountain.

    Apparently several people on the mountain that day got into trouble with the high winds and freezing precipitation that developed. Not normal for June per se, but not unexpected.

    A shame.

  2. #2

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    Very sorry to hear this. Once again, the severity of Mt Washington weather is underestimated.

    Just above freezing + wet is the most dangerous. Ill take 20°F and dry any day.

    Also, just getting down to tree line makes all the difference in the world.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  3. #3
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    “Shelter in the krumholtz!!!”

  4. #4

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    Sadly sheltering in the Krumholz will turn into dying in the Krumholz. Once someone is cold and wet they only have limited amount of available energy in their bodies to keep warm. A large amount of that energy has been expended hiking. Having lots of the right specialized gear delays the heat loss but for hypothermic hiker is just some fairly basic math that without rescue by the people with the right skills and gear they are going to die. This book https://www.amazon.com/Where-Youll-F.../dp/0996218157 covers a prior fatality not that far away and goes into great detail on how hypothermia works and what goes into a rescue effort.

    A friend and I got a mild case of hypothermia on a June day where the temps did not drop below 50F in rainstorm hiking up and over a mountain. We self rescued but it took a couple of hours to feel right. Once a person starts uncontrollably, they are no longer able to self rescue, they need help by someone else or the clock will run out on them.

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    Hypothermia sneaks up on you and can mess with decision making. In 2014 on the Colorado Trail, I got caught in a thunderstorm and my rain jacket soaked through. I had to pitch my tent for an hour or so to wait for the storm to pass. During that hour, I was sitting in my tent cold and did not put on my down parka or get into my sleeping bad, thinking that it would be just a brief stop. I was badly chilled by the time the lightning stopped. I then backtracked down to tree line since threatening clouds were still around and I didn't want to go over the pass. At tree line, I met a couple of hikers I had seen earlier in the day who were in a forested area setting up camp. After a couple minutes talking to them, they asked me if I was OK. Apparently I was not that coherent. It was then that I realized that I had to set up camp and get into my sleeping bag. My hands were numb and I barely set up my tent. Then I got into my sleeping bag. Felt better after a half hour and cooked myself a hot meal, still in my sleeping bag. After another half hour I felt fine. If I hadn't met those hikers, I wouldn't have realized my own condition and probably would have tried to proceed that day. As it was, I stayed in that same spot overnight and got an early start the next morning.

    I've never hiked in the presidential range but I've read about the dangers ... will never go there without plenty of gear to be prepared!

  6. #6

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    I would not get paranoid about hiking in the presidential range during reasonable weather conditions, with a staffed weather observatory on the summit there are very accurate forecasts of the conditions. The high summit forecast is issued two days in advance and updated every evening and in the morning. Yes, a hiker needs to carry appropriate gear and know their limitations but thousands if not tens of thousands of folks routinely hike up Washington every summer season. Even thru hikers have access to forecast as every AMC hut they pass and most likely stop at have update morning and evening forecasts.

    Although a tragedy for the family of the deceased, this was not an accident, this was a person overestimating their abilities and gear choices in what were predicted in advance to be dangerous conditions (-6 F wind chill). Combined with that was a variation of "summit fever" in that he was participating in a hiking personal challenge. The press represented the deceased as an "experienced hiker" with 17 four thousand footers completed. Generally, someone out doing a one day solo Presidential Traverse would have completed the list of the 48 4ks most likely with repeats. Several of the 4Ks are far more remote from rescue or shelter. I have done the one day Presidential Traverse and variations of it with groups and solo a couple of times, in all cases I checked the forecast and in advance and on occasion have had to postpone or cancel attempts due to poor forecast weather. When acting as a group leader I normally would place a car halfway and everyone hiking agreed that should the weather turn that we would as a group bail. off the ridge. The last time I attempted it with a group we were caught by afternoon thundershowers that came in early on Mt Eisenhower near the end of the hike and had to bail literally within sight of the Mt Pierce, the end of the exposed ridgeline.

    Effectively, the deceased whether he knew it or not had sealed his fate at Edmands Col (between Jefferson and Washington) as that is the last sheltered point until Mt Washington. Once he committed to go up and over Jefferson he was at the top of the ridge with zero cover until Washington To do the traverse solo requires a long car shuttle in the morning or the evening and bailing at or before Edmands would have put him on the wrong side of the mountain in a relatively rural area 20 miles by paved road from whatever transportation he had arranged while heading to Mt Washington would in theory get him to either the summit building or to a bail out option via the Jewell trail down to the Cog base station and on to the Mt Clinton road that parallels the ridge line to Crawfords Notch, the traditional end of the Presidential Traverse.

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    I was kinda of joking about sheltering in the krumholtz, but it does actually cut down on wind to an amazing extent. I agree it isn’t a fix for hypothermia but it could buy some time.

    A more effective bit of advice—bring rain pants.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I would not get paranoid about hiking in the presidential range during reasonable weather conditions…the deceased whether he knew it or not had sealed his fate at Edmands Col (between Jefferson and Washington) as that is the last sheltered point until Mt Washington. Once he committed to go up and over Jefferson he was at the top of the ridge with zero cover until Mt. Washington.
    I know nothing about the side trails, but the A.T. between Jefferson and Washington is one of my favorite sections. I love the openness and views. I’ve hiked it twice, most recently NOBO two days before Chen. It was sunny and warm, of course colder and windier near W. I feel for his family, but you’re right, he failed to curb his hiking cockiness.

    This is a separate topic, but I feel there’s a pressure to “achieve” and “overcome” that’s ingrained in the peakbagging and thru-hiking subcultures. Too many people have died on trail while trying not to be a “quitter.”

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    Is the old corrugated 1/2 pipe (small-quonset shelter) still up on a slope of Mt Washington?

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    It's really difficult to make a decision to turn back, but it has to be done on occasion. I remember having to turn back just a mile short of the Mt. Whitney summit in May 2015 due to snow and ice making it hard to know exactly where the trail was located, with sharp drops on the western side of the trail. Better safe than sorry. It helped that I had been on Mt. Whitney once before. A lot of people continued on, apparently without disaster striking. I don't like rolling the dice personally.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coffee View Post
    It's really difficult to make a decision to turn back, but it has to be done on occasion. I remember having to turn back just a mile short of the Mt. Whitney summit in May 2015 due to snow and ice making it hard to know exactly where the trail was located, with sharp drops on the western side of the trail. Better safe than sorry. It helped that I had been on Mt. Whitney once before. A lot of people continued on, apparently without disaster striking. I don't like rolling the dice personally.
    The last time I climbed Washington in the winter with a couple of friends, we had to turn back only 1/3 mile from the summit, but by then were getting ~80mph gusts, sustained ~50mph, white-out conditions. Sometimes it's best to just call it a day and go home.

    20150309_112621.jpg Navigating_whiteout_on Mt_Washington.jpg Wash02.jpg
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

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    Edmands Col Emergency Shelter? Long gone, as people were using it for planned overnights. It's a shame, because it really was valuable for emergency use. Used it once when leading a group and a thunderstorm rolled in without warning, and was glad it was there, as it was a long way to get below tree line. https://www.summitpost.org/emergency...d-s-col/992659

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffmeh View Post
    Edmands Col Emergency Shelter? Long gone, as people were using it for planned overnights. It's a shame, because it really was valuable for emergency use. Used it once when leading a group and a thunderstorm rolled in without warning, and was glad it was there, as it was a long way to get below tree line. https://www.summitpost.org/emergency...d-s-col/992659
    Ah, yes - that's it! I was hypothermic in August 1976 climbing Mt. Washington in an ice/snow storm. We ducked in to the Edmands Col shelter - I got in my sleeping bag, made a pot of hot soup, and came back to reality. I was just 15 years old, but apparently had more sense than some a lot older. But YES - that was a a valuable shelter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post
    The last time I climbed Washington in the winter with a couple of friends, we had to turn back only 1/3 mile from the summit, but by then were getting ~80mph gusts, sustained ~50mph, white-out conditions. Sometimes it's best to just call it a day and go home.

    20150309_112621.jpg Navigating_whiteout_on Mt_Washington.jpg Wash02.jpg
    I had a valuable learning experience coming down from 1 goose on the AT last year, in September. Made the mistake of overlooking a storm coming from the SW, saw it coming but I thought I’d outrun it to the treeline. I ended up huddled under the krumholz wrapped up in my poncho with a 20-25 degree temp drop and what I estimate as 40 mph wind blowing rain and light hail almost horizontally. Once the electrical activity waned I made a run for it, which involved descending 1/2 mile of slippery high angle granite, grabbing sharp dead cedar branches and slipping in the mud. Main lesson is respect for the speed of weather change in the whites even in a ‘milder’ month like September, and I had the benefit of a full pack with plenty of coverage for weather changes. With a daypack I could have gotten into trouble.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by chef4 View Post
    I had a valuable learning experience coming down from 1 goose on the AT last year, in September. Made the mistake of overlooking a storm coming from the SW, saw it coming but I thought I’d outrun it to the treeline. I ended up huddled under the krumholz wrapped up in my poncho with a 20-25 degree temp drop and what I estimate as 40 mph wind blowing rain and light hail almost horizontally. Once the electrical activity waned I made a run for it, which involved descending 1/2 mile of slippery high angle granite, grabbing sharp dead cedar branches and slipping in the mud. Main lesson is respect for the speed of weather change in the whites even in a ‘milder’ month like September, and I had the benefit of a full pack with plenty of coverage for weather changes. With a daypack I could have gotten into trouble.
    Indeed, it's all too easy to get into serious trouble when 'real' weather moves in. And as you found, it can sneak up quickly!

    One really does breathe a heartfelt sigh of relief after a nasty scramble back down to treeline in those conditions. So easy to get injured when rushing the process.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by BradMT View Post
    Ah, yes - that's it! I was hypothermic in August 1976 climbing Mt. Washington in an ice/snow storm. We ducked in to the Edmands Col shelter - I got in my sleeping bag, made a pot of hot soup, and came back to reality. I was just 15 years old, but apparently had more sense than some a lot older. But YES - that was a a valuable shelter.
    Memory is a funny thing - was August 1975

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