Winter usually makes a surprise reappearance in the mountains at least once each spring and this year, such a storm happened to coincide with Memorial Day weekend. Needless to say, it did not turn out to be the sunny, warm, backyard-barbeque weather that everyone was hoping for. It was, if nothing else, a reminder of just how unpredictable and dangerous the backcountry can be.
Filling in for the caretaker at Carter Notch Hut this past weekend, I found myself confronted with more and more hypothermic (or near-hypothermic) hikers as Saturday's winds persisted and the freezing rain turned to snow. By the following morning, with my guests warmed up and fed, four inches of snow had fallen, covering the ground outside the hut in a scene that felt in many ways like the first snowfall of the year.
While all of my guests made full recoveries and made it down to the trailhead and the safety of their cars, I would like to believe that they returned home with a renewed respect for the mountains (particularly the two guests who were forced to stay the night without reservations - and without warm clothes and sleeping bags - when the weather prevented them from completing their intended day hike).
Before leaving for a hike, whether a day trip or overnight excursion, it is always a good idea to check the local weather forecast. Mountain weather is known to change often, so check the Mount Washington
Observatory website (http://www.mountwashington.org) for the most
up-to-date forecasts for the White Mountain region. For more recommendations on how to plan a trip and stay safe in the backcountry, visit Hike Safe (http://www.hikesafe.com/), a joint effort between the White Mountain National Forest and New
Hampshire Fish & Game Department to educate hikers on the inherent
risks of hiking and how they can become better prepared before beginning
any hike. Keep in mind that, since 1999, New Hampshire has supported a "reckless hiker" law, whereby hikers who
negligently cause themselves to become lost or injured - resulting in
costly and dangerous rescues - may be billed for those rescue services.
For anyone heading up the trails this weekend, expect a big change from last weekend's conditions. Weather this coming weekend is forecasted to be warm and sunny, so bring a visor and sunblock. Even still, make sure you are prepared for all conditions by packing extra layers and rain gear.
Our eight high mountain huts open this Saturday, June 1st for their full-service season, so make sure to join the fun this summer and visit some of these, and other, fantastic AMC destinations. To
check availability, learn about our destinations, or book a stay, visit
our website (https://www.outdoors.org/lodging/) or call our Reservations
department at (603) 466-2727 Monday through Saturday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.
**For anyone looking to summit Mt. Washington or ski/hike in Tuckerman
Ravine, please be aware that a section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail
"Lunch Rocks" to the intersection with the Alpine Garden Trail at the
top of the Headwall is now CLOSED to all use, including skiing,
snowboarding and hiking. This annual closure is due to the crevasses,
waterfall holes, falling ice and undermined snow that create serious
hazards this time of year. Hiking to the summit of Mount Washington
from the Tuckerman Ravine trail will require cutting over to the Lion
Head summer route prior to reaching the Hermit Lake Shelter and the base
of the ravine.
For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us
here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk. We are
available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM
or by email at email@example.com.
Backcountry Information Specialist
AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
Labels: hike safe, New Hampshire, Pinkham Notch, Tuckerman Ravine