Coos County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Washington (6,288 feet)

Date: June 4, 2008
Author: Adam Helman

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting state, national park, and Canadian provincial highpoints in June 2008.

My original plan had been to hike the Tuckerman Ravine Route. Terribly blustery weather changed that plan; and I reluctantly drive the summit road for a $20 fee. Thereby this report describes the driving, rather than the hiking experience.

The vast majority of people who visit the Mount Washington summit area drive or take the cog railroad rather than climb there. Hence a report mirroring their experience is appropriate.

I arrive at the gated summit road entrance before the 8 a.m. opening, and was first in-line for the drive. Upon payment one is issued a folder containing driving guidelines for how to negotiate the mountain road with appropriate use of low gear - including on the ascent (which puzzled me).

One is also given a certificate of completion .... for the automobile - stating that it had "climbed" Mount Washington. When one successfully climbs Kilimanjaro a certificate is issued upon return to the 6,000 foot park entrance. The contrast strikes me as noteworthy: in one case the act of summiting is somewhat guaranteed (Mount Washington), and so the certificate is conveniently provided prior to the summit drive. In the other case, of course, no such guarantee exists.

The eight mile drive entails some 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The road (as of 2008) is paved apart from a short section perhaps five miles "in". I enter clouds about halfway up, resulting in poor visibility that, at times, seems like only 50 feet. I slow to a near crawl as the winding road under those conditions is no place to speed - especially with drop-offs whose depth I can only imagine.

I park at the summit lot, don raingear and gloves, and walk the wooden stairs (perhaps 50 vertical feet?) to the permanent summit structures. Fog reduces visibility to about 100 feet; and so I rely on memory of the summit boulder's location relative to the buildings for getting to the base of a very short trail which takes one from pavement to the summit benchmark and highest rock.

The fog and wind suggest I remain only several moments. I descend, pass by a sign indicating that the highest wind speed ever measured by Man was recorded in the building I walked past (231 m.p.h.); and find my rental in preparation for descent to more tolerable meteorological conditions.

A heaping container of butterscotch pudding awaits enjoyment at a Gorham convenience store.