Coldest Summit

Items that do not fit the categories above.
Forum rules
This forum is for general, mountaineering-related topics. For more details, please see the Terms of Use you agreed to when joining the forum.
Posts: 319
Joined: 7/26/2004
14er Checklist (24)

Re: Coldest Summit

Postby Randy » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:16 am

As a Mt washington expert and having climbed half of the 14ers, thought Id chime in. I would say that many of the 14ers are much harder to climb in the winter then Mt Washington, due to the objective dangers encountered. As far as harsh cold, Mt Washington does consistantly have some of the worst weather conditions, you can crunch all the data you want but the mountains out west get much more favorable conditions to climb then Mt Washington does, based purely on cold and wind.
User avatar
Scott P
Posts: 6527
Joined: 5/4/2005
14er Checklist (46)
14ers in Winter (16)
13er Checklist (30)

Re: Coldest Summit

Postby Scott P » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:45 am

having climbed half of the 14ers, thought Id chime in.

Which ones were in winter and was one of them Longs? If not, to be fair I haven't yet climbed Washington in winter, but it is very high on the list. #18 in the entire world, in fact:

As far as harsh cold, Mt Washington does consistantly have some of the worst weather conditions, you can crunch all the data you want but the mountains out west get much more favorable conditions to climb then Mt Washington does, based purely on cold and wind.

As mentioned in my post, that is probably true of Pikes and most other Colorado 14ers, but Longs is probably harsher based on wind/temperature only due to the fact that it’s much colder, but with equivalent wind. On the other hand, Longs is drier though and has less mist, so if you take that in account, they would be more evenly matched.

As mentioned, Mt Washington would certainly have an edge in mist and foggy conditions, so the weather might overall be considered to add to worse climbing conditions in an annual sense. Everything gets coated in ice there in winter. Seldom do such conditions occur in Colorado. If only wind and cold are taken in account though (which is what was brought up), places like Longs would be harsher in that regard (It seems that Longs tends to be much windier in winter than other 14ers). If you add mist, icing and fog to the equation, it could be argued in favor of Washington. Also, another criteria in Washington's favor is that equivalent windspeeds lose force as you increase in altitidue, i.e., a 100 MPH wind at sea level has more force than a 100 MPH wind at 20,000 feet. You could probably argue in favor of either peak, using different criterias. Both are very harsh in their own way.

Also, Colorado isn’t the entire west. It is possible that Mt Rainier, for example, is less windy than Mt Washington, but do you really think that conditions are better on Mt Washington than Rainier? I guess it could be argued that in winter they might be more evenly matched. Rainier is a bit colder, but also much stormier and snowier. It does get bad icing conditions. On the other hand, it may be less windy.

Also Alaska is out west. I know that people do climb Mount Washington in winter to prepare for a summer climb of Denali. If Mt Washington had worse conditions, wouldn’t the roles be reversed? I don’t know anyone who climbs Denali in winter to prepare for a summer climb of Washington. Do you?

Claiming that Mt Washington has worse weather conditions than somewhere like Denali, or perhaps even more so, Mt St Elias, Mt Fairweather or Logan is nonsense. For anyone that disagrees, I’ll offer to climb Mount Washington 10 times in winter if you can climb one of those four in winter (all have been climbed in winter, but only a very few times). :-D

Although Mt Washington does have very harsh weather conditions, one reason for it's reputation is because of all the reliable and easy to obtain weather data (because there is an obervatory up there). Weather information for other mountain locations (other than in the Alps) is very hard to obtain. It usually takes lots of digging. Anyway, if anyone is interested, I have compiled a list of weather statistics for several mountain tops:

Most of the easy to obtain data is from mountains back easy, but the list does have some harder to obtain information for some of the mountains out west. I'd like to add Mt Evans to the list as well, but I couldn't make sense of the weather data. Niwot would be another interesting one to add, but I haven't taken the time to go through all the data manually (and that is usually what you have to do for the SNOTEL stations).

PS, this just a friendly coversation from a weather nerd; don't take anything I said personal.
Last edited by Scott P on Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:10 am, edited 3 times in total.
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.
User avatar
Posts: 1065
Joined: 10/17/2006
14er Checklist (58)
14ers in Winter (58)
13er Checklist (712)

Re: Coldest Summit

Postby sgladbach » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:58 am

highcomm wrote:I know you guys are proud of your 14er summits out west but nothing compares to Mt. Washington, NH when it comes to cold and wind. Average high temp on the summit is 33.9 degrees. Average low is 22.4 degrees. During a 71-hour stretch from around 3 p.m. on January 13 to around 2 p.m. on January 16, 2004, the wind chill on the summit never went above −50 °F. The highest winds ever observed by man were recorded there on April 12, 1934 - 231mph. The mountain averages hurricane-force winds 100 days/year. Keep in mind that Mt. Washington is only 6,288 feet in elevation.

Who are the guys who climbed the peak from the nearest car-acessible TH Jan 13-16, 2004 or April 12, 1934?
It was my understanding the OP was asking about cold climbing conditions.

BTW, the -50 summit-windchill is not uncommon on Colorado 14ers actually summited in winter. I believe some posters to this thread mentioned that.
"We knocked the bastard off." Hillary, 1953
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Hillary, 2003
Couldn't we all use 50 years of humble growth?
Posts: 33
Joined: 10/11/2009
14er Checklist (32)
13er Checklist (3)

Re: Coldest Summit

Postby stillwell » Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:01 pm

My coldest climbing day was also in the Presidential range of NH on Mt Adams. When we reached tree line and the area between Mt Adams and Mt Jefferson summit my buddy's thermometer was bottomed out and it went to 25 below. The winds were easily 75 MPH plus. We literally had to pry our eye lids back open after blinking. We heard a report after getting down that there were wind chill values of 99 below.

Return to “General Mountaineering Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 13 guests