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February 29, 2012     The New Era Paper
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February 29, 2012
 

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Page 12 :1] i, ra - February 29, 2012 Surviving New Hampshire's Mt. Washington Frozen fog the other moming took me back many years to when my brother and I climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire while hiking the entire Appala- chian Trail. It took us two attempts to finally reach the cold, windy summit. Even though .the mountain is only 6,288 feet in elevation, it boasts the highest wind speed ever recorded on the planet at 231mph (in 1934). You start the hike at the base of the mountain, which is around 1,000 feet so there's a mile of elevation gain. Air masses flowing from the south, west and the St. Lawrence River Valley to the north help create Mount Washington's high winds and the drastic changes in temperature: The elevation of the White Mountains and the peak's relative proximity to the Atlantic Ocean also influence the weather. On Aug. 20, 1982, six of us hikers broke treeline and one gust of wind blew all of us against a big boulder, making it hard to even pull a hand away from the cold rock. I glanced at the others with a bit of apprehension. If it was this bad here, what would it be like on the summit of Mount Washington, only a few miles away? The strong gusts suddenly changed to steady winds and the fog made the scene even "more ee- rie. We could actually see the wind blow up one side of the ridge and get sucked right down the other side. We couldn't take a step with- out losing our balance. As we continued to climb higher up the ridge, the wind grew steadily worse, and the packs on our backs didn't help matters any. We were experiencing the severe and unpredictable weather of the New Hampshire's Presidential Range that all hikers on the Appa- lachian Trail hear so much about. This was one of the many new and exciting experiences encoun- tered since I stood atop Springer Mountain, Ga., over four months and 1,800 miles earlier. The "Ap- palachian Trail" - that name had always fascinated me since child- hood. The 2,100-mile-long trail Albany Rifle and Pistol Club 2012 SPRING GUN SHOW MARCH 3rd & 4th Free parking. 400 tables of guns Linn County Fairgrounds Admission $5 I-5 Exit 234 (541) 491-3755 Saturday9am 5pm Sunday9am -4pm n00il OEf 00ALE00i FOR ALL YOUR SPORTING GOOD NEEDS 610 MAIN STREET I 541.367.5544 1 HOURS: MON.- SAT. 9 - 6  SUN. 10 - 4 UNDER NHgUR" "HEW 00]HIPHEflT" HOODtES i "SAC KPACKS SUFIX FISHIH5 LIHE- 00]J00LF= SB,g l] 4-10LB TEST I 1000YD SPOOL REGULAR: $9.99-$I0.99 We will Gun Show on at the Fair Grounds. Come on over.. OUTDOORS Scott Staats from Georgia to Maine passes through 14 states, eight national forests and two nation-al parks. Now, I was only 300 miles away from making my dream come true. But we had to: get over this moun- tain. We wanted badly to continue. The summit was within reach but we had about 1,000 feet of eleva- tion to climb. At times we had to hold onto each other as we were re- ally getting blown around. Finally we all agreed that we'd better bail out. We passed the Sphinx Trail a couple of hundred yards back, so we did a 180 and literally ran for it. We reached the trail in a few minutes and headed down into the Great Gulf Wilder- hess. In the Presidentials, there are several of these "bail-out" trails. If hikers are ever out on an exposed ridge and the weather starts look- ing bad, they can take one of these escape routes. Like the old saying goes: Bet- ter safe than sorry. The combination of extreme wind, fog, wet and cold have dubbed Mount Washington the "Home of the World's Worst Weather" and one of America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes. The Sphinx Trail is an extreme- ly steep trail, but it does get you off the ridge in a hurry. We heard that the winds on Washington that day were over 70 ]nph. Plus, thunder- storms were expected so it's a good thing we didn't continue. On Aug. 22, three of us de- cided to make another attempt for the summit via Tuckerman Ravine. The morning started with clear blue Photo courtesy of Scott Staats Scott Staats "hitchhikes" in freezing August weather atop New Hamp- shire's Mt. Washington in 1982. sky in the valley, but a cloudbank hung over Mount Washington, giv- ing us a foreboding feeling as if the mountain was saying: "Come on up and take your chances." As we climbed, summer turned to winter. At Hermit Lake Shelter we changed into full winter gear and started up the headwall. There were still big chunks of ice and snow remaining from the previous winter and even though it was still August, winter was just around the bend again for this area. Tuckerman Ravine is a famous ski area and can accumulate up to 100 feet of snow and keep people skiing into June. As we reached the top of the headwall, we entered into the fog bank. The temperature dropped quickly as we climbed and the wind picked up. And this was the leeward side of the mountain. Rime ice covered all the rocks and it resembled a windblown tundra. Actually, there is permafrost at the summit along with arctic flora re- sembling that of northern Labra- dor. Little white crosses attest to Mount Washington's horrific weather. Each one marks the area where someone died of exposure on the mountain. In 1982, that number reached 100. Since then the number has grown to almost 140. (By compari- son, over 220 people have died at- tempting to climb Mount Everest). Most of those who have died from severe weather on Washing- ton did so in the summer. For example, Aug. 22 was a nice summer day in the valleys. The temperature below was probably in the 60s or 70s. However, at the summit the weather station record- ed a temperature of 27 degrees and -15 degrees with the wind chill. The winds that day hit 74 mph and 3 inches of snow had fallen the night before. We started out the day in just a pair of shorts and a polypropylene top but had to put on long johns, wool pants, sweater, pile jacket, wool hat and gloves. If we tried to make it to the summit in a pair of shorts and a shirt, there would probably be three more little white crosses on the mountain. When we reached the parking lot at the summit, my brother Frank spotted a "No Hitch-hiking" sign and wanted me to pose in front of it. I about froze my hand off as he fiddled around with his camera and I stood there gloveless. A chain-link fence at the weather station had ice hanging all .over it. We hoped for IIUALITY 1'1 i{! OIF00ERERCE 06 DOD6E RAM 2500 Mega Cab SLT Pickup 4D 6 1/4 ft Nice truck! Loaded... lift, wheels, new tires, leather, etc...Stock#8020 $22,995 04 CHEVY CLASSIC 00 FORD FOCUS ZTS 4D Sedan Nice, clean Sedan 4D Perfect car! Price right and commuter car at a great loaded with options, price! Loaded with all the Stock#8014 right options, stock#8D06 $7,995 $5,995 3195 S. SANTIAM HWY, LEBANON, OR 97355 I 541-258-2175 I (DLR # 3102) MON-FBI: 8:AM TO 6:PM ] SAT: 9:AM 1"0 6:PM I SUN: 9:AM TO 5:PM ! a clear day, but the visibility was about 50 feet. As soon as we got off the sum- mit the clouds broke and we got some fantastic views back toward Washington and all around us. Even the high winds and the cold were exciting. It gave me an even greater re- spect for nature and showed how small and insignificant man can be. I realized that the wind could pick us up like feathers at any moment and blow us right off the ridge. On Sept. 17, 1982 my brother and I stood atop Mount Katahdin in Maine, the northern terminus of the o. Appalachian Trail. Scott Staats is a full-time outdoor writer who lives in Prineville. Contact him by e-mail at news@ sweethomenews.com. Please put "For Scott Staats" on the subject line.