Winter Climbing and Climate Forecasting within the White Mountains

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Map of the White Mountains

For those who plan to hike within the White Mountains in winter, it’s essential to pay cautious consideration to the climate forecast so you may keep away from climbing in harmful circumstances. Excessive winds, chilly temperatures, or deep snow can compromise your security however might be simply averted if observe the climate forecast for just a few days earlier than any deliberate hikes.

You’ll additionally wish to be taught in regards to the climate patterns within the area and what forecasting instruments can be found for planning hikes. Winter circumstances within the New Hampshire backcountry are so excessive that you may’t merely plan a hike months or weeks prematurely and anticipate the climate to cooperate. I’ve canceled many winter hikes as a result of sketchy climate circumstances and would encourage you to take a equally conservative method.

Climate-Associated Hazards

The primary weather-related hazards within the White Mountains are the wind, chilly temperatures, and snow circumstances.

  • Excessive wind, over 40 mph, could make strolling tough. It may well speed up warmth loss from uncovered areas of pores and skin, leading to frostbite.
  • Chilly temperatures trigger ice which may make strolling tough or harmful relying in your location.
  • Deep snow might be tough to stroll via, leading to larger power expenditure if you must get away a path with snowshoes or find yourself post-holing since you didn’t deliver them
  • Blowing snow or low clouds can obscure your imaginative and prescient, significantly above treeline, within the type of whiteouts and trigger navigational issues.
  • Snow accumulation may also produce avalanche circumstances. Avalanches happen all through the White Mountains and never simply in areas with avalanche forecasts equivalent to Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine. The White Mountain Information, with over 650 detailed path descriptions, notes trails which have avalanche zones and different hazards. It’s often the most effective factor to learn when planning winter routes. For those who don’t personal one, you can purchase a duplicate. It has instructions to each trailhead and is indispensable for route planning within the Whites.
Avalanche Condition Sign at Pnkham Notch
Avalanche Situation Signal at Pinkham Notch

Mountain Climate Forecasting Ideas

A fundamental understanding of mountain climate and native climate patterns is useful for decoding forecasts within the White Mountains.

Wind Path

The wind within the White Mountains primarily blows from the west. If the wind is blowing from the south or east, it implies that moist air is blowing in from the ocean which can lead to rain or snow. If the wind is blowing in from the northeast, it’s a sturdy indication of unhealthy climate and heavy snow within the type of a Nor’Easter. Nor’Easters are low-pressure storms centered off the coast and the Gulf of Maine that dump massive portions of rain or snow on the White Mountains and all through New England.

Mountains Create Their Personal Climate

When the wind hits the mountains, it hurries up because it flows over mountain tops. This creates quite a few microclimates within the White Mountains, relying on the geography of the terrain, which may have very completely different climate circumstances regardless of being comparatively shut collectively. For instance, Tuckerman Ravine usually experiences a lot heavier snowfall than the remainder of the White Mountains as a result of it’s the lee of Mt Washington, the best mountain within the area. When the wind hits Mt Washington and its subsidiary ridges, its velocity will increase, the air cools and drops massive quantities of snow into the Tuckerman Ravine Bowl under.

Excessive Elevations are Colder

For each thousand toes of elevation you climb, the temperature drops 3 to five levels. Referred to as the atmospheric lapse impact, this not solely has temperature penalties however may also clarify why the climate on high of mountains differs from valleys and decrease elevations. It additionally explains why the danger of frostbite and publicity will increase at larger elevations when coupled with growing wind speeds.

Colliding Fronts Bring Bad Weather
Colliding Fronts Deliver Dangerous Climate

Fronts Deliver Dangerous Climate

Fronts – each chilly fronts and heat fronts – outline the dividing line between two air plenty, one in all which pushes the opposite out of its means. When fronts collide there’s a change within the climate sample, often with unhealthy climate, excessive winds, and a change in climate route. Right here’s what the interplay between these two kinds of fronts appears to be like like on the bottom.

The Effect of a warm front on a cold front
The impact of a heat entrance on a chilly entrance
The Effect of a cold front on a warm front
The impact of a chilly entrance on a heat entrance

Heat fronts, related to areas of excessive strain, have an effect on native circumstances progressively and infrequently present observable clues, equivalent to wispy clouds 24 hours earlier than their arrival. Chilly fronts related to areas of low-pressure transfer in way more quickly, as quick as 35 mph, and trigger speedy dramatic storms, adopted by cooler and clearer climate. Figuring out which is headed your means and when they may arrive will help you resolve the place you wish to be once they make their affect on the climate felt.

In any case, you may at all times anticipate elevated winds when a high-pressure area is changed by an incoming low-pressure space or vice versa. This data is at all times contained within the Mt Washington Greater Summits Forecast (written and audio) and the NOAA ( Forecast Dialogue. You’ll be taught quite a bit by studying them commonly and checking them every day within the days previous an enormous hike,

Snow Flurries on Mt Isolation

Winter Climate within the Whites

So how unhealthy is winter climate within the White Mountains? It may be fairly nasty and it’s greatest to be ready. Checking in on the forecast on daily basis is the easiest way to do that. Listed below are just a few native climate info to place issues in perspective:

  • Winter circumstances begin in November and final into Might within the White Mountains – almost 6 months of the 12 months.
  • Three storm methods, together with the jet stream, converge over the Mt Washington which explains the wild climate there.
  • Pinkham Notch on the base of Mt Washington averages 168 inches of snowfall yearly.
  • The Mount Washington summit (6288′) is roofed by clouds 60% of the time.
  • The world’s highest recorded floor wind velocity noticed by man was clocked on the summit of Mount Washington on April 12, 1934, at 231 miles per hour.
  • The typical every day temperature on Mount Washington in January hovers round 5 levels Fahrenheit, with winds blowing at a median velocity of greater than 45 miles per hour. Fog and blowing snow can cut back visibility to 200 toes or much less. The windchill equal continuously dips to -50 levels Fahrenheit.
  • The winds on Mt Washington exceed hurricane power a median of 110 days per 12 months. From November to April, hurricane-force winds are more likely to happen throughout two-thirds of the times.
  • Snow has been recorded on the summit of Mt Washington each month of the 12 months, with snowfall averaging 311 inches (7.9 m) per 12 months. Temperatures above 72 °F (22 °C) on the summit have by no means been recorded.
  • Throughout early January, the solar units shortly after 4:00 pm, after solely 9 hours of daylight.
Higher Summits Forecast
Greater Summits Forecast

Climate and Path Situation Data Sources

There may be no single climate forecast that can inform you what the temperature, wind, visibility, snowpack, and path circumstances might be for each location within the White Mountains. As a winter hiker, you will want to piece collectively forecast information and journey studies from quite a lot of data sources and make educated guesses about what climate and path circumstances might be like primarily based on the realm’s climate patterns, terrain attributes, and regional variations.

The first sources of climate and path situation data for the White Mountains are:

Within the sections under, I’ll clarify the completely different forecasts or studies accessible from these sources, their strengths and weaknesses, and the way I’m going about utilizing them to forecast climate and path circumstances within the Winter White Mountains.

Mt Washington Observatory Forecasts

Mt Washington is the best peak within the White Mountains with an elevation of 6288′.  There’s a climate station on its summit that publishes a number of forecasts utilized by hikers to plan winter journeys to the peaks within the Presidential Vary, together with Mts. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Eisenhower, Pierce, and Jackson. Their climate forecasts have diminishing applicability the farther away you intend to hike from these mountains.

  • Greater Summits Forecast: Good forecast of what to anticipate on Mt Washington, the northern Presidentials and Southern Presidentials, and different above-treeline trails, 4500′ or larger, all through the White Mountains. I often subtract about 10 mph off the Mt Washington wind velocity to estimate what the wind velocity on Mt Adams, Mt Monroe, or Mt Jefferson might be and subtract 15-20 mph to estimate the wind velocity on Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette. I keep away from climbing above-treeline peaks when the winds exceed 30 mph sustained (not gusts) in winter.
  • Mt Washington Present Summit Situations Dashboard: Good overview of the present circumstances on Washington itself. I have a look at the wind route and the wind velocity, however the dashboard has restricted forecasting worth as a result of it doesn’t predict future circumstances.

Climate.Gov (Printed by NOAA) is printed by NOAA, the federal government company that oversees the Nationwide Climate Forecast. It publishes a ton of very helpful climate and local weather data and academic materials. Many of the business climate forecasts within the US repackage and redisplay the knowledge they supply. I desire utilizing their web site as a result of I determine it has probably the most full and present data.

  • Level Forecasts: supplies a 7-day level forecasting functionality that permits you to zoom in on particular mountains or areas. For instance, you may kind in “Mt Bond, NH” into the search field to acquire a forecast. That is significantly helpful for figuring out temperature and wind velocity if the mountain you search is above treeline and uncovered to the wind. This forecast is often fairly correct.
Mt Bond, NH Point Forecast
Mt Bond, NH Level Forecast
  • Hourly Climate Forecast: It is a sub-report situated within the decrease right-hand nook of’s 7-day forecast and is helpful for predicting key climate metrics 48 hours into the longer term. The report enables you to browse a number of variables together with wind velocity, gust velocity, temperature, dewpoint, sky cowl, thunder, and precipitation forecasts. It’s priceless for locating climate home windows, the place circumstances are protected sufficient for a fast hike earlier than they degrade.
Hourly weather forecast
Hourly climate forecast

New England Path Situations

NewEnglandTrail has a listing of path situation studies submitted by hikers that’s invaluable for figuring out whether or not you want snowshoes or further traction for winter hikes. It collates journey studies from a number of states however a lot of the journey studies discovered there are for the White Mountain Nationwide Forest in New Hampshire and Western Maine. These journey studies are additionally used to alert path maintainers about path hazards that require upkeep.


The general public who put up journey studies listed below are very skilled hikers. Much less skilled hikers are likely to put up their journey studies in Fb teams, which may additionally present helpful data in the event you’re keen to scan via all the opposite drek that will get posted on them.

Sample Trip Report
Pattern Journey Report

Fb Teams

There are a number of Fb teams value monitoring for path situation data that’s not captured by New England Path Situations.

  • The Randolph Mountain Membership publishes a succinct weekly abstract of path circumstances within the Northern Presidentials, together with Mt Madison, Mt Adams, and Mt Jefferson. It’s compiled by the caretakers of the RMC’s winter camps so it’s fairly correct.
  • The 4,000 Footer Membership-Climbing and Climbing in New Hampshire has 55,000 members, who primarily climb the White Mountain 4000 footers. The identical holds for Hike the 4000 footers of NH! which has over 90,000 members. The paths resulting in the 4000-footers are virtually at all times damaged out and are subsequently simpler to hike in winter as a result of they’ve probably the most site visitors. The identical can’t be mentioned of different trails within the Whites. Sadly, a whole lot of the knowledge shared in these teams is irrelevant for journey planning, however typically you get fortunate.

Different Forcast Sources

  • Mountain Forecast is one other climate forecast that hikers seek advice from within the Whites as a result of it has footage as an instance climate circumstances. It tends to be optimistic with regards to wind forecasts, usually underestimating them by 10-20 mph. I ignore it and stick to, however your mileage could fluctuate.


There’s no single climate forecast that you may search for for climate circumstances throughout the entire White Mountains. Native terrain, vegetation, and elevation can all have a big impact on the climate circumstances you expertise in numerous areas of the mountains. As a winter hiker, you could must piece collectively many various sources of data to find out whether or not tougher routes are protected sufficient to hike or snowshoe or are greatest left for extra favorable circumstances. The power to take action reliably comes with years of follow and a wholesome respect for winter climate circumstances.



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