Mt Washington State Park, Monday March 5, 2012

We saw an interesting large dog print the other day on our trip up the mountain. Guessing it spanned well over 4″ from tip of claw to its heel pad. It was traveling downhill towards Pinkham at 2000′ elevation coming from Great Gulf. Maybe it was just a large Eastern Coyote but when I saw it the thought of wolf sprang into my mind.  However, wolves in NH are non-existent so this was most likely one very large lone Coy Dog looking for a mate.

Big dog paw tracks
Big dog path through snow

As we go up and down the Auto Road for our shift changes 3 times a week we try to get our snow road as wide as possible. When cutting into the bank with the blade of the snow cat we can see how strong the slabs are. In this video taken last Friday the slabs were becoming unstable. They were not large enough to bother a 10,000lb machine but a 200lb hiker on an open slope without any tree anchors, maybe?

As many people are guessing, Mother Nature will make up for this years’ meager winter snowfall with the balance due coming in late winter and spring. That seems to be the trend right now as a parade of Low Pressure storms this week have added to the snowpack this week in the mountains and across the state. At Hermit Lake Shelter near the floor of Tuckerman Ravine the snow stake is at respectable 60″. Step off the packed trails and you’ll be swimming in snow up to armpit level if one isn’t wearing wide snowshoes. This last storm on Mt Washington was close to 12″ of very light density which is easily transported by moderate winds and has created HIGH avalanche conditions in the ravines.  What the snow needs now is time and sun to settle the snow which we might get by Wednesday with sun forecasted. This will improve backcountry skiing in the steeper terrain.  A couple of skiers who couldn’t resist the call of deep powder last Friday went up Bridal Path on Mt Lafayette to ski a chute on its wild trail-less backside. They ended up having an unplanned overnight epic needing a Search and Rescue (SAR) effort to help one of them out of the Pemi Valley. On Mt Washington we’ve been having our own “near-misses” due to new snow but so far so good. Not only does the soft “mealy” snow slow down travel but it doesn’t take much wind to create white-out conditions. Even a normally simple 600′ walk down to the summit treatment plant on a good day

Danny entering ESTP

can turn into a “where-the heck-am I?” wander to stay on the service road. Some people say “use a GPS” but how can you use a GPS or compass when you can’t even see your hand! Someday there will be heads-up GPS and navigation system built into our goggles. Most people know the weather in the mountains, especially above treeline can change rapidly from a relative nice day into whiteout conditions where all cairns and landmarks are gone. It is always good practice to hike with at least one or more friends. When visibility becomes poor one person stays at last know rock cairn while another searches for next. A whistle or holler is sounded when found and the system leap frogs to find the next cairn

Start of a Whiteout

As a snow lover I like the NWS surface model weather plots hinting at a Low Pressure developing in the Gulf of Maine on Friday. That could mean rain for immediate coast and another Winter Storm for interior Maine & NH!

Setting for transfer of energy Friday

In Conclusion here are a couple of my favorite photographs from this past week.

Clearing on Mt Madison
the 7 Mile
2nd view




Mike Pelchat, Manager of Mt. Washington State Park

I've been working atop Mt Washington for past 30 years so you can guess I like it above the tree line! After all these years I still never tire of the beauty of our NH White Mtns and consider my employment an extreme honor and privilege to work for the State Of NH and serve its visitors. When not on the summit you can find me enjoying the rock & ice climbing one of the many beautiful granite cliffs we have in Franconia, Crawford or Echo Lake State Parks. I have taken these climbing skills learned at our NH State Parks to climb in Alaska, Andes, Canadian Arctic and Himalayas. I live in Gorham NH with my wife Diane Holmes.

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