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Map of the White Mountains

Should you plan to hike within the White Mountains in winter, it’s vital to pay cautious consideration to the climate forecast so you’ll be able to keep away from climbing in harmful situations. Excessive winds, chilly temperatures, or deep snow can compromise your security however could be simply averted if observe the climate forecast for a couple of days earlier than any deliberate hikes.

You’ll additionally need to be taught concerning the climate patterns within the area and what forecasting instruments can be found for planning hikes. Winter situations within the New Hampshire backcountry are so excessive that you would be able to’t merely plan a hike months or weeks prematurely and anticipate the climate to cooperate. I’ve canceled many winter hikes attributable to sketchy climate situations and would encourage you to take a equally conservative strategy.

Climate-Associated Hazards

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

  • Excessive wind, over 40 mph, could make strolling troublesome. It will probably speed up warmth loss from uncovered areas of pores and skin, leading to frostbite.
  • Chilly temperatures trigger ice which might make strolling troublesome or harmful relying in your location.
  • Deep snow could be troublesome to stroll by way of, leading to larger power expenditure if you have to get away a path with snowshoes or find yourself post-holing since you didn’t carry 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 produce avalanche situations. Avalanches happen all through the White Mountains and never simply in areas with avalanche forecasts corresponding 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 normally the very best factor to learn when planning winter routes. Should you don’t personal one, you should 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 primary 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 dangerous 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 accelerates because it flows over mountain tops. This creates quite a few microclimates within the White Mountains, relying on the geography of the terrain, which might have very totally different climate situations regardless of being comparatively shut collectively. For instance, Tuckerman Ravine typically 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 beneath.

Excessive Elevations are Colder

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

Colliding Fronts Bring Bad Weather
Colliding Fronts Convey Unhealthy Climate

Fronts Convey Unhealthy Climate

Fronts – each chilly fronts and heat fronts – outline the dividing line between two air lots, considered one of which pushes the opposite out of its means. When fronts collide there’s a change within the climate sample, normally with dangerous climate, excessive winds, and a change in climate path. Right here’s what the interplay between these two kinds of fronts seems 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 stress, have an effect on native situations regularly and infrequently present observable clues, corresponding to wispy clouds 24 hours earlier than their arrival. Chilly fronts related to areas of low-pressure transfer in rather more quickly, as quick as 35 mph, and trigger fast dramatic storms, adopted by cooler and clearer climate. Understanding which is headed your means and when they are going to arrive will help you resolve the place you need to be once they make their affect on the climate felt.

In any case, you’ll be able to all the time anticipate elevated winds when a high-pressure area is changed by an incoming low-pressure space or vice versa. This data is all the time contained within the Mt Washington Larger Summits Forecast (written and audio) and the NOAA ( Forecast Dialogue. You’ll be taught lots by studying them frequently and checking them every day within the days previous a giant hike,

Snow Flurries on Mt Isolation

Winter Climate within the Whites

So how dangerous is winter climate within the White Mountains? It may be fairly nasty and it’s finest to be ready. Checking in on the forecast daily is the easiest way to do that. Listed here are a couple of native climate details to place issues in perspective:

  • Winter situations begin in November and final into Could within the White Mountains – practically 6 months of the yr.
  • Three storm techniques, 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 common every day temperature on Mount Washington in January hovers round 5 levels Fahrenheit, with winds blowing at a mean 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 mean of 110 days per yr. 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 yr, with snowfall averaging 311 inches (7.9 m) per yr. 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
Larger Summits Forecast

Climate and Path Situation Info Sources

There’s no single climate forecast that can let you know what the temperature, wind, visibility, snowpack, and path situations can be for each location within the White Mountains. As a winter hiker, you will want to piece collectively forecast knowledge and journey stories from a wide range of data sources and make educated guesses about what climate and path situations can be like based mostly 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 beneath, I’ll clarify the totally different forecasts or stories obtainable from these sources, their strengths and weaknesses, and the way I am going about utilizing them to forecast climate and path situations 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 propose to hike from these mountains.

  • Larger 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 normally subtract about 10 mph off the Mt Washington wind velocity to estimate what the wind velocity on Mt Adams, Mt Monroe, or Mt Jefferson can 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 Circumstances Dashboard: Good overview of the present situations on Washington itself. I take a look at the wind path and the wind velocity, however the dashboard has restricted forecasting worth as a result of it doesn’t predict future situations.

Climate.Gov (Revealed 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 industrial climate forecasts within the US repackage and redisplay the knowledge they supply. I favor utilizing their web site as a result of I determine it has essentially the most full and present data.

  • Level Forecasts: gives a 7-day level forecasting functionality that allows you to zoom in on particular mountains or areas. For instance, you’ll be able to sort 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 normally fairly correct.
Mt Bond, NH Point Forecast
Mt Bond, NH Level Forecast
  • Hourly Climate Forecast: It is a sub-report positioned 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 allows 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 situations are secure sufficient for a fast hike earlier than they degrade.
Hourly weather forecast
Hourly climate forecast

New England Path Circumstances

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


The general public who put up journey stories listed here are very skilled hikers. Much less skilled hikers are inclined to put up their journey stories in Fb teams, which might additionally present helpful data in case you’re prepared to scan by way of 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 price monitoring for path situation data that’s not captured by New England Path Circumstances.

  • The Randolph Mountain Membership publishes a succinct weekly abstract of path situations 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 Mountain 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 nearly all the time damaged out and are due to this fact simpler to hike in winter as a result of they’ve essentially the most visitors. The identical can’t be mentioned of different trails within the Whites. Sadly, a number of the knowledge shared in these teams is irrelevant for journey planning, however generally you get fortunate.

Different Forcast Sources

  • Mountain Forecast is one other climate forecast that hikers confer with within the Whites as a result of it has photos as an example climate situations. It tends to be optimistic in the case of wind forecasts, typically underestimating them by 10-20 mph. I ignore it and follow, however your mileage might fluctuate.


There’s no single climate forecast that you would be able to lookup for climate situations throughout the entire White Mountains. Native terrain, vegetation, and elevation can all have a huge effect on the climate situations you expertise in several areas of the mountains. As a winter hiker, you could have to piece collectively many various sources of data to find out whether or not more difficult routes are secure sufficient to hike or snowshoe or are finest left for extra favorable situations. The flexibility to take action reliably comes with years of follow and a wholesome respect for winter climate situations.




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