The highest peaks in the ‘lower 48’ states of the USA are found out to the west amongst the Rockies, Sierra Nevada and Cascades. There peaks over 4000 metres (just over 13,000 feet) are not uncommon. The highest mountain in the north east is Mount Washington, a mere 1,918 metres (6,288 feet) high. It may be a baby compared to the mountains in the west, but although it lacks stature it packs an incredible punch. Standing at the meeting point of three different storm tracks the summit is renowned for its wild and unpredictable weather. Hurricane force winds can be found at the summit on more than 100 days each year A wind gust of 370 kph (231 mph) was recorded at the summit in 1934, the strongest ever recorded on the earth’s surface.
Summit of Mount Washington
Considering the wind speeds recorded here, the notice board that marks the summit of Mount Washington seemed a little flimsy. This picture was taken back in 1985. We were planning to check if it was still there during our 2007 visit, but we were running late and we arrived just after the toll road had closed for the day. An Observatory built at the summit in 1932 still keeps track of the daily weather conditions.
Fall foliage by Mount Washington toll road
There are three main ways to get up Mount Washington, you can walk, you can take the train or you can drive. The Mount Washington Auto Road is a 12.2 kilometre (7.6 mile) long toll road that takes you right to the top. The road was completed in 1861, but early tourists had a long journey travelling to the summit by stagecoach. Nowadays it takes only about 30 minutes to get to the top by car. We visited at the best time of year, the fall foliage season.
View south from summit
When we travelled to the top we found the view inspiring, even though the visibility was far from perfect. The land at and around the summit forms Mount Washington State Park.
Mount Washington from Pinkham Notch
Courtesy of its stormy weather, Mount Washington is often shrouded from view. The weather was good when we visited in 2007 and we got this view of the mountain from Pinkham Notch. From near here a toll road winds up the mountain.
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Train near summit, Mount Washington cog railway
In 1852 Chicago tycoon Sylvester Marsh got lost near the top of Mount Washington. After such an experience most people would decide that in future they should either not to climb mountains or make sure that they are better equipped. Being a tycoon, Marsh decided to build a cog railway to the summit. Many believed that it could not be done, but Marsh was not to be deterred and Mount Washington Cog Railway opened in 1869. The venerable steam locomotives still make the climb to the summit, but in 2008 the railway introduced its first locomotive running on biodiesel. Click Tab 2 to see trains at the summit.
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