Mt Washington is a serious mountain with unpredictable weather despite that fact that there’s a weather forecasting station on top. You can set out to hike it on a day which is supposed to be clear and sunny, but experience unexpected fog, high winds, rain showers, and even thunderstorms as you climb higher.
Hypothermia, getting caught out after dark, losing the trail, running out of water, falling and injuring yourself on sharp rocks – these are surprisingly frequent occurrences when hiking Mt Washington, especially during the summer months (July and August) when the risk of seasonal thunderstorm activity is at its highest and the largest number of hikers attempt to climb the peak.
There are no trees on Mt Washington, so there is no cover when things get nasty. You best bet is bring sufficient clothing, gear, food, and water when hiking Mt Washington so you can weather an unexpected storm without getting chilled and hypothermic. Avoid wearing any cotton clothing because it doesn’t dry quickly, doesn’t keep you warm when it gets wet, and can lead to painful chafing especially if it’s underwear.
Here’s my recommended gear list for hiking Mt Washington in July and August. In June and September, I add more insulated clothing. Winter conditions prevail on Mt Washington the remainder of the year. I’ve climbed Mt Washington many times and led numerous hikes up it for the Appalachian Mountain Club. In my experience, it pays to be cautious when hiking Mt Washington and to come prepared.
Recommended Mt Washington Gear List
- Waterproof map of the Mt Washington Area; 1 per person
- Compass, GPS unit or Phone GPS App with extra batteries
- Rain jacket and rain pants
- Lightweight fleece sweater
- Two to three liters of water; assumes resupply at summit or huts
- Lots of food – several snacks or candy bars, a sandwich, salty nuts or chips
- First-aid kit
- Emergency whistle, so you can find people when the fog drops
- Bright headlamp w/ extra batteries
- Warm hat, sun hat, and sun tan lotion
- Fire-making kit, so you can start a warming fire if wet (and you make it to treeline)
- Watch, so you know what time it is
- Backpack large enough to carry everything
It’s no accident that this gear list looks a lot like the day hikers 10 essentials gear list I advocate that people carry. It includes all of the gear that I carry when I hike in the White Mountains.
While you can carry less and probably get by in good weather, you’ll be grateful to have these extras when the shit hits the fan and the weather turns nasty on you, your group loses the path, or gets stuck out after dark. This happens surprisingly often, even among pros, so err on the side of being prepared.