Summer holidays: Mount Washington

On Sunday we drove up the Mount Washington Auto Road.

After we paid the toll, they handed us an envelope with instructions for navigating the road and a bumper sticker saying ‘This car climbed Mt. Washington’…

At the summit we bought a bumper sticker that said ‘I survived the Mount Washington Auto Road’…

The 20 minute drive to the summit will go down as one of the scariest experiences of my life!

Mount Washington is the highest mountain in the north-eastern United States. It is in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire and forms part of the Presidential Range in the Appalachians.

It is also credited with having the worst weather in the world…

We were staying about 15 miles away from the start of the auto road. It’s then an eight mile drive to the summit. It was on our must do list while we were on holiday. So, off we set!

We started the drive in bright sunshine, and while I tried to get photographs that conveyed just how steep the road was (an average grade of 12%), none of them really do it justice.

Our instructions told us to drive all the way up in the lowest gear, trying to maintain a speed of around 20mph. My poor husband had to put up with me checking his speed every three minutes! We had been warned at the bottom that conditions were not favourable and visibility for the last thousand feet or so would be less than 100 feet.

They were not kidding… we could see the low cloud as we ascended, then suddenly we were in it! This is point at which my knuckles went completely white – what is not clear from the photos is that there was a steep drop to my right… The road has no guard rails, and once you’re above the tree line there are stretches of the road where there is nothing between you and a drop of several thousand feet…

It had been 70F at the bottom, at the top it was 40F with winds of 45mph! It was so cold and a bit of a shock to the system. Thank goodness I had the kids jackets in the car :)

We had a quick walk around the museum to thaw out! If you ever get the chance to go it’s worth a trip to the museum for the video of ‘breakfast’ being served on the summit in gale force winds alone! The boys thought this was hysterical – coffee, milk, toast, the table, all flying away in the wind :)

We’d gone all that way, so despite the conditions, we had to walk up to the summit!

Had it been a clear day we would have had a lovely view…

The way back down was so much less scary than the way up! Again, we were instructed to drive all the way down in our lowest gear and to stop and cool our brakes if need be! The views across the mountain range as we drove back (once out of the clouds again!) were stunning, and we could the see the ski runs carved out amongst the trees.

This is one of those outings that I am very glad we did, but I’m not sure I’d do it again! By car anyway… There is a cog railway up to the summit, but this is quite slow (and expensive) and with the wee girl still so young we decided it would be too long for her to be contained!

I would love to see the views from the top on a clear day though, so maybe we’ll venture up again!

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