Winter is on its Way

It has started to cool off and signs of the fast approaching winter are everywhere here in the Whites. Mount Washington has had snow on the summit off and on since the beginning of October and the Observers have even been out skiing. I’ve been giving myself a bit of extra time each morning to scrape and defrost my car each morning. There was snow in Crawford Notch this week although, sadly, there was little accumulation.

Photo credit: Kate Keefe

During October I guided a hut to hut trip for REI. We headed to Lonesome Lake Hut before going on to Greenleaf Hut the following day. It was closing weekend and all of us needed our cold temperature sleeping bags and warm clothes. Winter is on its way. It was evident at the huts two weeks ago and it is beginning to show its face in Crawford Notch as well.

While up at Greenleaf part of my group decided to go up Mount Lafayette. The views on the way up were spectacular but the ice formations were inspiring.

Photo credit: Kate Keefe

Rime ice is formed when clouds pass over the mountains in cold weather leaving frozen water droplets on anything exposed. These water droplets are extremely small and have high surface tensions allowing them to resist freezing down to temperatures’ of -20°F - -40°F. They also don’t have a nucleating agent, such as a piece of dust, which would give the water droplets something to freeze to. Once these super cooled droplets come in contact with a tree, sign post, or building they freeze on contact. When the winds are strong and from one direction more droplets will freeze on contact forming beautiful feather like ice structures on the windward side of the object. These structures will often appear white as a result of the amount of air trapped in the structure. There was a time when the winter water supply for the Mount Washington Observatory came from melted snow and ice.

With bellies full we snuggled into our sleeping bags and dreamed of ski season and breakfast.