Mountain weather can be tricky and learning how to look for key signs from Mother Nature can be the difference between a good and bad day in the mountains.
The first thing to look at is the online weather prediction sites. Here in New Hampshire the three most commonly used ones are the
Mount Washington Observatory Higher Summits Forecast
It is important to watch the forecast closely and to look at more than one to get a clear picture of what to expect. It is very important to look at the forecast the morning before you head out and make sure it is the updated version for the day.
When looking at the forecast you should look for wind speed, chance of thunderstorms, precipitation, temperature at various elevations and if there is a narrative read it.
When in the mountains you should at minimum be carrying a warm hat, gloves, jacket (windbreaker is fine and they ball up very small), water, food, sunglasses, emergency bivy sack and a pack to carry it. There are some shorts with pockets designed to carry these items.
As you ascend pay attention to the clouds and the wind. Make sure everything is aligning with the forecast. If it starts to precipitate you will want to pay close attention to how you feel. If you are getting cold put more clothing on or turn around. You need to be honest with how you feel because you will not be creating heat on your descent and if you don’t turn back when you get cold it could quickly escalate into hypothermia…even in the summer.
Often times it is hard to find water above tree line so bring enough with you and research where you can get water. Look for rivers, huts, or springs when planning your route and bring a filter if you plan to get water from a river or spring.
Watch the clouds and look out to see if there are any puffy clouds forming. Any cloud that begins to look like an anvil is a thunderstorm forming. If you see those clouds try to get below tree line quickly.
Sun can be intense in the mountains so a pair of sunglasses and sunscreen can help keep you from getting burned or damaging your eyes. Make sure to stay hydrated. The mountain breezes and make you think you don’t need to drink but in reality it is drying your sweat out very quickly.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to turn around. Your life is more important than a mountain. Making good choices will help you be around to run another day!
If you are looking to learn more join our Rockhoppin 101 clinic where we drive to the summit of Mount Washington and work on mountain running techniques, mountain weather and so much more!