Could you handle the harshest winter on earth?
Could you handle the harshest winter on earth? Gary Gustafson, 58, leads Linda Dewey, 54, up an icy trail on the summit cone of Mount Washington in New Hampshire (AP photos)
Could you handle the harshest winter on earth?
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Gary Gustafson leans on his ice ax to catch his breath. His legs and lungs, straining from nearly five hours of climbing and 4,000 feet of elevation gain, plead for rest before he spies the top of an antenna on the summit. Soon, the crampons of his mountaineering boots are once again digging into the icy terrain. He and a partner are about to make the final push to the granite rooftop of New England.

"It's kind of like Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon," says Gustafson, 58, of Conway, N.H. "(Heartbreak's) really not much of a hill but it's where it hits you ... that makes it such a tough obstacle. That's kind of what the summit cone is like. You can see the top and you want to just be there psychologically. But first you've got to grind it out."

The payoff is being able to stand on the summit of 6,288-foot Mount Washington. It is the highest point in the Northeast. The New Hampshire peak also is famous for some of the harshest weather on earth. Winds reach hurricane speeds an average of once every three days during the winter.

"If you're a winter hiker in the White Mountains, it's one of the ultimate hikes," said Gustafson.

Gustafson and his hiking partner, Linda Dewey, waited about four weeks for the right day. Their patience paid off with a 28-degree day and midday winds of only 30 mph.

"You don't want to be up there when the wind chills are down around 50 below," said Gustafson.

There are several buildings on the summit. They include the Mount Washington Observatory, where scientists recorded 231 mph winds in 1934. It's a record that stood for nearly 62 years. The facilities are closed to the public during the winter. Some structures are even chained down.

On this day, large shards of thick glass lay on the ground near the wooden building. One of its windows was blown out by a 140 mph gust earlier this winter. Rime ice, a form of white freezing fog, clings to the windward side of nearly every building, antenna and rock on the summit. The ice gives the place an otherworldly feel.

Hikers seldom linger for long here. Most go directly to the sign that marks the summit to pose for a celebratory photo. Then they add an extra layer of clothing and search for a place to hunker down in the protection of a building to fuel up for the descent.

Ryan Eyestone, 31, of Portland, Maine, recently made his first solo climb. He said he was fascinated by the arctic world he had entered in just a few hours of hiking.

"That environment is intense," said Eyestone. "It might as well be a different planet."

Critical thinking challenge: What made the day Gary chose for his hike the right day?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/could-you-handle-harshest-winter-earth/

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COMMENTS (135)
  • taylorb2001
    3/19/2015 - 10:44 a.m.

    Winter is already harsh enough, I cant imagine it being any harsher. For his legs and lungs to nearly strain, it must be ridiculously cold. He is lucky that he did not get seriously injured. The environment is intense!

  • madison11701
    3/19/2015 - 10:44 a.m.

    I think I could handle the harshest winter, if I was prepared for it. If I stayed indoors and bundled up it wouldn't be a problem.

  • Keegen
    3/19/2015 - 10:48 a.m.

    At this point you have to wonder... Is it even fun anymore? Winter is fun but to cold is TO COLD and this is comig from a michigander-er-er.

  • morgang117
    3/19/2015 - 10:48 a.m.

    I don't think I could survive this harsh weather! You would need to bundle up in many layers to keep warm when there are low temperatures. You also would have to be careful and bring the right supplies with you. According to the article, " the environment is tense."

  • Link2424
    3/19/2015 - 10:51 a.m.

    That's very interesting. I do not think I would be able to do anything like that. It takes a lot of bravery and I'm not all that brave.

  • TanyaT2001
    3/19/2015 - 10:59 a.m.

    I live in Michigan and I hate the cold! I could never survive the harshest winters on earth, I would probably die. This is obviously why I like summer way better than winter.

  • brianp-Che
    3/19/2015 - 11:44 a.m.

    gary chose the day with 28 degree weather and midday winds of 30 mph. He probably wouldnt have survived if he chose another day instead of that one. He is extremely brave for doing that and so is his partner Linda Dewey

  • b.m2001empire
    3/19/2015 - 01:11 p.m.

    If you're a winter hiker in the White Mountains, it's one of the ultimate hikes said Gustafson. There are several buildings on the summit. They include the Mount Washington Observatory, where scientists recorded 231 mph winds in 1934. It's a record that stood for nearly 62 years. I think he wanted to break the record.

  • makaylar-Che
    3/19/2015 - 01:46 p.m.

    Because he maybe said to himself that he liked this day to start a hike Yolo means you only live once so he wanted to make it the best day ever.

  • remingtonm-war
    3/19/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    I think that what this guy did is really brave and I would never be able to do this. I also think that its weird how it can be so cold in one part of the climate but warm in another.

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