Saturday, 10 November 2012

Dashing to the snow

It's nearly Christmas time again.
So on a one hoarse closed combustion engine,
over the hills we went...
The snowy White Mountains reflect the orange glow of the sun.

 I was travelling through the northern Appalachia one time, 
and I heard about this great chain of snowy mountains.

I told my hosts that there are snowy mountains in Australia too and that I had been there and done that - seen no snow. Maybe I should visit there in winter and not during the middle of summer.
But I wouldn’t mind comparing notes with the New Hampshire mountains. New Hampshire is one big forest. About 80% of it is woodland. It is a wilderness of steep high craggy hills and deep gorges. And up in these northern mountains in winter time the weather is so fickle and extreme.
The White Mountains is a mountain chain of New England. 

The mountains are part of the Appalachian series or perhaps the older Atlantic system. 
The geological formation here is mostly of ancient metamorphic rocks. 
This mountainous range has more than 200 peaks and several deep narrow valleys. Many peaks are over 1200m (Mounts Pleasant, Franklin, Monroe, Jefferson, Adams, Madison) but they are all dwarfed by Mt Washington - the highest mountain in New England. 

Washington is in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest and rises to 1917m above the sea. The White mountain plateau is accessed from different directions: from the north, from the east, or from the south by Lake Winnipesaukee and the valley of the Pennacook (Europeans first visited the White mountains 1642). 

Me and my fellow Igorots comprising an army of three railroaders, chose to invade from the west by way of the Connecticut river and Base Station Road off Bretton Woods. 

We joined a ragtag band of other random railroaders who turned up at the Cog Railway to conquer Washington.

The Mt Washington Cog Railway is a national historic engineering landmark.
Mt Washington is the only part of the Appalachian trail that is above the timberline and on permafrost. It is also often capped in snow hence 'White' Mountain. Before European settlement, Mt Washington was known as Agiocochook, or "Home of the Great Spirit". 

Halfway up the mountain I looked up and saw it quite sedate and very inviting. It is anything but that. Mt Washington is situated right on the precise convergence point of the high altitude weather systems from Canada and the Great Lakes. It is a brutal mountain of wind and snow. 
A road has been constructed to the summit of Mt Washington on its eastern side. 
The cog railroad was constructed on its west.
From the Base Station, the railroad crosses the Ammonoosuc River immediately as it commences up the mountain.
I have climbed a few mountains in my time and on the spur of the moment I thought I should check out the summit of Mt Washington.
I was halfway into my very first stride when I heard some yelling behind from my fellow tourists. 
For some reason, they were of the opinion that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to go climbing that day. 
With bitter cold, dense fog, heavy snow and record winds, the mountain has been described as the home of the world’s worst weather. 

In winter time the summit and the cog railway are closed due to fierce weather with very fast wind speeds.
From Waumbek tank we could see the northern peaks of the presidential range and the Mt Washington resort hotel back down the valley.

Halfway house.

The Cog museum at the Base Station.

The Cog Railway that climbs up Mt Washington is the world's first mountain climbing trains. 

The halfway house is not leaning. I tilted the camera to show the incline of the railway.
 It has an average gradient of 1 in 4 (25%) with a maximum greater than 1 in 3 (37%).

I saw more of the orange mountains on the way home past Bretton Woods. 
Up to about a hundred years ago, there were 200 resort hotels in the white mountains.
  Mt Washington hotel in its solitary grandeur set against the backdrop of the presidential range, is one of the few still standing. It has seen presidents come and go, and residents and tourists come and go. 
Hotels come and go too,
 but the road goes on forever, the highway never ends.
Every which way but moose.

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