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Hike Safe!

As fun as Seek the Peak is, you should never forget that Mount Washington can be a challenging and dangerous place. Its rough terrain and sometimes extreme weather mean that you need to plan ahead and exercise appropriate caution on your hike. Each year, tens of thousands of people hike the mountain without incident, and a little planning will help ensure that you are among this group of happy, healthy hikers.

We strongly advise all Seek the Peak participants to follow the hikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code. HikeSafe was developed by The White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game as a way to help hikers become more self aware about their responsibility for their own safety every time they are on a hike. It also acknowledges the inherent danger of hiking in the backcountry, and encourages hikers to be better prepared every time they are on the trail.

HikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code

You are responsible for your safety, so be prepared:

1. With knowledge and gear. Become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.

Research your intended hiking route. Find out how long a trail it is, how much elevation you'll gain and lose, and how long you should expect to spend on the trail. People with little local hiking experience are often surprised at how rugged these trails are. If you have little hiking experience, take some practice hikes to prepare for the challenge of Mount Washington, and ask a more experienced friend to accompany you. Be sure to leave early enough to get up and down in time for the after party, and have a margin of extra time, too, just in case.

Remember that many of the hazards associated with Mount Washington are weather-related, such as hypothermia-inducing cold, wet and windy weather, and the perils of a summer thunderstorm and the lightning it can bring. Check our Higher Summits Forecast before your trip, prepare accordingly, and change your plans if circumstances dictate.

Be sure to bring appropriate clothing and equipment for a trip up and down the highest mountain in the northeastern United States. Essentials include rain gear (jacket and pants), warm clothing including a warm hat and gloves, sturdy, well-fitting footwear, map, food, water, and flashlight or headlamp.

2. To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.

Leave written plans with a reliable friend or a family member about your intended hiking route and back-up plans in case your energy level, adverse weather, or a trail emergency force a change. This will help search efforts if friends or family report you missing.

3. To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.

Splitting parties up is one of the major causes of backcountry problems. By staying together, you share your strengths and avoid the miscommunications so common when groups break up.

4. To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.

There can be many reasons to turn back: if adverse weather occurs or is on the way; if you or a companion suffer an injury, or are finding the hiking more demanding than expected; if you take a sober look at the time you've been taking and realize that you won't comfortably make it up and back before dark (or before the awards bash!). As world-class mountaineers know, getting to the top is optional, but getting back down safely is mandatory. You can still have a great mountain experience without going to the summit.

Plan enough time and energy to hike down, and factor changing weather into this equation. While the Mt. Washington Auto Road does operate a Hiker Shuttle, it is weather dependent, and only available on a first-come, first-serve basis (no advance reservations are accepted). Also, bear in mind that it has limited capacity and limited hours. If you're considering having a friend drive up the Auto Road to bring you back down, be aware that adverse weather can close the Auto Road. Again, your "Plan A" should be to hike up and hike down. For more about the hiker shuttle and road fees, visit the Auto Road's website.

5. For emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don't assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.

While we hope emergencies won't happen, sometimes they do, so have enough extra warm clothing, perhaps a light tarp and small foam pad, and basic first aid supplies. Be familiar enough with your route to know the nearest location to report an emergency and to seek further assistance, if needed.

6. To share the hiker code with others. Help make the mountain safer for everyone by sharing your knowledge of hiking safety with others!

There's lots more information about hiking Mount Washington in the visitor information section of our website. It may take a few minutes to read through everything, but it's a good investment of time for an enjoyable and safe day on the mountain.

Mount Washington Observatory Administration: 2779 White Mountain Highway, PO Box 2310, North Conway, NH 03860
Phone: (800) 706-0432   |   Fax: (603) 356-0307   |   MountWashington.org