February 22, 2021


Mount Washington in winter, 150 years ago (Tom Eastman Feb 19, 2021, Conway Daily Sun)

Dartmouth College forester Bob Monahan and Appalachian Mountain Club hutmaster Joe Dodge co-founded the Observatory in 1932. But as Dr. Peter Crane, curator of the Obs' Gladys Brooks Memorial Library, will tell you, they weren't the first group to occupy the summit in winter.

In a detailed Zoom presentation -- part of the Obs' "Science in the Mountains" series -- Crane, 67, recently related the fascinating tale of the Huntington-Hitchcock winter occupation of 1870-71.

"Breaking the Ice: The First Winter Scientific Expedition to Mount Washington," which Crane presented Feb. 9, tells the remarkable story of five hardy souls who thought it would greatly aid science to spend the winter at the top of the Rockpile.

According to Crane, the idea was hatched on a summer's day on Lake Champlain in 1858 by Joshua H. Huntington, a young biologist doing field work for the Vermont Geological Survey under the direction of Charles H. Hitchcock.

Huntington had previously visited the White Mountains on two occasions; Hitchcock never, according to Crane. And only sketchy reports of a winter climb or two of the Northeast's highest peak existed at that time.

What fueled their dreams may never be known, yet the thought of a bold mountain expedition took root. "It would be more than a decade before this plan could be realized, but its impact remains with us a century and a half later," said Crane.

They weren't your average mountain climbers.

Posted by at February 22, 2021 12:00 AM