Weekly Roundup: 23 September 2016

This week, since most of my posts have been about the Presidential Traverse, I thought I’d do a special roundup of some interesting articles and posts about Mt Washington, the Presidential Range, and the White Mountains in general. Many of these are quite old, so breaking with my usual approach of trying to list things that were put online during the last 7 days, but whatever. My blog, my rules.

  • Outside Online: Why Mt Washington Kills. To begin with, here’s the best post to give you an understanding of why a not particularly high mountain in New Hampshire is quite so dangerous. In large part, as with mountains such as Ben Nevis that also claim a surprising number of lives, it’s partly the very accessibility of it and the fact that hiking to the top of it is theoretically so straightforward that makes it particularly prone to taking the lives of the unprepared and inexperienced, as the article explains.
  • Backpacker.com: Mt Washington – America’s Most Dangerous Hikes. A short, blunt article about the dangers of hiking Mt Washington unprepared and a sad story highlighting the particular issue of people setting off with inadequate kit, lulled into a false sense of security by mild weather at the bottom of the mountain.
  • Section Hiker: Why are the White Mountains so tough. A good overview of the various hazards hikers face in the White Mountains, including a couple of photos illustrating how tough the trails are, and a specific comment on this – as I mentioned in my own post. So it wasn’t just me!
  • Boston Globe: The Young Woman and the Mountain.
  • Bloomberg: The Trader in the Wild.
    Two well-researched and well-written stories about the same tragic incident (also referenced in the Outside Online article) in which a fit, driven and seemingly well-equipped and experienced hiker who died in winter doing a Presidential Traverse (or possibly not quite a full traverse, depending on which source you read). On its face, this story raises the frightening question of, if someone so experienced and well-equipped could die, couldn’t anyone? However, without wishing to be critical of the individual involved who cannot defend herself, I think on closer examination two factors may emerge. Firstly, that, for all her experience, Matrosova may have forgotten first principles of hiking by choosing to solo hike in such difficult conditions, and by not turning back as soon as the weather changed and she fell behind her schedule. Secondly, that, as Steve Dupuis mentions in the Outside article, that while she was unarguably well-equipped for the hike she intended to do in the weather she intended to do it, she had no ‘cushion’ allowing her to cope with an emergency when it arose.

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