Mount Washington: Highest Mountain in New England

Climbing Facts and Trivia About Mount Washington

Mount Washington is the highest mountain in New England.
Climber Joe Lentini hikes on the Crawford Path below the snowy summit of Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire. Photograph copyright Jose Azel/Getty Images

Elevation: 6,288 feet (1,917 meters)

Prominence: 6,138 feet (1,871 meters)

Location: Northern New Hampshire. Presidential Range, Coos County.

Coordinates: 44.27060° N 71.3047° W

Map: USGS 7.5 minute topographic map Mount Washington

First Ascent: First recorded ascent by Darby Field and two unknown Abenaki Indians in June, 1632.

Highest Mountain in New England

Mount Washington is the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River; the highest mountain in the 30-mile-long Presidential Range, the White Mountains, and New England; and the 18th highest US state high point.

Home of World's Worst Weather

Mount Washington, dubbed "Home of the World's Worst Weather," was the long-time holder of the highest wind speed ever recorded on the earth's surface. On April 12, 1934, a gust of 231 miles per hour (372 kilometers) was recorded atop the peak. This proud record stood until 2010 when an analysis of weather records by the World Meteorological Organization (WHO) revealed a gust of 253 mph when Typhoon Olivia swept across Barrow Island in Western Australia in 1996.

Weather Averages

The average annual temperature on Mount Washington's summit is 26.5°F. Temperature range is -47°F to 72°F. Average annual wind speed is 35.3 miles per hour. Hurricane-force winds over 75 mph occur 110 days each year. Snowfall, which can occur every month of the year, averages 21.2 feet (645 centimeters) a year.

Colder Than Mount Rainier

Mount Washington has colder temperatures, higher winds, and lower wind chill values than the summit of Mount Rainier, which is 8,000 feet higher.

Oldest Maintained Trail in the United States

The 8.2-mile-long Crawford Path, running the length of the Presidential Range from Crawford Notch to Mount Washington's summit, is the oldest maintained foot trail in the United States. The trail was built in 1819 by Abel Crawford and his son Ethan Allen Crawford to the top of Mount Clinton.

They improved the trail as a bridle path in 1840 and Abel, then 75 years old, made the first horseback ascent of Mount Washington. In 1870 the trail reverted back to foot traffic and since has been one of the most popular trails in the White Mountains.

1524: First European Sighting

The first European sighting of Mount Washington was by Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528), who first noted "high interior mountains" from the coast in 1524 as he sailed north. That voyage he also discovered the Hudson River, Long Island, Cape Fear, and Nova Scotia. On his third voyage of exploration in 1528, he was killed and eaten by Caribs after rowing ashore, possibly on the island of Guadeloupe.

1628: Colonist's Description of Peak

Early colonist Christopher Levett wrote in his marvelous book A Voyage Into New England published in 1628: "This River (sawco), as I am told by the Savages, cometh from a great mountain called the Cristall hill, being as they say 100 miles in the Country, yet it is to be seene at the sea side, and there is no ship ariuse in NEW ENGLAND, either to the West so farre as Cape Cod, or to the East so farre as Monhiggen, but they see this Mountaine the first land, if the weather be cleere."

1632: First Recorded Ascent

Mount Washington's first recorded ascent was by Darby Field and two Abenaki Indian guides, who may not have gone to the summit, in June, 1632. He took 18 days to climb the peak from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Field reported lots of "shining stones" on the mountain, which prospectors assumed were diamonds until they proved to be just crystals.

Native American Name

The Native American name for the mountain is Agiocochook, roughly translated as "Home of the Great Spirit" or "Mother Goddess of the Storm. Another Native name for the White Mountains is Waumbekketmethna, which literally means "White Mountains." The mountain was named for General George Washington before he became President.

Mount Washington is the most climbed high peak in New England, with people ascending a road, cog railroad, and various trails to the summit.

The most popular trails are 4.2-mile Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Lion Head Trail, Boott Spur Trail, and Huntington Ravine Trail, which also accesses the classic Northeast Ridge of Pinnacle Buttress (5.7) and many winter ice climbing routes.

Deaths on Mount Washington

Since 1849 when Englishman Frederick Strickland succumbed to hypothermia after falling in a stream and getting lost on his snowy October descent, Mount Washington, as of 2010, has claimed 137 lives. Not surprising given the mountain's severe and unpredictable weather, most of the deaths occurred from hypothermia, the chilling of the body's core temperature from cold, wet, and windy conditions. Other fatalities occur from avalanches, particularly at the popular ice climbing areas at Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines; falls while climbing and glissading; drowning in rain-swollen creeks; hit by falling chunks of ice; and heart attacks and other health issues. No one has been killed by lightning on Mount Washington.

Buildings Atop Mount Washington

The summit of Mount Washington has several buildings. Two hotels were built atop Mount Washington in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1852 the Summit House was built. It was anchored to the top by four thick chains slung over its roof. In 1853 the Tip-Top House was built. In 1872 it was rebuilt with 91 rooms. The Summit House burned in 1908 but was rebuilt with granite. Today the 60-acre Mount Washington State Park covers the summit. A modern summit building houses a visitor center, cafeteria, museum, and the Mount Washington Observatory for weather observations.

Auto Road and Cog Railway

The Mount Washington Auto Road, originally built in 1861, travels 7.6 miles from Pinkham Notch to the summit. The three-mile-long Mount Washington Cog Railway, built in 1869 as the world's first mountain cog railroad, has an average grade of 25%.

Race to the Summit

Mount Washington hosts numerous races. In June, runners dash for the summit in the Mount Washington Road Race. Bicycle races occur in July and August.

One of the most unusual was a race for one-legged people. Raymond E. Welch Sr. won the race on August 7, 1932, becoming the first one-legged person to ascend the peak. It's unknown whether he hopped or crutched his way to the top.​

Colorado Springs and Mount Washington

A street in Colorado Springs, Colorado is named Mount Washington because it is the same elevation as its New Hampshire counterpart.