Looking for New Hampshire’s most weatherproof cat on the Mount Washington Observatory

Looking for New Hampshire’s most weatherproof cat on the Mount Washington Observatory
Looking for New Hampshire’s most weatherproof cat on the Mount Washington Observatory


You would possibly see the little yellow signal telling you, “The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there, from exposure even in the summer.” Or, you would possibly see nothing however a twig of thick fog. Wind gusts over 100 mph aren’t unusual right here. On a pleasant day, nevertheless, New Hampshire’s 6,288-foot Mount Washington can appear deceptively calm. You possibly can hike and even experience to the Mount Washington Observatory (MW OBS) on the summit, and should you’re very fortunate, meet the resident cat.

The observatory has an extended custom of feline residents, initially used for vermin management. Nimbus, a grey rescue adopted from the Conway Humane Society, presently lives with the employees who keep on the mountain. Rebecca Scholand, who was the MW OBS operations supervisor when Nimbus first arrived, highlights the position cats play: “The summit cat is such a special part of our living environment on the summit, making it feel much more like a home on our weeklong shifts.”

a watercolor illustration of three cats in frames with their names and dates
Mount Washington’s resident felines. | Illustration: Mike Cañas

I used to be inquisitive about Nimbus, so I made a decision to take a trek up Mount Washington to see if I might meet him. Whereas I’ve hiked up Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine earlier than, this time I selected to experience to the summit on the Cog Railway, a practice that makes use of gears to permit it to grip the observe and climb up a mountain. Many thought its creator, Sylvester Marsh, was loopy to suggest such an thought, however the railway was constructed between 1866 and 1869 and shortly turned an icon of the world. It even chauffeured President Ulysses Grant partially up the mountain in 1869. 

Blanket of clouds

The inexperienced panorama slides by round me and funky mountain air wafts gently by the small home windows as we start to climb. The murmur of fogeys and kids speaking blends with the sounds of the gears beneath. Because the observe will get steeper, we’re inspired to face up and really feel the incline at Jacob’s Ladder, pitched at a whopping 37.41 % grade. 

Because the Cog enters the alpine zone the place bushes cease rising, I’m grateful for the clear skies. On a pleasant day, the view from Mount Washington can attain 130 miles, though extra often, it’s nestled in a blanket of clouds.

Nonetheless, upon debarking, there are indications of Mount Washington’s often inhospitable climate. The Summit Stage Workplace is actually chained to the bottom and porta-potties sit inside delivery containers so that they don’t blow over. Mount Washington lies within the path of three main storm tracks and receives wind that has traveled unimpeded for prolonged distances, selecting up pace. The topography of Mount Washington and the mountains round it additional enlarge wind speeds, the best way placing your thumb over the nozzle of a backyard hose will increase the stress of the water.

Mount Washington fashion

I ask a number of employees members about Nimbus and preserve a watch out for him, however I be taught that he hardly ever ventures exterior of the observatory. Though the cats are allowed exterior and there are a number of well-known photos of earlier Mount Washington cats exploring the outside, Nimbus prefers the heat and luxury of inside, the place he stalks the mice, chipmunks, and different small critters that sneak in. 

In accordance with one observatory volunteer within the summit’s Excessive Mount Washington museum, Nimbus likes hanging out within the kitchen, the place he watches researchers prepare dinner their night meals. You might also discover him nestled on the sofa on the blanket they’ve laid out for him, or preserving the researchers firm as they work.

the silhouette of a cat looking out of four windows at a setting sun
Illustration: Mike Cañas

Whereas it could be troublesome to see Nimbus out and about, we are able to catch glimpses of his sky-high way of life from the researchers who stay with him, posting about climate unhealthy sufficient to make it (figuratively) rain cats and canine. As lately as 2019, the observatory recorded a wind gust of 171 mph, and in 1934 it recorded the 6-decade world record-holding wind pace of 231 mph.

“There was no doubt this morning that a super-hurricane, Mount Washington style, was in full development,” observer Salvatore Pagliuca, one of many males who measured Mount Washington’s file wind pace, wrote in his log. Whereas lots of of 1000’s of individuals safely go to the highest of this mountain right now, Pagliuca’s phrases proceed to resound: Mount Washington does issues Mount Washington fashion. 

Really feel the blast

The observatory has advanced through the years, but it surely continues to offer climate information, rain or shine, fog or snow, proper on by -90 diploma wind chills and inches of rime ice. Maintaining with the climate could be a battle. Customized devices are used to face up to and precisely measure the unpredictable circumstances, and new devices have been applied as expertise is improved.

The observatory tower is a part of the Sherman Adams constructing, a distinguished construction of strengthened concrete, full with an statement deck. Inside, there’s a museum, a 24/7 climate station, and a small cafe. The Mount Washington Observatory gives a plethora of instructional seminars and members can obtain excursions of the climate station.

an illustration of two anemometers set against a blue sky
Left: Heated #2, the customized anemometer that recorded Mt. Washington’s file wind in 1934. Proper: Pitot 22, the most recent customized anemometer, styled after the kind of anemometers utilized in airplanes. | Illustration: Mike Cañas

Whether or not you’re touring by your self, with associates, or with your loved ones, as you put together to your journey, listed below are some info for the street. 

  • The auto street is open each day, and provides dawn drives twice per summer time.
  • Often called the Climb to the Clouds, there’s an annual auto race up the Mount Washington auto street the place vehicles go in extra of 100 mph.  
  • MW OBS gives product testing companies for corporations seeking to take a look at their merchandise in horrible circumstances. 
  • Within the late Forties and early ‘50s, Mount Washington was used to test jet engine anti-icing technology by the army and Air Force.
  • Mount Washington’s file wind from 1934 was damaged in 1996 off Barrow Island in Australia, however the official world file wasn’t modified till about 14 years later as a result of most individuals didn’t take note of the info. 
  • Nimbus wears a tag asking for folks to not take away him. In accordance with MW OBS employees Ryan Knapp, Mount Washington has had their cats introduced down earlier than by individuals who thought the animal had been deserted on the summit.

As I stand on the prime of Mount Washington, I’m awed by the fantastic thing about the pure panorama and the ingenuity and tenacity that led to the summit being extensively accessible nearly 200 years in the past. At this time, you may hike up Tuckerman Ravine as light streams of snowmelt trickle down the rock face. You possibly can stand atop the statement deck and really feel the blast of wind in your face. An entire world awaits nestled within the White Mountains in New Hampshire—and should you’re fortunate, you could even catch a glimpse of Nimbus. 


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