'Limits Of Human Existence': Icy Mt. Washington To Feel Like Mars On Friday

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SARGENT'S PURCHASE, N.H. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The utterly frigid weather atop Mount Washington will be too dangerous for hikers to brave this weekend — unless they happen to have a space suit.

Though Boston is set to see wind chills of -30 or lower, Mount Washington's summit will seem like another planet altogether. Forecasters are expecting wind chills at the summit to drop as low as -110 degrees on Friday night, far lower than the icy -81 degree average on Mars. The Mount Washington Observatory said record-breaking cold of less than -47 degrees is within reach.

Jeff Fongemie, Director of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, told WBZ NewsRadio that weather this extreme is life-threatening for rescuers too — and could make rescues impossible.

"If somebody's lost above tree line, and they don't know where you are, they're just a needle in a haystack," he said.

Fongemie said attempted rescues could result in more loss of life in these kind of wind chills, where any exposed skin could develop frostbite in less than a minute. The calculus changes if the person is near the tree line, or if crews have an idea of where they are.

"The weather that we're going to have is just simply...honestly, it feels like it's pushing the limit of human existence," Fongemie said. He said even the most experienced mountaineers would have trouble with the conditions, much less someone who has less experience. It doesn't take much: just someone's goggles freezing over could quickly spiral out of control.

"There's times where people could be careful in normal cold conditions. This isn't that time," he said. Fongemie said it wasn't a day to test oneself.

On top of the temperatures, winds above the tree line could roar as strong as 140 miles per hour, which is as strong as a mid-Category 4 hurricane.

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