Tip Top House tops windy peak

With a world record wind gust of 231 miles per hour (372 kilometres per hour), the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington doesn’t sound like an ideal location in which to stay, but Tip Top House was built there in 1852 to cater for tourists who were hiking up to the peak.

Mount Washington is now a State Park and on a clear day views from the 6,288-foot (1916 mtrs) summit extend beyond New Hampshire as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec, and the Atlantic Ocean.

That record wind gust was recorded on 12 April, 1934 at the Mount Washington Observatory during a particularly fierce storm.  That observatory was the first of its kind in the world, and it continues to record and disseminate weather information.  The summit of Mount Washington was chosen as the location of the observatory because of its interesting weather patterns, which can range from hellishly cold and stormy to lovely and pleasant.

Which is why the construction of Tip Top House was something of a great engineering feat!  Not only does the weather on top of Mount Washington regularly become quite foul, making it difficult to work outside, but at the time of its original construction, the only access to the peak was by foot or on horseback, and the workers had a daily two mile trek up the mountain, returning downhill each evening.

A fire in 1908 destroyed almost everything on the mountain’s peak except for Tip Top House, which was renovated, and then it burnt down!

The hotel was rebuilt again, but was never as popular and was abandoned in 1968.  Now a state historic site, Tip Top House is once again open to summit guests. As a result of the most recent restoration which was completed in 1987, the building now resembles the original house as it was when it was first built with a flat roof.    

As the sole summit survivor, it provides a link between the mountain’s past and present and affords a window to its rich history. The Tip Top House is believed to be the oldest mountain-top hostelry still in existence in the world.

These days you no longer have to do a two mile trek to the summit, unless, of course, you really want to, as the Mount Washington Auto Road is now the most convenient way to reach Tip Top House.

Or, if you like your trains, and I do, you can ride the Cog Railway to the summit. This is one of the world’s great railway adventures. The track runs up a three mile-long trestle with a maximum gradient of over 37%, making it the second-steepest mountain climbing train in the world and the only one entirely built on a trestle.

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