Inside WRAL

Photojournalist: How I survived the 'world's worst weather'

Posted February 6, 2012
Updated February 7, 2012

WRAL photojournalist Richard Adkins and chief meteorologist Greg Fishel recently traveled to Mount Washington in New Hampshire, "Home of the World's Worst Weather."

Richard did a great job documenting Greg's experience in the snowy, frigid weather. But what about Richard? How did he and his equipment fare in those extreme conditions? You can read his fascinating story below.

WRAL photojournalist Richard Adkins on Mount Washington

Baby it's COLD Outside!

It’s February 4th and I’m mowing the lawn. I mowed it twice in January too. In fact, I spent a couple of hours Christmas Eve trimming the tall fescue instead of the tree. That just ain't right. So when I was given the chance to chase winter to its ‘nth degree, I more than jumped at the chance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no snow-lovin’ Greg Fishel. I’m a Southern Boy and a beach bum to boot, but a fella has got to get a little snow in his life each winter.

I knew what I was getting in to. Mount Washington: Home of the World’s Worst Weather. So the first thing I did was email Art Howard, a former WRAL News Photographer and current big time freelancer. He’s currently chasing dog sleds with a glass lens in negative 40 degree temperatures. He was kind enough to give some advice to pile on top of what I already knew.

When shooting in the extreme cold and blowing snow, two things are your biggest enemy: Temperature and Moisture.

In the extreme cold, audio and video cables become stiff and brittle. LCD screens quit working properly. Anything rubber or plastic tend to stiffen up. And batteries go dead fast…. real fast. To combat this, I used chemical hand warmers in between the camera and its protective cover. I also would place them in the pocket with my spare battery.

WRAL visits Mount Washington Photos: WRAL visits Mount Washington Combining moisture with the extreme cold causes quick freezing. The last thing you want is for water to get inside the gear and freeze. To combat the moisture, first, the camera gear never goes directly from the cold outside to the warm inside or vise-versa. As anyone who wears glasses can tell you, that causes condensation. I transitioned the camera gear inside-to-outside by letting it sit in areas that were not actually heated in the building. I also carried a hairdryer with me to dry the camera gear so water wouldn’t seep into any nooks and crannies. Outside I used the same camera rain gear we use for hurricane coverage. The goal: Keep the camera dry! Greg Fishel visits 'world's worst weather' Greg Fishel visits 'world's worst weather' (part 1)

The nice folks at the local R.E.I. and North Conway's Eastern Mountain Sports were kind enough to help me spend some money on the right clothes for the condition. Having spent some time in the -40 degree wind chill factor, I can tell you there is nothing more important. The right material (Cotton is a big no-no), proper layering, and eye protection is a must.

Each year, a lot of hikers get in trouble on Mount Washington; hypothermia sets in as they are ill-prepared for the weather conditions that can change fast. Greg Fishel visits 'world's worst weather' (part 2) Greg Fishel visits 'world's worst weather' (part 2)

In fact, when we headed down the mountain in the snow cat, we carried an extra person, a woman who had hiked up the mountain that morning with her boyfriend and wasn’t prepared. She could barely speak when they brought her in to the weather station.

But bottom line, the adventure was well worth the work and preparation. If you have the chance to go, GO! Be safe. Stay warm.

Thanks to Richard for sharing his story and photos.

1 Comment

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  • oldrebel Feb 8, 2012

    Cool story. I can imagine the moisture and extreme cold were death on your equipment.

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