Not Without Peril

150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire, Nicholas Howe, AMC Books.

Winter is coming, and that means the observatory on the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington will soon be recording some of the worst weather conditions in the United States. As you may know, the Presidential Range (within the White Mountains) is famous for its violent and rapidly changing climatic conditions, which explains why the Boston Globe recently characterized the picturesque region as “A Beautiful Place to Die — at any time of year.”

The recently released tenth anniversary edition of “Not Without Peril” is a stark reminder of just how dangerous these mountains can be, especially for casual visitors who underestimate the challenges they present. Beginning with the story of Frederick Strickland (the first recorded fatality on Mount Washington, 1849), through the Deadliest Season (1994), almost every chapter ends with one or more fatalities.

But as Mohamed Ellozy notes in the foreword, Nicholas Howe’s tone is more matter-of-fact than morbid. The author also manages to refrain from being judgmental, in spite of the fact that visitors who call for rescue endanger the lives of local volunteers, not to mention members of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, which is charged with coordinating rescue operations.

If nothing else, “Not Without Peril” remains recommended reading for any first-timer planning a trip to the Presidential Range. No doubt the Appendix — which describes the circumstances surrounding each of the 140 known fatalities that occurred on Mount Washington between 1849 and 2009 — should give these same readers pause.

Perhaps Ellozy sums it up best when he writes: “Smart preparation before heading into the mountains and wise decision-making once there can help you get home safely.” Learn these lessons and leave mountain dangers for “Not Without Peril.”