Why you should read Not Without Peril

Backpacking
Why you should read Not Without Peril

This book should be required reading if you are heading into the mountains. I don’t care what mountains you are going into, you can still learn about the fickle nature of mountain weather. Nicholas Howe’s Not Without Peril is billed as “150 years of misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.” While the events of the book take place in a small section of New Hampshire, the lessons you learn can be applied almost anywhere.

Inside the pages you will find 17 chapters describing hiking adventures that go horribly wrong. Most of these stories involve people that went into the mountains unprepared or pushed too far beyond their limits. While the premise of the book is not a pleasant one, it is important for us to learn from the mistakes of others. Every time I am on Mt. Washington I see many people unprepared. I have heard stories of people saying they were going to go only part way and then decided to go all the way to the top. They had to rely on the kindness of strangers for warm clothing or were lucky enough to catch a ride down.

You never know what kind of weather you're going to get in the White Mountains, so you have to prepare for anything.

The stories in Not Without Peril find people that didn’t get so lucky. They didn’t have enough clothing for the colder temperatures and winds above tree line. It may be a beautiful fall day in the Mount Washington Valley but a raging blizzard can be in full force at the 6,288 foot summit. At the end of the book is a complete list of all those who perished up until the book was printed in 2009. Of the 140 documented deaths only 2 are listed as natural causes. Other reasons include falls, avalanche, exposure, and heart attacks. Unfortunately when the book gets updated there will be plenty more names to add. This year alone there have been 2 deaths on the mountain. Not everyone who died was unprepared, but many were. As I read the book, I found myself reflecting on my own hiking mishaps and thinking about how much worse things might have been if I’d been less prepared. Nicholas Howe does an excellent job of setting the scene for each of the scenarios. You can easily imagine that you are there watching the story unfold wishing you could help the unfortunate soles.

Not Without Peril is a terrific read for hikers of all abilities and experience levels, especially as we head towards the fall hiking season. It’s sure to make you think twice when packing for your next adventure and I’m quite sure I’ll never forget to double check the weather forecast before hitting the trail.

Have you had a close call in the backcountry?

Leave me a comment describing the situation, how you got out of it and what you learned so others can benefit from your experience!

Amy Parulis


A former Strength and Conditioning Specialist and captain of the University of North Carolina track team, Amy now looks for her next mountain to climb or mud run to take part in to keep in shape. Her favorite hike was to the crater rim of Mt. St. Helens where she witnessed a steaming lava dome and she some day hopes to summit Mt. Rainier. In the meantime she can be found helping customers at the Waterford EMS. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @amyparulis

1 Comment

  1. Ed
    September 7, 2012, 12:47 pm

    So many thousands or even tens of thousands hike somewhere in the whites each year it is easy to forget how fast things can go wrong. One chapter was published online with permission (http://www.ohcroo.com/pdf/spring2001.pdf) and is very interesting read.

    I was a scout in ’78 when we hiked from Madison Huts to Lake of the Clouds in August in the middle of a heat wave. The hike to Madison was longer time wise than anticipated because of the elevation gain but uneventful. The next day heading to LOTC was cloudy and damp but views and the hike is probably what turned me into a hiker. At the end of the hike things turn nasty with wind ripping our ponchos and sleet, not snow sleet, accumulating. I have memories of cold dripping scouts standing in the entrance of LOTC waiting to check in.

    Even in the heat of summer you need to respect the weather.

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