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Observer Comments

December 2009

17:48 Thu Dec 31st

Yet another year is coming to a close tonight. I know it's a cliche, but it really is amazing how quickly the years can go by. It's crazy for me to think that just ten years ago on this night, I was in 10th grade and celebrated the end of the 20th century in the small town of Howard, PA with a bunch of my best friends.

Now, as the first decade in the new millennium comes to a close, I will be celebrating the waning moments of the 2009 in a very different place and with very different company. This afternoon, seven adventurous souls arrived on the summit for our very special New Year's Eve EduTrip. Not only will they get to spend New Year's Eve in one of the most unique places I can think of, they will also get to partake in an incredible 9-course dinner (you can see the menu on the page I just linked) this evening prepared by summit volunteer and professional chef John Bauhs his fellow volunteer Ed O'Malley. With great food, great company, and of course an incredible location, this will undoubtedly be a New Year's Eve to remember.

On behalf of the summit crew and the rest of the Mount Washington Observatory staff, I want to wish you and yours a very happy (and safe!) New Years!

Brian Clark – Observer and Meteorologist

10:54 Wed Dec 30th

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Christmas Morning Sunrise

This has been a week of extremes. We came up with the usual shift change last Wednesday with a very smooth uneventful Cat ride up the mountain with both the wind speed and temperature in the single digits. In addition to bringing our personal gear, we brought a lot of food supplies up to restock the freezers and the pantry. With the low wind speeds it almost felt balmy as we unloaded our gear and supplies and reloaded the Cat with the down-going shift's gear.

Thursday, Christmas Eve day, wind speeds were back to where you would expect them to be (in the 60's). And oh yes, my first winter volunteer night was interrupted by the periodic clanging of the crowbar on the parapet as Mike removed the constant buildup of rime ice. Friday, Christmas morning, revealed a great sunrise over an under-cast in the valleys. Sunday's glaze ice event gave me an opportunity to experience, first-hand, ice removal on the parapet while trying to remain upright in winds gusting to the high 60's. While exhilarating, I glad that I don't have do that on an hourly or even daily basis. Anything and anybody outside quickly became covered with a thick coat of ice. Be sure to check out this week's Obscast video for more on that subject.

I had wanted to test my ability to walk around the observation deck with high winds and today (Tuesday) was just the day that I had been waiting for. Wind speeds for awhile were in the high 80's and 90's with some gusting over 100 mph to go along with frigid temperatures, 25 below and a wind chill around 70 below as I type. There have already been a couple of wind-aided tumbles by others more nimble than I on an ice coated deck thanks to Sunday's icing. At twice the age of the oldest observer or intern on duty this week, I've given in to the wisdom of age and have chosen to wait for another day with better conditions. Maybe less icy and a few degrees warmer.

I've had the pleasure of working with the new range while on the summit this week. In one sense it works a lot better than the old range. I like the self-igniting range burners and an oven with a temperature that is pretty much where you set it. But ... there is one problem that is scheduled to be fixed on Wednesday. Occasionally the oven cuts out in the middle of baking. Apparently the thermostat control is affected by altitude and needs 'an altitude kit.'

I consider myself fortunate to be a member of the MWO and to be able to volunteer, to learn, and share in the experiences of the summit staff as they go about their daily duties. Any day being on the summit experiencing the extreme weather that nature has to offer is priceless. Thank-you Stacey, Mike and Scott for letting me being a part of your shift.

Dennis Vienneau – Summit Volunteer

12:13 Tue Dec 29th

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Mountain Shadow on Christmas Morning

Everything is better in the winter.

This is what I heard over and over, throughout my summer internship here. My shift was kind enough to invite me up for one more week so I could see for myself. In anticipation, I found myself building a mental list of what would go into a perfect winter week on the summit. I started checking things off this list last Wednesday, and I haven't stopped since.

Wednesday morning saw relatively mild conditions making for a pleasant, albeit bumpy, snow tractor ride to the summit. The weather was nice enough for me to take a walk around the summit in the afternoon, and in my travels I ran into an old friend of mine. A fox, which I believe to be the same one that I saw frequently last summer, was hanging out next to the entrance to the Sherman Adams building. This fox, being more tame than most wild animals, was comfortable with me getting within a few feet to take pictures.

Christmas Eve was among the most beautiful days I've seen up here--warm but not melty, clear skies, and an undercast. In the summer, undercasts usually develop overnight and bubble up shortly after the sun rises, sending us into the fog. But in the winter, the sun's lower intensity allows undercasts to last through the day. In this case, it lasted all through Christmas Eve and into the night, providing a cloud-sandwich sunset. Clear skies and a bright moon allowed me to get a nice night shot of the tower. Christmas morning, the sun rose over a slightly choppy ocean of clouds.

This pretty much exhausted my good-weather wish list, and the second half of the week has been doing its best on the bad-weather portion. Sunday's adventures with glaze ice, described in Mike's comment, gave me a taste of the challenges that arise around here when extreme conditions hit. I don't think I've ever worked so hard for a connection to the internet. I've also had the opportunity to do some good quality manual labor, shoveling the A-frame and the parapet. After a day like Sunday, 'shoveling' is an incomplete description of the process of dislodging, breaking up, and removing huge chunks of glaze.

The only thing missing from my week thus far is some good wind, and as the shift nears its end, it looks like I won't be disappointed. Winds are currently sustained at about 60 mph, forecast to increase throughout the afternoon, peaking sometime late in the day at 75-95 with gusts over 100. I'm pretty lucky to be on the summit for a week that has been representative of so many of the possible winter conditions. Many thanks to Stacey and Mike for having me up here for one last week, and to our volunteer Dennis for spending his Christmas week with us and preparing a lot of great food.

Scott Wehrwein – Summit Intern

05:34 Mon Dec 28th

Generally, the word "glaze" has a positive connotation to it.

Glazed donuts are some of the best! Glaze icings are always popular on sweet treats. Glazing agents are added to foods to give them a shiny appearance or to protect them.

However, yesterday brought with it a form of glaze that was not so pleasant-glaze ice.

We often talk about rime ice, and how it forms-when the summit is in the fog, and temperatures are below freezing. All of the liquid water droplets that make up a cloud will freeze to any surface they may come in contact with. However, when temperatures are very near freezing, that light and feathery rime is replaced with a thick and heavy glaze ice. Saturday night's temperatures and moisture content were perfect for a significant glaze icing event on the summit.

Temperatures rose through the 20s throughout Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday, and a southeast flow fed plentiful moisture into the region. As a result, glaze ice began to form around 10 p.m. At first, the accumulation was nothing out of the ordinary-about 1-2" per hour. Then, when I went to the tower for the midnight observation, I could not believe my eyes! There was nearly 7" of glaze ice coating the posts that I had de-iced approximately one hour before! It was by far the fastest accrual of glaze ice I had seen in my lifetime. The pitot-static anemometer and wind vane were encased in this thick coating. It took many, many whacks of the crowbar to get rid of all of this ice.

This trend continued for the remainder of the night and into the day yesterday. After taking a rubber-mallet to the A-Frame to knock the large chunks of glaze off of it yesterday morning, I happily turned de-icing duties over to Stacey and Scott. Unfortunately, when freezing rain and ice pellets moved in during the late morning hours, the glaze that formed on our microwave dish knocked out the internet connection. As I slept and recharged my de-icing muscles, Stacey and Scott worked diligently to restore the connection, which they ultimately did after multiple attempts.

The glazing finally ceased yesterday evening, but the damage had already been done. Everything on the summit is coated in layers of glaze ice, feet thick in some places (the greatest accumulations are in places that were most exposed to the winds)! Needless to say, I'm sure all three of us have seen enough glaze ice to last a lifetime, and look forward to the colder temperatures that yield the feathery and much lighter rime ice! I can only hope the next time I speak of glaze, a sugary treat will be involved somehow.

Mike Carmon – Staff Meteorologist

14:27 Sat Dec 26th

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It looks way better on me!

Meow. Marty here. I think I like this 'Christmas' holiday. Two weeks ago, the blond girl and the brunette did something different to the living room. They transformed it into a magnificent play area for me! A small tree had lots of shiny hanging things, and it was lit up! Even when I would knock the funny toys onto the ground and attack the snowflakes, the observers (usually the blond one) would just hang it right back up, for me to play some more! Me-ow!

Lights strung up along my favorite counter begged me to tear them down and there were shiny bits of something called garland hanging by the television. Oh boy, was that fun! Another great thing about this time of year (I noticed last year, too) that we get lots of gifts! New catnip, toys, and treats seem to appear out of nowhere. I wonder if there is something to this Santa Claus business. The observers tell me that it's our wonderful members who send up the presents. One of my fans sent up a hat, and unfortunately, the blond girl and I had on matching outfits for the celebration. How dare she! That is a fashion faux-pas. Besides, it looked way better on me.

Anyway, my minions would like me to pass along a message. They say thank to you everyone who thought of us this Christmas. Your well wishes and gifts are greatly appreciated and help to make the holiday on the frosty mountain a bit warmer.

I hope everyone had a very Meowy Christmas!

Meow.

Marty – Summit Cat

05:28 Fri Dec 25th

Merry Christmas!

Today is December 25th, and I find myself here on the summit of Mt. Washington, away from my family for the first time in 23 years!

Since I can remember, we have followed our Christmas traditions with no exceptions. Before these days of working the night shift, I used to be an early to bed/early to rise type of guy. So, on Christmas morning, I would normally be one of the first in my family to arise. Next to my bed would be a stocking that 'Santa' had filled to the brim and dropped off. I would turn on the television, looking for the station that was airing 24 hours of my favorite Christmas movie-A Christmas Story! With the sounds of Ralphie and his quest for an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle in the background, I would empty my stocking.

After the opening of my stocking, I would wait for the next of my family members to arise, which was almost always my mom. The two of us, definitely the most culinarily-savvy of the family, would prepare breakfast as we waited for my dad and sister to wake up. When they FINALLY did, the four of us would assemble (all still in our pajamas) in front of the tree and dole out the gifts that lay wrapped beneath it. As the years passed, I became very excited that I was able to buy my own gifts for everyone, and not have to rely on giving my father the extraneous gift that my mother bought for him, etc. We would go around and each of us would open one gift at a time until the floor was littered with wrapping paper. 'Santa' was always more than generous to me and my sister.

After opening gifts, we would all break to prepare for the rest of the day's festivities. As the ladies headed for the showers, me and my father would head in to the kitchen to prepare a multiple-course Christmas dinner. After a few hours of cooking, our guests would arrive, which would be my two grandmothers. The six of us would sit and enjoy the Christmas meal during the afternoon hours. The subjects and dynamics of the conversations have definitely morphed through the years, especially as me and my sister started to move away from home. What was once a simple tradition became an enjoyable discussion about all of the things we had experienced during the past year and what we were looking forward to in the fresh new year that was only seven days away.

After dinner and the dishes, we would prepare for the next wave of guests-the rest of the extended family! Coming from quite a large Italian family, it was always a tradition that my aunts, uncles and cousins would all flood into our house on Christmas night for games and even MORE food! Family members would come and go, and by 10 or 11 p.m., Christmas Day would conclude as the last guest headed out the front door.

As I look back and realize that we've followed the same traditions for as long as I can remember, it's pretty odd to think this is the first time ever that I will not be there to be a part of it all. However, I'm looking forward to a brand new experience, sharing Christmas Day with my co-workers, who have grown to be another sort of family for me.

So, Merry Christmas to all of my family back in New Jersey!

And Merry Christmas to the rest of you as well-I hope your holiday is a great one filled with traditions of your own!

Mike Carmon – Staff Meteorologist

05:25 Wed Dec 23rd

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The past two years I have done 'summitized' parodies of Christmas stories/songs and this year is no exception. Last year, I did a parody on the poem/song 'The 12 Days of Christmas' titled 'The 12 Days of Summit Christmas.' The year before, it was the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' with an obs spin on how the story goes. This year, I am putting a twist on the song 'Jingle Bells' which I am titling 'Summit Weeks'. So as your reading it, put it to the tune of 'Jingle Bells' to get the full effect. The verses are in red with the chorus in green. If your color blind, I'm sorry, I feel your pain. Either way, I hope y'all like it. And since we are heading down today, a few days before the Christmas holiday, this down going crew would like to wish you a: MERRY CHRISTMAS and JOYFUL HOLIDAYS!

'Summit Weeks'

Crawling through the snow
On a wint'ry shift change day
Up the hill we go
Plowing all the way
Lights on our cab flash
Dimly through the white
What fun it is to bob and dash
Til' the summit comes in sight...


Oh, Summit sign! Summit sign!
Reading what you say;
Your sixty two eighty eight
Dimly through the gray.
Oh, Summit sign! Summit sign!
You're not too far away;
After such a bumpy ride
You just might make my day.


A week or two ago
Mike n' I took this ride
Volunteer, Pete in tow
Sat on my left side
Our crew was down by one
But none of us would freak
We could get it done with lots o' fun
By da end of our work week.


Oh, we'll be fine! We'll be fine!
This isn't our first time;
Our work week might look steep
But we know how to climb
Oh, we'll be fine! We'll be fine!
Working like the past
But unlike that time in life
This outcome will not last.


A day or two ago
A storm was on the move
And winds began to blow
Messing with our groove
The time began to fly
As hours melt away
It battered us, I will not lie
But we would rule the day!


Oh, busting rime! Busting Rime!
Coating us in white
That by the time we go inside
We really are a sight.
Oh, busting rime! Busting Rime!
Swing that crowbar 'round
And by the time that I am done
You're flying to the ground.


Now the summit's white
Winter's finally sprung
It's really quite a site
It makes us all feel young;
With Christmas on its way
It fills our hearts with glee
Our crew of three, will not stay
As down the hill we flee.


Oh, down we go! Down we go!
Back to our lives below
To our family and our friends
And da places that we go
Oh, down we go! Down we go!
We leave it to our peers
You may have to work this week but
We'll see ya for New Years!

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

13:24 Tue Dec 22nd

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Fogbow Over the Summit

My week as a volunteer has been fun, some hard work, but fun. The week started with 100 MPH wind gusts and below zero temperatures. My 25 year old face mask froze over. As I helped load and unload the snow tractor I couldn't see. The crew was very business like and put stuff in my hands to pass on.

I settled in and got started. Saturday was great! The temps hit 20 above I think. I got out side and took some pictures. A group of 8 came on Saturday with an overnight hiking trip. It was much more work. It's Monday and almost over. I've done a lot of reading and have a lot more to do.

Another good week.

Peter Roy – Summit Volunteer

17:47 Mon Dec 21st

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Alpineglow on Adams

It has been a quiet week here on the summit. Just four folks up here - myself working days, Ryan working nights, our volunteer Pete, and a state park employee. You might be wondering what has happened to our other observer and intern. Brian is off on vacation to Wyoming, probably getting totally worked ripping some of his first turns this year in deep powder. I'm sure the face shots make all the burning worthwhile though. With any luck, he will have taken some photos during rest stops for our viewing pleasure in a week. Our intern, Will, opted to head home a bit early. Living down south (no, not Manchester, NH...South Carolina), he would have had a 1,700 mile drive to complete Wednesday night into Thursday. If conditions were anything but perfect, he wouldn't make it in time to be home for Christmas Eve. There was a chance he could get a ride down with State Park yesterday and drive back then, but then again, there was a chance he might not - it's a tough call with weather this time of year. Because of these factors, he came up Wednesday on shift change, grabbed his gear, and headed southbound. It has been nice working by my lonesome this week though. It reminds me a bit of when I worked nights for eight months.

On the topic of things that are short (the staffing on the summit, my...hrm...what was it...oh, right...memory), today happens to be the solstice, the shortest day of the year. It arrives a day after my Papa's birthday every year, who is now 92! Happy birthday, Papa! From here on out (well, until summer solstice), the daylight hours will get a wee bit longer each day. For some this means more time to play and work outside (before donning a headlamp) or less time to drive in the dark in the morning or night on the way to or from work. It also marks the official start of winter, which I am quite excited about. Now all we need are a few of these storms to not track right off the coast and hit us with some snow! I guess it's really just a game of patience as no matter how well I observe the weather or forecast it, it's going to do what it's going to do.

Mike Finnegan – IT Observer

22:28 Sun Dec 20th

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Sunset number x of y.

I love December! First, it's just a merry month all around. Regardless of your beliefs, people I know just seem to be in a good mood despite what seems to be the news' constant negative spin on everything. I don't know, maybe its the sights of the lights, the smell of pine trees in neighboring tree lots, the smell of gingerbread houses and sugar cookies, the warmth of being in doors while its snowing, visiting with family and friends or just helping our fellow man by throwing some spare change in the little red pot as you exit your local grocer. And while it might not have all the glitz and glitter it once had when I was a kid, it still holds some other things for me to look forward to.

It marks the official start of winter tomorrow, December 21, 2009 (even though the summit starts ours in October). And with the start of winter, it also means that at 17:47 UTC, the winter solstice will be celebrated meaning that the days will start to get longer after this time. Working nights, I am used to working in the dark but during this time of year, it means both shifts (day and night) start in the dark and end in the dark. On our shift, we work a 0530 EST to 1730 EST day shift and 1730 EST to 0530 EST night shift and with the sun rising after 0700 EST and setting shortly after 1600 EST, you can see how darkness bookends both shifts. It's not too bad for the day shift to get out and do some hiking/skiing/work but if I want/need to do anything in the daylight, it means I have to get up earlier than I would like. So, I am looking forward to the daylight extending in the coming months.

December also marks my anniversary for starting at the Observatory. On December 27, 2005, I stepped off the plane on the east coast for the first time in my life and after a delayed pick up of my car, I started heading north. Thinking that the I-93 exit numbering system was done by miles like it is out west, I thought I only had to drive a half hour north out of Manchester. Hours later though, I finally arrived at former observer Jim Salges house (nicknamed 'The Jackson Hole' I later found out) and crashed on his couch. The next day, December 28, 2005, I rode the Bombardier tractor up for the first time and arrived at a place that seemed like a distant moon some 3000 miles from my former comfort zone of the west coast. And so began my internship that eventually melded into an observer position and finally the staff meteorologist position over the years. And now this distant moon feels more like home than my actual home in Berlin, NH considering I spend over half of the year up here.

And this December holds one more monument for me dealing with the number 100. But let me keep you guessing as to what 100 I am talking about since the summit is full of them. Does December hold the first day I experienced 100 mph winds? No. Does it mark the highest 100 mph winds I have ever felt? No. Does it mark the day I entered the century club? No. Did I meet my 100th hiking/edutrip since being here? No. Did I just finish my 100th Obscast? No, but on the right track. Did I write my 100th forecast? No, but getting hotter. Will this comment posting by my 100th? Yes, this comment you are reading is my 100th comment since starting here.

Unfortunately, when we upgraded out website back in February 2006, it meant pervious comments became unavailable. Worry not, we still have them archived but this means that you can't go back and read my first posting on January 1, 2006 or my second on February 12, 2006. But the other 98 comments are all available for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure). So here is what I wrote about in my very first comment:

The year 2005 is now a part of the history books and 2006 has arrived. The last day of 2005 started out beautifully. The sun shown through an overcast sky of high cirrus clouds with practically an infinite view in all directions. The summit was crawling with birds, a fox, and people, the most activity I have witnessed since starting my internship at the summit Wednesday. As the day came to a close, the summit started to receive a light dusting of fresh fluffy snow with low winds. Although it was obscuring our horizontal views, the views into the valleys below remained for the start of the night.

The valley views allowed people to anticipate a fireworks show in North Conway but unfortunately the fog started to roll in obscuring our view of the distant show. But the night was not completely uneventful; Tim called down to ask Jim if a bon fire was a yearly event by Bretton Woods?!?! With binoculars, we noticed a swarm of flashing lights, and soon learned that the Bretton Motor Lodge was ablaze! We have since learned that everyone made it out okay. The Edu-Trip up on the summit with us were the unfortunate witnesses of the fire, and captured a few photos for the website.

As the year 2005 came to a close, a handful of people on the summit made it all the way to midnight and ushered in the New Year. The time came and the time passed with nothing too eventful. The first day of 2006 is obscured in fog with low winds. Everything on the summit is covered in a thin layer of frost giving a crisp coating of white. Although the eerily calm makes for a beautiful site, as the new intern, I am hoping that the Worst Weather in the World returns to the summit soon.

Ryan Knapp - Intern


So there you have it a glimpse back at my time here and a picture of what was going on around the summit on New Years 2006. The observers and interns since that writing have changed. The number of observers on each shift has changed. The living quarters have changed. The way the summit gets power has changed. The way we dispose of sewage has changed. The technology has changed (remember CRT monitors and TV's?). The Bombardier tractor has changed. Some of the weather procedures have changed. The way we stay connected with our members has changed (Obscasts, forums, facebook, etc). The size of Seek the Peak has changed. The museum and gift shop have changed both on the summit and in the valley. And as a result of all of these changes, even I have changed. But the one thing that has remained unchanged in all this time is the weather. It's why I'm here, why the observatory is here, and probably why you are all here reading this. So here's to another winter, another year at the observatory, another 100 observer comments, the weather for keeping my interest in staying here, and to our members who make all these milestones possible for me and all the observers up here over the years.

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

21:31 Sat Dec 19th

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things can change in regards to weather. Two days ago, it was -24 degrees outside. Today we hit a high temperature of 22 degrees and winds nearly calm. Instead of layering in a facemask, hat, hood, and goggles, I only needed a pair of sunglasses. I traded in insulated boots for sneakers and snow pants for flannel lined pants. At times I even neglected to wear a jacket. Not that I would dress like this if I were hiking even around the summit cone, but not leaving the observation deck and only being outside for five minutes, I figured it was alright.

This life of pleasantry will be short lived however as the low that brought feet of snow to states well south of us moves closer our way. We will probably see some snow out of the system (I wouldn't mind a foot or two!) and winds will ramp up as the pressure gradient tightens. Once again it will be a chore to do an observation. When we are not in the fog, we use an instrument called a sling psychrometer to determine the temperature and dew point. This has to be done in the shade to avoid having direct solar heating effect the readings. As it turns out, during part of the day the only shade available is next to a shack, the shaded side of which is in the windiest part of the deck during northwest winds, our predominant wind direction. So it will be that in the next day or two we will be bracing ourselves against 80 mph gusts to discover the temperature, then doing our very best to steady both the sling and our heads to accurately read the temperatures. It's days like these that can make this job both exciting and also bolster ones appreciation for days such as today.

Mike Finnegan – IT Observer

21:35 Fri Dec 18th

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Crisp and Clear this afternoon.

At the start of one of my college Creative Writing classes we studied a short story that had three characters: a man, a boy, and a swamp. We read three variations of the story but each had roughly the same three elements to it. The reason it sticks out in my mind is how loaded it was with morals depending on which variation we read. And in thinking back to it, I think it is a great story for hikers to keep in mind when hiking up Mt Washington this time of year. Unfortunately I couldn't find the story online before writing this up, so this is my interpretation of how the "original" story goes:

The Swamp

A hiker (who I will name Joe) sets out on a trail that is known to take three full days to complete. At first, the trail is beautiful, serene, calm and easy going. But by day two, he begins to get lonely and as the trail begins to become difficult and time consuming, he starts to panic that he won't make it to his pick up point on the third day. So he comes to a swamp and after examining the map he has sees that it will shave a few hours worth of hiking time off his route if he can pass through it. So he pokes and prods the shore along the swamp trying to find a shallow place to cross. Every once in a while he finds what seems to be a suitable crossing but then throws a rock out only to find that it becomes deeper a bit further out. Just as he is beginning to reconsider using this shortcut, he comes across another hiker sitting next to the swamp with water and mud covering his pant legs from the knees down.

Assuming the resting hiker just passed through the swamp Joe runs up to him with much excitement and asks "Does this section have a hard bottom that I can use as a shortcut to the other side?"

The resting hiker answers "Yes, it has a hard bottom, but..." And before the resting hiker could finish Joe begins to walk across the swamp. A short way out, Joe begins to sink past his knees but thinks nothing of it and continues on a bit further. With every step he starts to sink further and further down until he reaches a point where he continues to sink without stopping. He try's to step back to where he was last standing but can't find it. Panicking, he tries to swim back to shore but with every movement he seems to be sinking further and further down. So he calms himself and looks back at the man on the shore.

"I thought you said this swamp had a hard bottom to use to cross!," he yells.

The resting hiker replies "It does. You just haven't reached it!," as he throws a climbing rope out to pull the man back to the safety of the shore.


By now, you are probably asking yourself how a story about a man crossing a swamp has anything to do with Mt. Washington in the winter. Well, let me tell it one more time but let me reimagine it a bit to make it more relatable.

The Mountain

A hiker (who I will name Joe) sets out on a trail traversing Mt Washington that is known to take a full day to complete. At first the trail is beautiful, serene, calm and easy going. But by around noon, he begins to get lonely and as the trail begins to become difficult and time consuming, he starts to panic that he won't make it to his pick up point by the end of the day. So he comes to a point in the trail where he stops and after examining the map he has sees that it will shave a few hours worth of hiking time off his route if he can cross an unmarked section above tree line to a parallel trail down. Unfortunately, a storm has just passed dumping piles of deep snow that is being whipped up and limiting horizontal visibilities a bit. But he decides to try for it. He begins to step a bit off trail but every time begins to sink in waste deep snow. Every once in a while he finds what seems to be a suitable area but and starts to step further out but just sinks. Just as he is beginning to reconsider using this short cut he comes across another hiker sitting next to a cairn with snow covering his pant legs from the knees down.

Assuming the resting hiker just passed through the soft snow Joe runs up to him with much excitement and asks "Does this section have a hard bottom that I can use as a shortcut to the other trail?"

The resting hiker answers "Yes, it has a hard bottom, but..." And before the resting hiker could finish Joe begins to walk the snow field. A short way out, Joe begins to sink past his knees as he post holes around snow covered rocks but thinks nothing of it and continues on a bit further. With every step he starts to sink further and further down until he reaches a point where he continues to sink without stopping and begins to see the snow sloughing off into the glacial cirque nearby. He try's to step back to where he was last standing but can't find it. Panicking, he tries to head back to the trail he can barely make out but with every movement he seems to be sinking further and further in. So he calms himself and looks back at the man on the trail.

"I thought you said this section of the snow field had a hard bottom to use to cross!," he yells.

The resting hiker replies "It does. You just haven't reached it!," as he throws a climbing rope out to pull the man back to the safety of the trail.


So what am I hoping you take away from this short story? First, even though it is not relayed in the story, I hope Joe read a forecast online, listened to one on the phone (603-356-2137 ext 1), or read one at a visitor center/hotel in the area. Between our forecast, NWS's, or a computer generated one by one of several private companies (accuweather.com, wunderground.com, weathertap.com, etc), now and days there is no excuse to say you had no idea what the weather was going to be on the day you are hiking. Second, Joe was hiking alone which some people prefer but this time of year especially, there is safety in numbers. If something goes wrong, the other person(s) can try to help or can at least go for help. Plus it gives you someone to talk to pass the time with. Third, he was right in setting up a time to meet his party at the end of his hike but like so many hikers this time of year; he used an unrealistic hiking time line. The summit might only take 6-10 hours round trip in the summer but in the winter it can be a lot more slow going. Snow, low visibility, more equipment, crampons, etc can all slow you down adding a lot more time. Plus, a lot of people (even some friends I have taken up here) have thought they were a lot more fit than they actually were. This meant a lot more resting breaks which add to the time. If a time line is looking unrealistic, try calling your waiting party (not always the case in the Whites) or consider hiking back to where you started. It is (usually) always safer to head back down from where you came than to head up. The distance to the summit of the mountain is extremely deceiving especially in bad weather. Also, if the way you are going seems unsafe, it is better to turn back to where you started than to get in a worst set up.

Fourth, stick to the trails you set out to take. If you don't make it to your final destination in the time you wanted, it is easier to mount a rescue searching the trails you set out to do rather than fanning out on the countless trails that traverse the summit above tree line. Plus the cairns provide a visible marker along the path that usually is known to be the safest route. Fifth, always take advice from strangers with a grain of salt. Most advice is dependable but you should always be responsible for yourself and whoever you are with. Remember that the person sharing the information might be as inexperienced as you. I'm not saying that if someone on the trail tells you there is an avalanche danger ahead to ignore them and continue on. But if they say "Oh, the summits only an hour away" and you start experiencing degrading weather and that "hour" is looking like three with no end in sight, it's safer to consider reaching the summit another day.

I am sure there are other morals and metaphors I can pull from this but four out of the five of these are the ones I wrote about in college: safety in numbers, stick to a realistic time line, avoid shortcuts, and don't believe everything you hear. It worked well on the first day of class since all of these were applicable to adjust to college life. And with a twist of the story, what can be taken away from the story is applicable to mountain life as well. And with the relatively nice weather expected Saturday, I am sure a bunch of "Joe's" will be climbing to the summit. As long as these Joe's don't act like the Joe in my story, by days end, they will all have their own stories to tell.

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

18:53 Thu Dec 17th

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Frigid Morning Alpineglow

It has taken its' time, but i think winter has finally arrived just about everywhere, even the valley. Last offweek began with an icy drive back to North Conway where I had to pull someone with summer tires and a bit too much speed back onto the road. The following day began with a few laps of snowboarding on a local ski hill I skinned up and ended with my first ice climb of the season up in Craford Notch. We got our Christmas tree on Saturday (which even included a Christmas mouse hiding inside), which put us further in the throws of winter. More climbing ensued Sunday and Tuesday in Smuggler's Notch in Vermont, although Tuesday was a bit wet.

Now on the summit, I am even more excited as ice that was thin and wet last week is sure to be coming in strong! This very cold weather is certainly good for making snow too! Unfortunately, here on the summit the weather isn't good for too much besides testing just how well one can layer and keep not an inch of skin exposed. When I awoke this morning, I found the temperature to have plummeted to -24F. That, coupled with winds gusting into the 90's, made for an abrupt awakening, especially since it had just cleared and I would have to spend several minutes slinging. In these instances where the wind chill is down to the -70 range, frostbite can occur in the time it takes to complete an observation.

Fortunately, high pressure will build in a bit more with the low shifting a bit further off the coast and we should see temperatures slowly making their way above zero and winds slowly decline over the next 36 hours. Yes, it is definitely winter!

Mike Finnegan – IT Observer

10:05 Wed Dec 16th

Today is our final morning on the summit. I could never do justice to the excitement around here. First and most important, Marty is mousing again. Apparently he took a hiatus from this very critical activity up here while he was mending from his skin ailment. We were all somewhat concerned as the mice were getting somewhat brazen, but NO! Marty was just toying with them...he had the last laugh. Saturday night as I was heading to the kitchen for my late night tea I noticed Marty was only half exposed (the back half) under our "new" gas oven and the hunt was on...

Now that we are up to date with the important news, let's start at the beginning. Our ride up was the first indication that our choice for our 4th trip up to volunteer was a good one. It was the first snow tractor ride of the season and Mary Ellen, our awesome intern, was finally going to get her wish on her last week on the summit. As we piled into the snow tractor transferring our gear and supplies from the van, I was volunteered to be co-pilot with Wayne in the cockpit. Wayne, always understated and totally confident in what he does, looked at me and said, "Welcome back." I knew then he had something special for the ride up and I was not to be disappointed. Zero visibility with high winds, how exciting is that? He looked at me and said, "Hmmmm, it's time to bring on the Kevan."

Kevan Carpenter a seasoned mountaineer was in the back with the crew and of course had his gear with him. Wayne picked up the phone in the cab and told him to gear up and get ready to drag the snow tractor up the mountain. Kevan of course was delighted, jumped out and with the aid of two trusty extension cords (bright orange and wonderfully visible), attached them to the plow. Kevan (I kid you not) ran up ahead and gave Wayne the critical road guidance to get us up safely to the Summit. What a team!

Note to future co-pilots do not open the door on your side of the cab until Wayne says you can open the door, even if you are curious to figure out where you are when it is stopped on the home stretch. Something about not wanting to have the side of the cab ripped off in the wind. Pilots can be very serious about their equipment.

Stacey and Mary Ellen full of Christmas spirit decorated the Obs to the delight of you-know-who, who now has plenty of interesting objects to bat around the quarters. I have to say it lifted my spirits to see their handy work!

Mike produced multiple delicious meals much appreciated by the crew but his greatest achievement when cleaning off all the pantry shelves washing them down with a bleach solution, (part of the monthly inventory and clean up of the pantry,) was the discovery of a Klingon cookbook! Rumor has it that Ken Rancourt might know something about this extraordinary find?! We are now working to find someone to translate it into English for our next volunteer experience.

I busied myself with elevating the serotonin level of the crew, baking with as much chocolate as I could find with the exception of last night when we enjoyed strawberry shortcake made with Mike's warm home made biscuits!

Windswept is the name of the booklet we send out but the truth is it could easily be called Windthrown, Windblown, Windchucked. Yes, high winds of 105 plus mph challenged the mobility skills of all and wind chills of 52 below; kind of sucks the moisture out of ones skin, we are all looking and feeling like dehydrated vegetables at the moment.

Finally, our one dream coming up here this time was to see the summit fox. We were not to be sent away wanting. Monday, Mary Ellen called us on the intercom and said, "Hey, guess who's here?" The fox was up watching them shovel and I was forced to take pictures for posterity, Mike was shoveling. She is a beauty, with a handsome coat and tail as bushy and wide as her body. We were truly blessed!

Well, until next time Mike and I would like to thank the crew of the Observatory…Steve, Stacey, Mike and Mary Ellen for their kindness, laughter, stories, appetites and hard work to make the Obs hum and the entire MWOBS staff for this wonderful volunteer opportunity. Our special best wishes to Mary Ellen as she begins a new phase in her life and may you all have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.

Sue and Mike Zlogar – Summit Volunteers

08:39 Tue Dec 15th

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My final shift as summit intern is almost through and the fact that I won't be back up here next week still hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe how fast this whole experience went by!

Living on the summit of Mount Washington certainly exposed me to all the beauty of the White Mountains from an amazing vantage point. Being able to witness first hand some of the extreme this mountain has to offer was definitely an experience. From the calm, beautiful 130 mile visibility days, to days with thick fog and frozen precipitation whipping around in hurricane force winds.

Although, there was some pretty amazing weather during my time here, as intern this whole experience was also about learning. I was exposed to summit operations, instrumentation, and the art of observing. I was also able to take skills learned in school and enhance them through forecasting and taking part in daily tasks.

Looking back, there are many highlights from the past four months! From the unexpected Cog Railway ride back in October to the exciting much anticipated first Snow Tractor ride of the season; all the delicious meals cooked by the many wonderful volunteer; movie nights and some hilarious game nights; working with Deb in the museum and interacting with the public giving tours; all the amazing views, sunrises, and sunsets; and of course all the extreme weather! The most exciting was watching the Hays wind chart for the 137 mph wind and then going out for a walk on the observation deck later that afternoon with winds gusting well over 100!

I would just like to thank Stacey, Steve, Mike, Deb, Ken, and all the summit and valley staff for making this great experience one I will never forget!

Mary Ellen Dunn – Summit Intern

13:55 Sun Dec 13th

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forget sugarplums and give us lenticulars!

Something amazing happened today! We saw the Sun! Well, first we were able to see the stars and the moon, since the summit cleared during the early morning hours. Then, over the southeastern horizon, a big, fat, red blob slowly ascended into view. It took a few seconds for us to figure out what it could possibly be. For the first time since early Wednesday morning (before our shift arrived) the fog disappeared, opening our proverbial eyes to a winter wonderland, not only atop the higher peaks, but also in the surrounding valleys. The ski resorts actually have snow and lights on the slopes and some of the lakes are notably frozen. All the mountain peaks are daintily iced, making our view look more like a fancy gingerbread neighbor hood than a glacially-sculpted, impressive mountain range.

Alas, as Robert Frost once wrote, 'nothing gold can stay'. Well, our bright golden Sun gradually hid behind thickening clouds since it first showed face this morning and has now been completely obscured by the seemingly omnipresent fog. More snow is on its way as low pressure works its way up the eastern seaboard. Winds overnight won't quite howl; they will probably more closely resemble groaning. A weak ridge of high pressure will build tomorrow, which will keep temperatures fairly warm, in the low to mid twenties. Winds will be the calmest we've seen this week due to a near lack of a pressure gradient and tomorrow we might just get to see our good friend, Sol, again.

Stacey Kawecki – Observer and Meteorologist

05:30 Sat Dec 12th

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Ice Clogs Abound!

All jobs have their challenges. Working at the home of the world's worst weather certainly presents some unique obstacles in daily operations.

Ice is one of those challenges that has kept me pretty busy all night. And I'm not talking about the hourly de-icing of our instruments atop the tower. On this night, I speak of ice within the guts of our instruments, namely the pitot-static anemometer.
Temperatures tonight have hovered around -10 degrees, and winds are regularly gusting near 100 mph. These bitterly cold conditions cause ice to form within one of the lines of the pitot tube system and clog the air flow. This undercuts the principle of differential pressure upon which the pitot operates, rendering it useless. In order to solve this problem, we disconnect and pump the icy line with a bit of methanol if a clog is suspected. This might sound pretty simple, but the trick is to know what certain wind velocities 'sound like' to determine whether or not the pitot is reading incorrectly. This can very often be quite challenging, and the only way this is possible is through experience. Another trick we use is to watch the barometric pressure readings, because our pressure instruments are connected to the pitot system as well. So, if we are expecting a trend of increasing pressure (for example today, an area of high pressure is building in to New England), and we start to notice an anomalous sharp drop in pressure, it probably means an ice clog is looming. As you might imagine, this requires a nearly continuous eye be kept on all of these instruments, which can make the lonely night shift a challenging one. If all goes well after pumping, the ice is long gone, and once the line is reconnected, the pitot functions as normal again.

Generally, most of our problems occur when temperatures are subzero and winds are strong. Tonight's weather was a forecast for pitot problems, and unfortunately, it did not disappoint.

One of the side effects of ice clogs and disconnecting the pitot lines is an ugly looking 24 Hour Wind Speed History on our Current Summit Conditions page. Especially today, you will notice many sharp drops and rises (many reaching down to 0 mph). These are not authentic-they are the result of these pesky ice clogs. This also has a similar effect on our Hays Wind Chart (seen above).

This is one of the many reasons why the Mt. Washington Observatory will never be an automated weather station.

Mike Carmon – Staff Meteorologist

12:42 Fri Dec 11th

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A Frozen Tower!

Brrrrr! As I am writing this, temperatures are 5 degrees below zero and winds are blowing strong around 80 mph creating a wind chill of about -45 degrees. The best part is that it seems it will get even colder and windier here on the summit over the next 24 hours or so. A strong pressure gradient over the region is expected to increase winds this evening, gusting near the century mark, and continue to usher in frigid below zero temperatures.

Along with the arrival of these cold temperatures and strong westerly flow, lingering moisture in the atmosphere has kept the summit in the fog, the past few days, with on and off snow showers. Snow has been blowing all around the summit creating deep drifts wherever it lands. Shoveling those pesky 4 foot snow drifts at the front door, has quickly become part of our morning routine here on the summit. It's certainly some good exercise and with our volunteers this week, Mike and Sue, cooking some delicious meals, we are definitely keeping up our strength!

Mary Ellen Dunn – Summit Intern

22:57 Wed Dec 9th

When I was in ninth grade, one of our English assignments was to write an adventure. The assignment was inspired by reading Odysseus, by Homer. Well, I made up some lame story about having to pay for the beach. At that point in my life, I hadn't really experienced any real adventures. Obstacles, danger, setbacks, and triumph upon completion are the ingredients for an adventure or an Odyssey.

Every shift change can be considered an adventure. However, today's shift change was especially reminiscent of Odysseus's long trek back home after the war between Greece and Troy. It all began yesterday morning, as I packed up my Ford Explorer to head back to Vermont.

I had gone home to NJ to visit family and friends and coworker and staff meteorologist Mike Carmon did the same thing. Being environmentally (as well as monetarily) conscious, we decided to carpool back to Vermont together.

All was going exceedingly well; Mike napped, I listened to my book on CD. I even talked about how reliable my car was, and how I was so happy to have finally chosen a good vehicle (my past is littered with cars that were transmissionally challenged). By the time we got into Vermont, Mike made a comment about how we were making some excellent time.

That was soon to change. About midway between Middlebury and Burlington on Route 7, my RPMs revved up to 4500 RPMs, and then went swiftly back down to 1000 RPMs. I was a little concerned, and Mike convinced me it was merely the hills (there are a lot of them around). Well, the transmission slipped gears a few more times and we thought it might be a good idea to pull over. Considering my tragic past with transmissions, I needed some fresh air. I opened the car door and began to stroll around to the front of the vehicle. Looking at the ground, trying to collect myself, I saw a puddle. I watched my car's life trickle onto the pavement. My head spun, it became a bit difficult to breathe and I sat down on the ground.

My car was leaking transmission fluid.

We were 16 miles from home and had no AAA. I knew I had to tow it to Burlington and that would cost a not-so-pretty penny. Luckily, a DMV patrolman quickly called a wrecker. Half an hour and two chocolate covered pretzels later, our wrecker arrived to take us and my beaten car to the Meineke a block from the house. Well, the bad thing about living in Burlington (and there aren't many) is that getting to work sans vehicle would be difficult. After attempting to come up with a convoluted and doomed-to-fail plan to borrow Mike Finnegan's or his girlfriend's car, former intern Jeff Wehrwein offered to drive Mike and I to museum attendant Deb's house. She graciously took us in and brought us to the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road.

That's where the real adventure began. It was snowing pretty hard and we were anxiously waiting the chained van to arrive. We knew we'd be in the snow tractor, with all the snow and wind. We got to our trusty tractor with no issues, but when we opened the door to unload the contents of the van into the tractor, we knew it would be an interesting ride. Even below tree-line, the snow whipped around and pelted us in the face. After loading the tractor we headed up. Everything seemed fine until we turned onto homestretch, facing almost directly southeast. The wind kicked up snow with a nasty vengeance and Wayne stopped the snow tractor. Visibility became nonexistent and seeing just wasn't an option. Kevan Carpenter, a frequent visitor to the summit ended up walking in front of the tractor, a mid-marker between posts. It couldn't have been fun. Meanwhile, the vent in the back of the snow tractor was happily spewing snow onto the backs of our neck as we did the hardest thing, wait.

We finally started to inch slowly forward. After what seemed an eternity, we made it to the summit! We were home, but not home free. We still had to unload and load the snow tractor and get the down-going shift down. After a broken down car, extremely stressful transportation planning and complete white out conditions, I have never been so happy to stand another ten minutes in the bitter cold, biting wind, and blowing snow.

So, even though we didn't fight a war, get turned into pigs by Circe, have a dangerous encounter with sirens, or unexpectedly meet a giant Cyclops named Prometheus, it still feels like we've endeavored on an odyssey.

Stacey Kawecki – Observer and Meteorologist

23:43 Tue Dec 8th

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We are volunteer rockpile rookies, on the tail end of a whirlwind week on the summit. From circumnavigating the observation deck seven times in 84 mile per hour winds to organizing and taking inventory of the freezers, we are having a first-hand look at mile-high life.

It's not too shabby.

We are a couple, a team, which basically boils down to this: Jan cooks, Marty fetches. That would be Marty the person, not Marty the cat. It really isn't all that confusing. Neither Brian Clark, Mike Finnegan or Will Tourtellot really want to scratch Marty (the person) behind the ears or rub his belly. Jan has been filling bellies. Over the course of the week, she has prepared shepherd's pie, chicken cacciatore, turkey with a lovely swirl of potatoes and yams and other tasty meals. She's baked too, making the necessary ingredient adjustments for high altitude baking for treats like pumpkin pie, blueberry squares and whirl-a-gig cookies.

Marty (the person) brings Jan the ingredients, tells her what a wonderful person she is, and then washes the pans or puts things away in the dish washer which he will then empty too. He's also in charge of the salads and even made a palatable pea soup. Marty also enjoys harvesting rime ice for the social hour which precedes dinner. Rime ice martinis, shaken not stirred, with a few olives are a summit treat. We make it a point to get outside every day to explore the summit, peering into the Tip-Top House, walking past the Yankee building, trekking on the Auto Road and watching the incredible ice and snow formations.

The wind is a powerful presence, howling in from the west and ripping off hoods from under goggles. We have seen a pulsating moon, sun dogs in the sky, learned to read a Hays chart, watched horizontal snow streak across a lit tower at night, experienced wind chills of more than 20 below, watched the hues at sunset, seen at least two different red foxes and gotten a wondrous glimpse into the lives of many dedicated, enthusiastic and hard-working people.

Not too shabby indeed.

Observer Note: In addition to now being one of our summit volunteers, Marty Basch is the editor of Windswept, our quarterly publication for members.

Marty Basch and Jan Duprey – Summit Volunteers

23:17 Mon Dec 7th

Back in October, it seemed like winter was getting an early start. On October 13 and 14 we measured a total of 8.3 inches of snow. The crew that tried to come up the mountain on the 14th for shift change discovered drifts several feet deep on the Auto Road, forcing us to use the Cog Railway for transportation. By the end of October, that phantom start to winter seemed so far in the past. November proved to be an extremely warm month (see my comment from a couple days ago) and when my shift left the mountain on November 25, there wasn't a single bit of snow to be found anywhere on the summit.

Luckily winter has finally set in during the past week or so, and looks to be here to stay. After a warm storm with rain a few days ago, we have seen temperatures in the teens and single digits since late Friday. Including what snow has fallen so far today, we have measured over 10 inches since Saturday. In fact, we have now collected the precipitation can 10 times in a row. That's 10, 6 hour periods in a row where we have had at least some snowfall. I will be collecting the can coming up here at 12:30 a.m., and that will make 11.

A storm is brewing for Wednesday. It looks like it could a pretty significant storm and, at this time, it appears that precipitation will fall as mainly snow on the summits. Behind that storm, it gets wicked cold. Temperatures by this coming weekend will drop below zero for the first time this season. It's going to get windy too with gusts likely exceeding the century mark by late Thursday and into Friday.

The other shift will be able to tell you what ends up happening since we will be leaving on Wednesday. It seems that the other shift has been getting all the fun weather these days. Hopefully when I return to the mountain on December 30 after a vacation (I'm going skiing in Utah and Wyoming and then off to see my dad in California), things will flip around and we will get to see some high winds and cold temperatures!

Brian Clark – Observer and Meteorologist

19:36 Sun Dec 6th

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Toolin' 'round!

The weather certainly has taken a turn towards winter in the past two weeks. Last week started with the highest wind seen this year at 137 mph and now nearing the end of the first week of December, temperatures have dropped to the single digits with winds approaching 80 mph. It seems that winter has finally arrived and with any luck is here to stay. As Brian mentioned in a previous comment, our 12-12 schedule allows us both time to get outside while the sun is still around - a nice change from the 5:30 to 5:30 schedule where we begin and end in the dark nowadays. With this, I have been able to get out to the East snowfields a couple times this week to snowboard and practice some general mountaineering skills. It sure is great to be back on the snow again! It makes travel a bit quicker at times, not having to rock hop so much as just kick steps up a snowfield.

Another pro to ending my shift and going pretty much directly to bed is that I have several free and uninterrupted hours before my shift begins the next day. Normally my shift ends at 5:30, but dinner quickly comes around at 7:00, punctuating whatever activity I may be doing. By the time dinner is done, it is only a couple hours before I'm tired and go to bed to wake before the sun again. With this amount of allocated free time, I have been spending a good amount of time this week beginning to learn Russian. As some may recall, we had two folks from the island of Solovki in Russia visit the Obs for two weeks during the end of October and beginning of November, 2008. Learning Russian is my first step in my quest to go visit them on their home turf, hopefully sometime next summer. Travel to Russia is a bit more involved than other countries I have visited, so I'm sure it will be an adventure of some sort! I just want to be prepared to make it a safe adventure (kind of reminds me of climbing in that respect). Besides that, I spent a bit of time constructing an area to 'tool around' in. As one can imagine, it can be difficult at times to get exercise when wind chills are dangerously low and visibility is next to nothing. To counteract this, I added a few 'features' to the ceiling and wall outside the weather room in the tower. With these, I can hang on one feature with an ice tool while trying to move to another, do pull-ups, or whatever else seems interesting. It is easily accessible and so can be done for just a couple minutes after an observation, not detracting much from work time. I'd be willing to be it actually enhances work production and I'm sure my strength for climbing!

Mike Finnegan – IT Observer

10:40 Sat Dec 5th

Things have been a little 'off' this shift. For starters, Marty the cat hasn't been around because he went down the mountain on Wednesday to go see the vet. Luckily it's nothing too serious; he has been scratching and licking his back excessively and this has caused it to become a bit raw. He has been staying with the other shift's intern, Mary Ellen, and will be returning to the summit today. Also, Ryan, who usually works the overnight shift of observations, is on vacation this shift. In his absence, Mike Finnegan and I have been working very different shift than usual. I work from midnight to noon and Mike works from noon to midnight. This way, both of us are up for part of the day (so we can communicate and work with valley staff) and I am still able to do Distance Learning programs.

Normally after the end of a month, Ryan likes to write a comment summarizing the weather data for the month that has just passed. Since he won't be back until December 16, I figured I would take an opportunity to do that in his stead. Ryan is good at finding a way to creatively express this data. Unfortunately, I am not, so I will be presenting November's weather data in a much more factual (and probably boring) way.

If you live in the northeast, it is no mystery that November was a very warm month. Here on the mountain the average temperature for the month was 27.7 degrees, which is a whopping 7.1 degrees above average. The highest temperature recorded for the month was 48 degrees and the lowest was 5. Despite that very high deviation from average, only one daily record high was broken (47 degrees on the 14th) and one was equaled (48 degrees on the 15th). There were several other days that we came within just a few degrees of tying or breaking a daily record.

Snowfall for the month was 32.0 inches and liquid precipitation totaled 8.11 inches. Those numbers are 8.8 inches and 2.38 inches below normal, respectively. Those numbers are also very deceiving too. As of the 26th of the month, a paltry 5.5 inches of snow had been measured along with 3.87 inches of liquid. The coastal storm that pounded the summit last weekend added 24.4 inches of snow in just two days.

Of course, I wouldn't dream of leaving out some statistics about the wind for November. Overall, it was a rather calm month with an average wind speed of 32.9 mph, 12.3 mph below average. The peak wind gust was 137 mph on the 28th, during the same storm that brought all the snow I just mentioned. This also happens to be the highest wind recorded since March of 2008.

There is a lot more I could share with you, but those are the most interesting statistics. If you're interested in more, you can always look at our monthly F6 records.

Brian Clark – Observer and Meteorologist

20:03 Thu Dec 3rd

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Summit Buildings At Dusk

Yesterday was shift change and with my time here on the summit drawing to an end I couldn't have been more excited about getting back on the mountain. My excitement was due to several different things, but chief among them was the possibility of a snow tractor ride! As we were loading the van and chaining tires there was a bit of chatter about the snow tractor. So, as any snow-tractor-ride-desiring person, I thought that we would SURELY pile into the snow tractor at the half-way point where it was parked. We began our ascent with Wayne Pederson, our snow tractor driver, using the truck to plow the drifts of snow. As we started to near tree-line, I was overwhelmed with joy, for the snow tractor was only minutes away! Finally we reached half-way, the snow tractor came into view and then quickly fell out of view as we barreled along. For a second, I thought that everyone else was crazy. There was NO WAY we were going to make it to the summit with chains and a snow plow. After a few minutes of stewing and feeling violated, I came to my senses. Everyone else clearly knew better, after all, I'm the intern AND I'm from the South! I am clueless in comparison. I wish I could tell you that we got a little further up the road and had to turn around and get in the snow tractor but unfortunately I can't. We made it to the summit without incident thanks to Wayne's plowing skills and Ken Rancourt's big-chained-van driving prowess.

As you may know, the end of last week provided some very exciting weather for Steve, Stacey, Mike C. and Mary Ellen. After seeing only a few inches of snow in November, approximately 24 inches fell in 48 hours, 18.5 in. on Friday and 5.9 in. on Saturday. This one event brought our remarkably low November snow-fall total to 32 inches, which is just a bit shy of the November average of 40.4 in.

A low pressure system from the southwest has been making its way through the region over the last 24 hours and we have received a small amount of rain, but temperatures have risen above the freezing point, causing some of the snow to melt. This morning, as is the custom, I went out to the front entrance of the Sherman Adams building to clear the snow out of the enclosed area where we load and unload on our shift change. (Note: It's crucial that the snow is removed every 24 hours (sometimes more frequently) so that it doesn't become compacted and impossible to shovel.) After only shoveling for 15 or 20 minutes I could feel my back becoming sore from the heavy loads of snow/slush/water I was picking up. After about 30 minutes, having made little progress, I returned to the warmth of the weather room feeling defeated. While I was shoveling I remember wishing I had a wheel-barrow to move the snow instead of shoveling the same snow two or three times as I moved it outside. Sensing my frustration, Mike told me about a nifty little thing that's found in many homes and businesses in regions where snow actually accumulates, unlike my home! Anyway, this "nifty little thing" is made of plastic with a steel blade and a steel handle which allows you to scoop snow, or in this case slush and lots of water, and push it wherever it needs to go! Of course, I was excited because I like discovering new tools and learning how to use them and because this particular tool would make my task MUCH easier. So, I decided that this "snow/slush/water-barrow" needed a name and I decided to call "Abel" after Abel Crawford who in 1891 began blazing a trail (actually a bridle path) to the summit of Mt. Washington. In 1791 Abel and his wife, Hannah became the first settlers of the majestic mountain pass north of Hart's Location, which was named Crawford Notch in honor of the Crawfords. As a pioneer, I think Abel might have had a bit of experience in snow removal.

Note: The photo in the comment with the caption "Summit Buildings At Dusk" was produced using a post-processing technique called HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range. This processing method allows you to combine many different shots, each with different exposure times, to produce one image that more accurately recreates what the human eye sees. For more of my HDR images, check out my Flickr Photostream.

Will Tourtellot – Summit Intern

13:38 Wed Dec 2nd

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Registration for Seek the Peak 10 is officially open!

New England's premier hiking event and the largest annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Mount Washington Observatory, Seek the Peak 10 will be held July 23-24, 2010. This 10th annual hike-a-thon will feature a number of exciting new additions, including:

- A new and improved registration process

- A special 10th anniversary premium package (available for purchase) featuring a short-sleeved wicking hiking shirt in both men's and women's sizes (and yes, you can still get the classic cotton tee for free!)

- Expanded hours for Friday night registration (you don't have to wait until 5 anymore!)

- A new and improved Friday night kick-off party at the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center with food, drinks, fun activities for the entire family and lots of free parking!

- An all-new Friday night kick-off concert featuring a rockin' national recording artist (details coming soon!)

- A new and improved after party featuring expanded hours, an awesome new menu (yes, there will be a vegetarian option this year!), and plenty of things to see and do before and after dinner

Thanks to an awesome response to last year's survey, we're rolling out these new additions and much, much more to make Seek the Peak 10 the biggest and best Seek the Peak ever!

Check out the schedule page and register today!

Cara Rudio – Marketing and Communications Coordinator

09:22 Tue Dec 1st

photo - see caption below
Me on Deck!

It is my observation that MWO operates on the maxim 'Waste not, want not'. Someone is always in the process of figuring out how to do something with what is on hand. This is also the guiding principle in the observatory kitchen. Volunteers are encouraged to use up ingredients that are about to expire, the crew and volunteer make every effort to eat any leftovers, and recycling is the order of the day. Early in this volunteer week I was asked to do something with some bananas that were rapidly ageing. I like my bananas ripe, well freckled, but these were beyond that. What to do? Banana bread is an option, but I think an overly used one. So, off to the internet for some recipe research. I found one that looked promising, Banana/Blueberry Muffins. But the recipe called for some ingredients that weren't on the summit. After checking the inventory for what was available, adjusting for cooking at 6,288 feet, and applying some insight based on fif-many years of cooking experience, I came up with the following recipe:

100 MPH Banana/Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins A great way to use up very ripe bananas Set oven to 400 F

3/4 cup white flour 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 1/4 cup rolled oats 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 teaspoons baking power 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl

2 mashed bananas 1/2 cup milk 1 egg 2 tablespoons canola or other cooking oil 2 teaspoons lemon juice 3/4 cup blueberries - fresh or frozen (if frozen,kept frozen until added)

Combine all wet ingredients except blueberries in a bowl and mix well

Add dry ingredients to the wet, mix until just combined Add blueberries and fold into batter

Spray muffin tin with cooking spray - don't use the paper muffin cups

Bake 18-20 minutes until toothpick test comes out clean.

The name of the recipe was also adjusted since, while baking the second batch, by popular demand, the wind was continually gusting to over 100 mph. The vent hood over the range was sure loud. Thanks to the wonderful new range, the guesswork has gone from baking on the summit. The muffins came out very nicely here. I think the recipe will work well at lower altitudes as well. You might want to add a couple of tablespoons more of the sugar,. Others comments have documented the exciting storm we had this week. I would just add that words can not fully describe the experience of being outside in 100+ mph winds. It was certainly worth giving a week of work to have the opportunity to be here for the storm.

Rob Jones – Summit Volunteer

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