Day One on the Rock Pile

2011-10-11 17:26:55.000 – Al Coviello,  Summit Volunteer

Rimed Summit Overlooks Valley Foliage


There were several basic first questions on my mind as I approached the sojourn to the Summit: What would the trip to the top be like? How quickly could I adapt to the environment, the surroundings, and the routines? What would be the crew’s reaction to a newbie volunteer? Since I had never been on the summit of Mount Washington, let alone serving as a volunteer for a full week, I did feel a bit of trepidation.

On October 5, 2011, I arrive at the prescribed launch pad — the employee parking lot at the base of the Mountain — with my over-stuffed duffel bag and my way-to-heavy day pack. Weather at the base was fairly nice, but the forecast is for low temperatures, high winds, and rime at the top. So here I am waiting — dressed in my synthetic (not cotton) long underwear; my non-cotton turtle neck shirt and nylon trousers (no cotton jeans, thank you.); my rain and wind proof over-pants and jacket (including fleece liner); my tight fitting snow cap; and my insulated, rain proof gloves — for the adventure to begin. The crew arrives, the van appears, and we’re on an eight mile drive to my Fall Foliage Adventure. NOT QUITE!

Because of the rime on the mountain, the road is closed. Thus we are stopped at the four mile marker and do a Chinese fire-drill routine to put chains on the van. We’re off again and all is well. We reach the top. Before I know what is happening the van doors are opened, the crew bails out, the temperature is about 40 degrees colder, and the wind is howling at about a million mph (actually about 50-55 mph). Anyway, we’re out of the van and form a ‘fire brigade’ line to unload our gear, food, and other supplies into the building before the wind blows everything, including us, to Mt. Madison.

We immediately stow the gear, store the food supplies, meet with the departing crew, join in on a staff meeting, have a safety tour, and wave good-bye to the departing crew and civilization recently enjoyed. I now have some time to catch my breath, collect my thoughts, and generally organize myself. NOT QUITE!

The morning has been a whirlwind (literally) of activity and the afternoon is a blur. No time yet to compose my thoughts or organize myself as other priorities are calling. Since my primary function is to prepare dinner for the crew, I need to take stock of the stock in the stockroom and thus determine what is available to prepare. WOW! Hot and sweet Italian sausages in the freezer. Pasta by the tons. Ingredients for pasta sauce (gravy if you’re from NY or NJ) on the shelves. Salad fixins in the refrigerator. Ripening bananas for nut breads in a bowl. Sounds like an Italian meal. I’m of Italian ancestry. Seems like a good match!

It is now 6:00 PM. Dinner is on the table and the crew is at the table with forks at the ready. Now I can sit; look at the crew; and say, ‘What are your names again?’ ‘OK, got ’em: Steve, Mike, Rick, Kevin, and Erin.’ Dinner is over and everyone pitches in to help clean up.

A few end-of-the-day chores and the crew is off to be (except for Mike who has the 5:00 PM to 5:00 AM shift) as they begin Day 2 around 5:00 AM. As for me, a routine is a routine so I must solve a Sudoku puzzle, work a crossword puzzle, and read a few pages before sleep time. What a great Day 1!


Al Coviello,  Summit Volunteer

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