2011-04-11 23:07:05.000 – Cara Rudio, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Mount Washington never fails to deliver.
I know, that statement is a bit overdone, right? Yet every time I’m up here I’m reminded of just how true it is.
It’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator Cara Rudio here, on the summit for a few days with some special guests. We ascended the mountain on Sunday, enjoying bluebird skies, mild temps, calm winds and amazing visibility. The beautiful weather allowed us to linger outside all afternoon, taking in the views and snapping photos to our heart’s content. Most of the group had never been to the summit in winter, and although they enjoyed the stunning 360-degree vistas of snow-covered peaks, they were admittedly unimpressed by the lack of “extreme” conditions. Over dinner, jokes flew about the proported “home of the world’s worst weather”. Oh well, you can’t impress them all, right?
Fast forward to the next morning, when we awoke to the sound of loud cracks reverberating through the building. The previous day’s glorious weather had eroded into rain, fog, thunder and lightening, which we learned was striking the summit and possibly even the building. Outside in the entranceway, the snow we had walked on less than 12 hours earlier had melted into a vast sheet of ice, and a river flowed under the enclosure and across our walkway. And although the rain had completely tapered off, the brisk winds and shear ice made leaving the building nearly impossible. Literally overnight, the mountain had transformed into a foggy, eerie and desolate place, and there were reports that the snow tractor might not be able to make it up to get us.
Unable to play outside we retreated to the living room, where we discovered that the cable and internet were down. The resulting silence that filled the room was replaced by increasing winds howling through the tower and clanging down the exhaust pipes into the kitchen, where we sat and wondered what the day would hold for us. Suddenly, in a matter of hours, we had found ourselves possibly marooned and completely at the mercy of the mountain.
Lucky for us, the tractor did make it up, and the first group of guests went down and another was delivered. The upcoming visitors were decked out in their full winter regalia (as instructed), and as they stepped off the tractor they were visually disappointed by the lack of “extreme” weather that greeted them. Layers were stripped and jokes were made once again about the proported “home of the world’s worst weather.”
Fast forward to mid afternoon, when we learned that things would soon be getting interesting for us. . . We watched as the wind rose from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, and then pushed well above 90 miles per hour. Observer Steve Welsh returned from changing the precipitation can and declared that several heavy gusts had taken him sailing across the ice. Excitement grew among the group, and Observer Stacey Kawecki generously volunteered to take them into the tower so they could experience the winds if they wanted to. The majority of the group, bored from sitting in the living room all afternoon, clamored at the opportunity and got suited up.
Just a few short minutes later they returned to the weather room laughing and shouting with big eyes, excited stories and sopping wet clothes. The pressure gradient between the tower and the weather room caused by the high winds sucked the door closed behind them with a loud “WHOOSH!” and faded into a dull roar in the background.
“Did you get what you came for?” I asked as they slogged through the weather room en route to drier clothes.
“OH YEAH!” was the resounding reply.
Shortly after that things got even more exciting when we learned that the temperatures — which had lingered in the 40s for most of the day — would soon be dropping down into the teens overnight. The rain and fog that had enveloped the summit for most of the day would soon be setting up, and there was once again talk about the snow tractor not making it up the next day. We all exchanged ideas on how bad it might be, and wondered how we would fare.
Only time will tell what we wake up to in the morning, but I guess the old saying rings true: be it fair weather or foul, Mount Washington never fails to deliver.
Cara Rudio, Marketing and Communications Coordinator