From Mount Washington to Antarctica

By Charlotte Markey

What do Antarctica and the summit of Mount Washington have in common besides weather? Having worked as support staff for both locations, I can tell you there are plenty of commonalities. In fact, volunteering at “the rockpile” helped me land a job in Antarctica!

I have been fascinated with Mount Washington ever since I climbed Tuckerman when I was in my early twenties. As years passed, my husband and I took the children to Bartlett to vacation once or twice a year and enjoyed our pilgrimage to Jackson Falls, Pinkham Notch, and Mt. Washington. Even if the weather didn’t allow us to travel up, we still would go to the parking lot across from the auto road and the children would “summit” the big boulder there. We have pictures of the children on the top of that boulder documenting each year’s growth! We just loved the beauty that is Mt. Washington.

Charlotte during sunset in February.

Twelve years ago, my family gave me an overnight on the summit as a birthday gift. It was the most incredible adventure! I saw behind the scenes, met meteorologists and observers, and I even got to meet and play with Marty (the summit cat before the now-famous Nimbus). Upon returning home, I immediately became a member and enjoyed reading about the weather and happenings with the organization. I learned that there were many volunteer roles to help MWOBS including helping on the summit!

A few years ago, I was in between jobs and decided to volunteer on the summit. I was eager to help as support staff by making dinners for the meteorologists, doing light housekeeping, being a museum docent, and helping at the retail shop. The schedule has two volunteers go up on Wednesdays to change the staff. It is an incredible experience.

Shortly after my first week of volunteering, I read about opportunities to work in Antarctica! It never occurred to me that, similar to meteorologists on the summit, scientists in Antarctica need people to make meals, run the retail shop at McMurdo Station, and hold other support staff positions.

In my past life, I was a Special Education Teacher and Girl Scout Camp Director. I decided to apply for positions with United States Antarctic Program (USAP), which needed workers to hold positions like the ones I performed on the summit. I listed all of them on the volunteer section of my résumé.

A hiring manager contacted me, and we had a Zoom interview shortly afterwards. He had a lot of questions about my volunteering experience on the summit. I explained that I was about to volunteer in February, and would have to ride up the mountain in a snowcat. I also told him that volunteers must work in the summer before being offered a winter position because in the winter, it’s not always possible to get down if you decide that you don’t like spending a week at 6,288 feet! A few days later, I was hired to go to Antarctica at McMurdo Station to work as their retail clerk.

Antarctica, 2023.

Last October, I went to McMurdo. I worked there for three weeks and unfortunately developed COVID and had to be brought to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand. I recovered quickly but once you are off the ice…you’re off the ice. It was an amazing experience with a sad ending.

Luckily, I’m healthy and I will be applying again in the future! In the meantime, I’m back volunteering on the summit. Antarctica was spectacular and I’m so lucky to have stepped foot on the continent. I believe that my experience as a volunteer with MWOBS helped me to get there.

This week, I was joined by volunteer Margaret Brumsted, who I met volunteering last year at the Observatory and is my volunteer buddy (and who has also been to Antarctica!). We hosted the descendants of the three men who recorded the highest wind ever measured by a human on Mount Washington. This week marked the 90th anniversary of the “Big Wind”, measuring 231 m.p.h.! What an honor it was to meet them. We’ve also had four days of rain totaling approximately 1 ½”, wind gusts of 109 m.p.h., and as of this writing, it’s snowing! I am always in awe of Mt. Washington’s extreme, unpredictable weather! I love it here and plan on many more years of volunteering on the summit.

For more information on the MWOBS volunteer program and to get involved, visit

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