Marooned

2009-02-09 11:05:46.000 – Stacey Kawecki,  Observer

Marooned, and happy about it!

There comes a time when a wise snow cat operator must make a decision: to continue on or to turn around. It takes a brave soul to turn around. That may sound counter-intuitive, but allow me to explain.

When winds are howling, sustained over 90 mph and gusting well over 100 mph, and fog engulfs the summits, visibility is extremely limited. The winds can make drifts of ten feet with two inches of snow. As the Snow Cat plunges into the depths of the snow drifts, the high winds lift the light snow and suddenly the tractor is encompassed in a mass of swirling snow, much like how Buttercup vanishes into the Lightning Sand in the fire swamp (The Princess Bride).

Continuing to the summit would, on first instinct, seem to be the braver of the two choices. However, continuing would also be a poor decision. What if the tractor gets stuck, or if he continues and gets to a point where he can’t even turn around? It’s too windy for us to go outside and perform a rescue. It’s similar to the idea that walking away from a fight is the more responsible, mature thing to do. If the operator decides to turn around, there are a few consequences. First, if he is bringing a trip to the summit, well, they don’t get to the summit. No cake, no coffee, just a cold trip in the back of a snow tractor. If the operator is retrieving a trip, well, the trip gets to stay an extra night, ‘free baseball, extra innings’ as one participant put it.

Sometimes, an extra night on the summit might wear upon the staff and volunteers. Extra cooking, cleaning, and entertaining. Not to mention squeezing 17 people around three tables and trying to not be offended by the smell of un-showered observers, interns, volunteers, and guests. By Monday, we’re pretty ripe. I am pleased to say that even though extra cooking and cleaning, and smelling was required, it was worth it. The group has been absolutely amazing, helping with cooking (Mr. Fresolone made an excellent pasta sauce last night), helping with our weekly web blog (Thanks!), or just hanging out and being tossed by the wind out on the deck. Thanks to all for making your stay especially enjoyable for we staffers.

 

Stacey Kawecki,  Observer

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