2008-04-17 07:06:33.000 – Summit Volunteer, Summit Volunteer
Has Wednesday come so soon and my 8-day volunteer shift at the Mt.Washington Observatory really come to an end? Many of my friends, all of whom seem ecstatic to see winter snows finally retreat, looked at me as if I were crazy as I described packing for this week… crampons, ice axe, snowshoes, goggles, overmitts, winter gloves, balaclava, 3 layers of -20 winter clothing.. Winter is over, isn’t it?? Well, the calendar may indicate spring has arrived but I traveled back in season here at the home of some of the world’s worst weather. And Mt.Washington did not disappoint. I needed every piece of winter gear I packed!!
Most of the week saw 40-60mph winds, including a 90mph gust while I was on the observation deck. That gust literally picked me up and moved me sideways even though I had been braced for the somewhat milder 70mph gusts. I missed the 118mph gust on April 12th, the anniversary of the record wind here at the summit. It did wake me from a sound sleep however! The view here most of the week was a typical day in the White Mountains of New Hampshire – 10ft of grey!! Strong winds, limited visibility, freezing fog, snow, sleet and even an 8hour period where over 12” of rime ice magically grew.
The crew up here works some long days, in some of the most stressful weather conditions. A couple days, they were up at dawn and I wouldn’t see them again until dinner at 7pm. They are outside, in ALL conditions, de-icing instruments, collecting and measuring what ever form of moisture has made its way to the summit. They are answering calls about summit conditions, preparing daily forecasts, testing new data collection gear to see if it will really work in this harsh environment. The work never ends. And of course, there’s the new Summit team member, Marty, who joined the crew when Nin retired this fall. I will admit, I didn’t vote for Marty, but now that I’ve met him, I’ve come to appreciate his exuberant spirit and his playful willingness to help. He seems to me a purr-fect choice for summit feline.
Why do I volunteer here? Partly because the Observatory crew is always so friendly, appreciative and welcoming. Partly because it’s good for you to help and volunteer your time (The Observatory is a non-profit organization). But mainly, I come here, because the summit of Mt.Washington is an extraordinary place, and every now and then (actually twice in the 24 days I’ve volunteered on the summit), you are blessed with a glorious, sunny day and you find a place out of the wind, and enjoy a vista of extraordinary beauty… that is… as long as you have your 3 layers of winter gear, goggles, crampons, face mask, overmitts…
Summit Volunteer, Summit Volunteer