My Perspective of Being a Summit Volunteer

2019-09-06 12:20:54.000 – Carol Anderson, Summit Volunteer


I have been a summit volunteer for 3 years and I love it. I have been on the rockpile in every season. I have been a co-volunteer with people I did not know and people I did know, and I have gone solo. It is an awesome experience. Never have two shifts been the same — different weather, different schedule, different staff, different food, different visitors. You never know what you will get. But the one consistency is the great fun and immense satisfaction of being a shift member even if only for one week and in a volunteer role.

If you are a newbie, your nerves are a mess on the night before shift change and even more so on shift change morning. Will you get to the meeting location on time? Do you have the right equipment? Clothing? Too much, too little? Will you be sent home right away? Not to worry. If you follow the list and guidelines, you have the right equipment. If you bring extra food, great. If you don’t, that’s ok as well. The kitchen and pantry are well stocked. The internet has unlimited recipes and there is a whole bookcase full of cookbooks. If you are a veteran, your nerves are calmer but still there is that niggling feeling of “what if I really fail this time?”

Now you are on your way up the mountain. For a newbie, it seems like everyone knows each other and, of course, the observers/intern(s)/museum attendant do. If you are a veteran, you may know some of the shift members but maybe not all of them. You may or may not know your co-volunteer. Not to worry, soon you become an integral part of the team.

You arrive at the summit and there is a whirlwind of activity. The upgoing luggage and food get offloaded from the van/truck/snow cat and the down going luggage and trash loaded onto the van/truck/snow cat. Newbies are bewildered while veterans know the routine and immediately step in to help. You are directed to the living quarters where you meet the down going volunteers. They are anxious to leave. Their week is over. Not to worry. They help you with stowing all the items brought up for your shift. They show you around and point out anything they think is important to know. They show you any leftovers that may exist or food they have prepared to help you start your week. Soon they are gone. You are on your own. Not to worry. If you are a newbie, your shift leader meets with you to do an orientation. Veterans immediately go into action with planning the week. Always know that the observers and interns can help you with any problems you might encounter.

You are assigned a bunk room. You make your bed, set out your sleeping bag, set out what you think you will need immediately. You change into lighter clothing since the living quarters can be warm. You start to think about what you will prepare for the first night’s dinner. If the previous volunteers left you something to work with, you have a head start. If not and if there is nothing defrosted, you need to pull something from the freezer ASAP and it must be something that can be defrosted in time. Or you can make breakfast for dinner. The observers/interns LOVE breakfast for dinner. If not on the first night, any night is good for “brinner.”

You rummage through the pantry and freezers to see what food is available. You make sure you know about any allergies. Maybe you ask if there are any aversions to any particular food. You want to prepare food your shift members will enjoy. You make a tentative plan for each day so you know what and when to defrost food. You are welcome to make breakfast and/or lunch for the staff but you are not required to do so and, because of their shifting schedules, it is hard to coordinate. The staff gathers together for dinner which you ARE required to prepare. You make enormous dinners because they LOVE leftovers for lunch the next day.

You make lots of cookies and brownies during the week. They prefer cookies and brownies because they can grab one (two, three?) on the go more easily than a piece of cake. They are constantly on the move.

If you have guests, you are very busy. For overnight guests, it means preparing the bunk rooms. For an EduTrip, you prepare snacks, lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch. For a hiking group, you prepare snacks, dinner and breakfast. You may also have to prepare lunch for VIP guests or a day trip group.

Despite the dinners, cookies, overnight and day visit guest responsibilities, you have plenty of time to go out and enjoy the summit. The views can be spectacular. If you want solitude, you volunteer in the winter, or you go out early morning or in the evening when the summit is not crawling with tourists/hikers. Meeting tourists/hikers can also be a lot of fun. Imagine the looks you get when you say you live on the summit for a week and then you get to explain all about the observatory?

You may be a bit overwhelmed the first night, but you easily fall into a routine and you easily integrate with the staff. By the end of the week, you become one of the staff. If you are lucky, maybe you have even become BFF with Marty. Not to worry if that doesn’t happen. Marty is a cat — enough said? Come time for shift change, you are the one who is anxious to leave. You are tired. But you are already be thinking about your next stint as a summit volunteer. What might you do differently? Next time will be so much easier. Maybe. But maybe you won’t have enough eggs. But maybe there won’t be any potatoes. But maybe you will run out of milk. Not to worry. Just like with the weather, you adapt to whatever happens.


Carol Anderson, Summit Volunteer

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