2010-09-22 16:34:10.000 – Dick Pollock and Ellin Leonard, Summit Volunteers
The day our volunteer shift started we proceeded up the Auto Rd in the Observatory van with the knowledge that at some point we would probably meet icy conditions and have to ‘chain up’ in order to make the last leg of the trip safely. At a little over six miles we began to see the first snow of the season and we slowed to evaluate road conditions. Our driver, Ken Rancourt, who has driven the road for many years in all conditions, sensed the need to stop and as efficiently as any Nascar pit crew the upbound observers had chains on the front wheels and on we went uneventfully to the summit.
We didn’t know it at the time but this was our introduction to carefully thought out procedures that insure the safety of Observatory staff and volunteers on the mountain. We had an inkling that safety was a concern when we received our clothing list months ago telling us to bring clothing that would allow us to be outside in adverse conditions if we needed to abandon our summit bound chariot for any reason.
Once on the summit a tour of the facilities and safety review took place. If we might have had any reason to take the review lightly the trip up had gotten our full attention. In the days ahead we were to encounter weather conditions that if not taken seriously could have been deadly. The procedures and the vigilance of the observatory staff was out assurance and insurance that the risks could be managed and extreme weather could be experienced in a controlled and relatively risk free way.
So we were able to experience snow, rime ice, 50-70 mph winds and wind chill temps in the teens all the while knowing that we were in an environment where safety was not given lip service but was practiced religiously ! For that we are thankful !!
Dick Pollock and Ellin Leonard, Summit Volunteers