Observations/Notes From Betty Olivolo, First-Time Winter Volunteer!

2013-01-29 12:52:48.000 – Betty Olivolo,  Summit Volunteer

Day 1— Most amazing for me on my first day were the temps and wind– 35 below, 70 mph wind, wind chill 86 below!! We had lots of TV/radio stations calling us, and got on Channel 5 Boston.

Day 2— There were even higher winds today with even more amazing visibility! Staff were very busy with media–we were live on CNN and Channel 7 in Boston! Hilary (my friend and cookmate) and I tried going up into the tower to see out, but only managed to poke out heads out the door. We were very careful to have no exposed skin. Mike, the intern, asked me to videotape him trying to walk around with the high winds! Pretty scary stuff–thought for a few moments we were going to lose him!!

Day 3— Today (Friday) was a pretty tame day–temps got up to about zero, light winds, with still amazing visibility! We were so lucky! So that meant we got up for a beautiful sunrise. Even Marty joined us! Then we got busy cooking for our EDUtrip of 5, plus two leaders– their study topic is glaciers. At 1pm, I had a video interview with my cousin Jessica’s 4th grade class in my home town, Northwood, NH. I couldn’t see them, but they could see me, and they had lots of really great questions. My college roommate from many years ago, also teaches at the school, and she sat in on the interview. Such fun!

Day 4— In late morning today, I joined the EDUtrip for a grand tour of the weather room by Brian, the Education Specialist (and weather observer with a degree in Environmental Education!!). I learned that the observers take hourly measurements, and have been doing that since 1932 (24 hours a day by humans, not just by instruments). They create models for forecasting and do a 36-hr forecast. The staff includes a Director of Research who is a climatologist and also a professor at Plymouth State University where I did my undergrad degree. Also interesting that 60% of the time the summit is in fog with poor visibility. We have been sooooo lucky!! In the winter, the winds are strongest, every other day over 73 mph (hurricane force). Mt. Everest gets less extreme weather because they are above the clouds/weather. But here they experience less climate change, and think it’s because they are so often in the clouds, which acts like an insulating blanket.

Day 5— We had a big group of 14 for the day, including Slim the driver, Cyrena, Director of Summit Operations, and Dr. Peter Crane, Obs Curator (you can read about them on the website). We made carrot curry soup, tuna melts, homemade oatmeal molasses bread, and roasted potatoes with cookies for dessert. Great to hear the interesting stories and information from long-timer Dr. Crane! In the afternoon with amazing visibility and wind chill only 38 below, we decided to get our gear on and venture outside for some exercise. We figured fighting the 70 mph gusts was good exercise. Hilary decided it was important for me to have my photo taken at the Mt Washington Summit sign. It was quite treacherous getting there, even though it was only about 30 feet away–ice, wind, and rocks. Then we went to the tower and had fun crawling around in the strong winds to see what we could withstand (withcrawl)!!

Incredible week so far–I feel blessed to be a part of this pile of rocks. It’s like living in a little bit of heaven!

–Betty Olivolo is a semi-retired teacher and environmental educator.


Betty Olivolo,  Summit Volunteer

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