Reflection On Extreme Weather

2009-09-24 13:57:11.000 – Will Tourtellot,  Summit Intern

Amazing Cloud Formations from Sept. 14th

Yesterday marked the beginning of my third week on the summit and I’m more excited than ever to be back on this mysterious mountain. Not much has happened, in the way of weather, since my last comment, except for the rime ice and 91 mph gust from this past Saturday, Sept 19th. I’m extremely jealous that Mary-Ellen Dunn, my counterpart on last week’s shift, was able to experience the first “cough” of winter! It seems that I have a penchant for experiencing extreme weather in the White Mountains. Growing up, my family and I spent our summers on Lake Winnipesaukee, so my father and I were able to make many excursions into the White Mountains. As I reflect on those experiences, I can’t help but wonder where ON EARTH we got our weather forecasts. They couldn’t have been from the M. W. Observatory because they were always wrong…VERY wrong! The weather we experienced on one specific backpacking trip, a Presidential traverse, was monumentally extreme, or at least it seemed that way at the time. I can’t be certain of the date but, after an hour or so reviewing the weather records, I’m relatively certain that June 15, 2003 was the day that will live in infamy for those of us who were on the mountain. Although I absolutely hate to admit it, we were relatively ill-prepared for what we were about to experience. After a cold, damp, windy night in the Lakes Of The Clouds Hut Emergency Shelter, aka: “The Dungeon“, we awoke to freezing temperatures, extremely low visibility and winds that would literally blow a grown man to his knees. As soon as we set out from the Hut, on our way to the summit, we realized that the weather was much more than we had bargained for. We finally made it to the summit after an exhausting one and a half mile hike that took two to three hours. As a comparison, last summer when I was the Naturalist at Lakes of The Clouds, I would make that hike with my pack-board loaded with 60+ pounds of trash in 35-40 minutes. When we reached the summit, we decided that it would be prudent to cut our trip short and not continue across the northern Presidential range to Madison Spring Hut. Rime and glaze ice had formed on all of the rocks, signs, and anything else it could stick to and our freezing cold, wet, scantily clad bodies gave us a renewed reverence for White Mountain weather. I told you this story because I know that many of you can relate, having experienced the extremes of Mount Washington, and possibly a lack of proper preparation, first hand. Experiences like this one seem miserable in the moment but, if nothing else, they tend to make great narratives and I look back on them very fondly and wouldn’t trade them for the world. So, in a nutshell, I guess that’s how I developed my “penchant” for extreme weather and I can’t wait to relish every second of it this fall!


Will Tourtellot,  Summit Intern

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