Reflections of a Winter First Timer

2012-02-29 23:18:07.000 – Hilary Clark,  Summit Volunteer

German Students in their snow cave.

My father, a 1940’s weather observer, always told me that Mt. Washington was a place of extremes and that held true for my first time volunteering here in the winter. This volunteer shift was unusual because I was solo, though one of the German students helped me each day. In addition, instead of a one or two day overnight group, the German students would be here for the first half of my week. I would be cooking for 17 people, three times a day. And add to that an additional 8 for lunch on Thursday when a group of VIP’s visited. Plus a day trip on Monday. I was a bit anxious about my ability to coordinate the feeding of so many people.

Now that I am nearing the end of my week, I am proud to say that I met each challenge without being more than 5 minutes late putting a meal on the table. Cooking may not sound like an important part of the Mount Washington Observatory experience, but as with every other part of being on the Rock-pile, it is an essential part. Did I mention extremes – there were extremes of numbers – between 5-25 for a meal in a small space, extremes of quantities of food – gallons of one ingredient and none of the next, extremes of weather that sent the German students down a day early and changed a few meal times to an hour earlier with only 5 minutes’ notice. These are not complaints, these are statements of what life on the summit can be like. And it’s one of the many reasons I have loved my time up here.

Other reasons I will be sure to sign up to volunteer in winter again: Wind chills of -54F, 120 mile visibility, 0 miles visibility, winds of 111 mph, rime ice, brilliant red sunrises reflecting off the Atlantic, the howling winds, brilliant sunlight, and crystal clear night stars. Every time I look outside, I am struck by the beauty all around. And of course, I have enjoyed the friendliness of Steve, Rick, Mike, Brian and Marty.

Lastly, the photo attached to this comment is of the the snow cave built, and slept in, by some of the German students. I was unable to negotiate the high winds and limited visibility to the cave so they graciously escorted me to and from their nighttime home. Although it was a co-ed group, please notice that I only saw the girls building and sleeping in the cave.


Hilary Clark,  Summit Volunteer

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