Saturday Shift Change

2010-05-08 22:42:36.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Volunteer John Pearson captures the 1st cog of ’10

Another Saturday, another successful shift change. Wait, something doesn’t sound right in the previous sentence. If you frequently read our comments or have volunteered up here, the problem is probably obvious. The problem lies in the word “Saturday”. I have nothing against Saturday, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t normally belong in that sentence. For the two shifts that work on the summit, Wednesdays normally mark the start/end of our work week while Saturdays normal mark the middle of the week, not the start/end of it like it did today. It tends to be our “hump day” as some refer to Wednesday as being. But not this week as we are swapping shifts.

As the other shift referenced in other observer comments this week, both shifts are roughly working a week and a half each. So since we swapped today, it meant we just ended our extended week off and started our extended work week on. This isn’t the longest I have been off the summit (that would be 5 weeks) nor is it the longest I have been on the summit (that would be 3 weeks). But those were always full shift weeks on or off not partial weeks on or off. A partial week, at least for me, feels odd. Routine things become shifted and the world around me feels off kilter. But luckily it never takes long to get back into a normal groove after a few internal memos of “Hey it’s xxxxday, not xxxxday. We don’t do that today.” It’s shift weeks like this where post-it notes as well as a calendar on the wall go a long way in keeping things in order.

But our shift in work schedule doesn’t just affect us but it affects our volunteer this week as well. Our volunteers over this time of transition are still working the normal Wednesday to Wednesday schedule. As a result, John Pearson, our volunteer this week, is getting a rare privilege that most volunteers never get to do: work with both shifts in one week. When we normally do our Wednesday to Wednesday work week, the summit volunteer comes up with a single shift, stays the week with them and then goes back down with them. The only interaction the volunteers normally get with the opposite shift are some brief interactions on Wednesdays shift change. But this week, John got half a week with the other shift and now a half week with us. So he gets the best of both worlds in a week’s time instead of waiting an entire season to return for another week with the opposite shift they worked with.

And speaking of seasons, the shift from winter to summer (I don’t think spring really exists on Mt Washington) was evident in a few additional ways today since I last commented about them during our last shift. One of them was coming to the summit in our 4×4 van with chains on it; the first trip for up for our shift without the use of the Bombardier snow tractor this season. This not only makes the trip up and down that much quicker but it also means a smoother ride which means my Dramamine dose can now get cut in half making me feel less diminished when I arrive at the summit. It also means we can start stocking our summit gift shop soon. This also means our shift will be expanding by one as a museum attendant arrives for the summer. We will also be adding two summer interns as well with the first arriving this Wednesday as our boss Ken drives her up during the volunteer shift change. But, it should be noted that just because we made it up in the van doesn’t mean the road is open for private autos to the summit quite yet. The Mount Washington Auto Road is still working on clearing snow and drainage ditches above tree line with a week or two to go. But the road is operating to half way currently with more information on exact summit opening dates available on their website:

On the opposite side of the mountain however, another mode of transportation has begun operating to the summit during the weekends it seems. Today the first passenger Cog Train made it to the summit. The first one arrived around 11:30 am with a second one arriving around 2:30. Being early in the season with sub par weather, the trains weren’t completely full but the guests that did arrive seemed pleased with their trip. If this is an option you are interested in using to take up to the summit, more information can be found at their website: So, I guess it is only a matter of time until our webcams capture a passing train and declare a winner for our forum members “First Cog Contest.”

To think, a week and a half ago when we headed down, we were still using the snow tractor with 20 inches of new snow on the ground. The auto road was still closed. The cog was only going to half way. And summer still felt like a ways away. Flash forward to today and we arrived in a van with just some ice on the ground. The auto road is open to halfway. The cog is now going all the way to the summit. And summer feels like it is at our doorstep. And while a lot can happen in the following week and a half from now, we will be seeing a new intern starting as well as seeing the Sherman Adams Building possibly open (see NH State Parks website for more details though). A signal that summer is all but here. Now, if only we could get some summer-like temperatures and weather to put us all in a better frame of mind. But we did switch shifts with the so-called “good weather shift” so maybe our time for nice weather is just around the corner.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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