Summer intern Scott Wehrwein returns to the summit for a winter week

2009-12-29 12:13:39.000 – Scott Wehrwein,  Summit Intern

Mountain Shadow on Christmas Morning

Everything is better in the winter.

This is what I heard over and over, throughout my summer internship here. My shift was kind enough to invite me up for one more week so I could see for myself. In anticipation, I found myself building a mental list of what would go into a perfect winter week on the summit. I started checking things off this list last Wednesday, and I haven’t stopped since.

Wednesday morning saw relatively mild conditions making for a pleasant, albeit bumpy, snow tractor ride to the summit. The weather was nice enough for me to take a walk around the summit in the afternoon, and in my travels I ran into an old friend of mine. A fox, which I believe to be the same one that I saw frequently last summer, was hanging out next to the entrance to the Sherman Adams building. This fox, being more tame than most wild animals, was comfortable with me getting within a few feet to take pictures.

Christmas Eve was among the most beautiful days I’ve seen up here–warm but not melty, clear skies, and an undercast. In the summer, undercasts usually develop overnight and bubble up shortly after the sun rises, sending us into the fog. But in the winter, the sun’s lower intensity allows undercasts to last through the day. In this case, it lasted all through Christmas Eve and into the night, providing a cloud-sandwich sunset. Clear skies and a bright moon allowed me to get a nice night shot of the tower. Christmas morning, the sun rose over a slightly choppy ocean of clouds.

This pretty much exhausted my good-weather wish list, and the second half of the week has been doing its best on the bad-weather portion. Sunday’s adventures with glaze ice, described in Mike’s comment, gave me a taste of the challenges that arise around here when extreme conditions hit. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a connection to the internet. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some good quality manual labor, shoveling the A-frame and the parapet. After a day like Sunday, ‘shoveling’ is an incomplete description of the process of dislodging, breaking up, and removing huge chunks of glaze.

The only thing missing from my week thus far is some good wind, and as the shift nears its end, it looks like I won’t be disappointed. Winds are currently sustained at about 60 mph, forecast to increase throughout the afternoon, peaking sometime late in the day at 75-95 with gusts over 100. I’m pretty lucky to be on the summit for a week that has been representative of so many of the possible winter conditions. Many thanks to Stacey and Mike for having me up here for one last week, and to our volunteer Dennis for spending his Christmas week with us and preparing a lot of great food.


Scott Wehrwein,  Summit Intern

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