2009-03-26 17:46:56.000 – Ali Boris, Summit Intern
Winter Ascent of Mt. Washington
Part of the essential experience of working on a mountain is making it to the summit on your own two feet. While a leisurely snow cat ride allows you bypass “bad” weather and save your energy for tasks around the observatory, it cannot provide the feeling of accomplishment and acquaintance with the mountain that hiking to the top can.
Ryan, Mike, Chef John Bauhs, our cat driver, Wayne, and I decided to hike up before our shift this week. The forecasts had been for a cloudy and windy morning, with skies clearing in the afternoon and winds settling as high pressure built in. Light snow flakes fell on us as we reached the base, and the day continued to be picturesque with brilliantly blue skies and curling, capping cloud formations.
Many people come to the summit every week, the majority of whom must start at the crack of dawn and make the descent in the early afternoon. I was surprised to find how strenuous some sections of the Lion’s Head Trail are – often becoming steep and slick with drifts of powdery snow, or shear and covered with glaze ice. I have a new respect for all those who take on the trail, and also for the woman/man who invented crampons.
When we reached tree line, the wind began to blow a bit across the ridge. The gusts were probably only in the 20’s or 30’s, but they were substantial enough to make me stop and cower toward the ground. As we went through sheltered sections, we could see the Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud formations (also called wave or billows clouds) that I saw on my hike down the auto road with Al Lake a month or so ago. Some curls were only somewhat recognizable, and a few curled strikingly like the top bit of soft-serve ice cream. Cap and lenticulars clouds also formed and disappeared around the peaks.
It was a great day for a hike overall. In some ways, I wish that we could do it every shift. Living on a mountaintop is certainly different, but it has been pretty surreal to me. Coming all the way up here through the krumholtz and rime made me appreciate the lengths that previous obs workers went to. For any who have come to the observatory but not made the ascent on their own, I recommend it not only for the breathtaking vistas, but also a new, very real perspective of this amazing mountain.
Ali Boris, Summit Intern