The Lure of Summit Myths and Legends

2011-12-15 17:38:43.000 – Rick Giard,  Weather Observer / Education Specialist

Olympian View

Upon coming out of the clouds yesterday afternoon we were afforded this spectacular topside view of the adjacent dense stratocumulus undercast with streaking cirrostratus overhead. Entirely surrounded by brilliant-white cotton wadding, one might think that this was not merely a mountaintop but another planet altogether. A virtual island of hard rock, cold ice and brilliant snow enveloped by ephemeral billows and blue streaks. On such a day there is a realm of peace and tranquility like no other abode in my experience.

When the ancients envisioned the place where their gods lived, this is the scene they created in their mind’s eye – Mount Olympus, as it were. Surely a self-respecting Greek god would be honored to dwell in this residence. It is not surprising that the early local Native Americans in this region refused to climb the mountain they called Agiocochook, considering it to be the sacred home of their gods. The earliest known ascent was by Darby Field in 1642, and did include at least two “Indian” guides. Whether or not they encountered any of their gods was not recorded.

In the dark days before dawn of modern science, humankind attempted to explain the Earth and its natural phenomena by fabricating a fantasy world populated with various divinities who, depending on their disposition could, in turn, calm the winds and push the Sun gently across the heavens – or whip up a frenzy of gusting winds and hurl lightning bolts down upon the frightened populace. Yesterday Mount Washington was a pleasant and placid place to perch. Today, however, the gods are evidently in a foul mood. With fierce, gusty winds, thick fog and freezing rain enveloping all, we comprehend why the natives and early settlers generally elected to evade Agiocochook.

As an atmospheric scientist I thrive on observing, analyzing and studying weather by utilizing all the modern instruments and methods available. Although I plan to continue this practice into the foreseeable future, occasionally the lure of the omnipresent Rock Pile myths and legends capture my imagination.


Rick Giard,  Weather Observer / Education Specialist

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