Time Spent on the Summit

2016-09-26 17:45:53.000 – Ben Brownell, Summit Intern


As I am writing this post I am closing in on the end of my second shift on the mountain. Mt. Washington has always been known to me as having severe weather and is not to be taken lightly. Having grown up in the area I have experienced the mountains by hiking in the summer time or skiing Tuckerman’s in the spring.  I never knew much about the weather or how to forecast for that matter.  Fortunately for me the observers on my shift have taken me under their wings.  I am trying to absorb all the information I can and have begun to write my own forecasts and gain a better understanding of meteorology thanks to the observers.  


Now for a little explanation as to how I wound up here on Mt. Washington working for the Observatory.  For the past seven years I have been living on the seacoast of New Hampshire. There I completed my undergrad degree and am currently wrapping up my master’s degree in mechanical engineering.  While there I had talked to some people who had worked on the summit and was really interested in this unique opportunity.  After applying for the internship and while going through the interview process I wanted to be very clear that I didn’t know much about the weather but was excited to learn all that I could.  Apparently they thought I was alright and the next thing I know I’m living on the summit of Mt. Washington for the fall realizing this unique opportunity was actually mine.


Knowing the history of the area and the hiking trails makes it easy to interact with all of the visitors on the summit while giving tours or when people start asking questions in the museum.  Regardless of what experience I have I will tell you though, I don’t think anyone person can ever experience the mountain in its entirety. Every sunset and sunrise is unique and the view doesn’t get old. Some nights the stars and Milky Way look so perfect it doesn’t seem real. Even the northern lights can be seen if one is persistent, lucky, and willing to have your fingers go numb while trying to take a few too many long exposure shots.

About 60% of the time we end up socked in the fog and you find yourself looking out the window into the inside of a ping pong ball. So when we have the view we take full advantage of it. Being socked in isn’t all bad though if it’s below freezing and the winds are high enough we can get rime ice forming on the building and instruments. This means it’s time to climb the tower and bang all the ice off. Which is exactly as much fun as it sounds. I don’t think I will ever tire from doing that task. Feel free to ask me again in December after I have been here for a few months but I think I’ll still have the same amount of excitement for being up here.
So far working with this shift has brought a 101 mph wind gust, a direct lightning strike to the summit, the first frost of the season, stunning sun rises and sets, seeing the summit shadow, a rime ice event and a glimpse of the northern lights through the camera lens last night. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings!


Ben Brownell, Summit Intern

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