‘Tis but a Patch!

2018-07-11 07:34:50.000 – Ben Seleb, Summit Intern


Living on a mountain has its ups and downs (literally), and Mt. Washington is no exception to that. Acclimated to our unique and isolated workplace, we often find ourselves captivated by things that other people would think odd.

For instance, when we aren’t in the clouds, we have our fair share of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. So many in fact, that after a while they also become commonplace. While we still go out to the observation deck to watch them, we have begun to judge their magnificence more critically.

In contrast, there are some objectively insignificant things that have our captured our full attention. One of these things in particular, the one I intend to write about, is a patch of snow on one of our neighboring summits.

This snow patch, better known as the Jefferson snowfield, is well known by summit staff, hikers, and skiers. Most snow on the summit of Mt. Washington and the Northern Presidentials tends to melt away by mid-May, but the snowfields hold on a bit longer. Initially covering the eastern slopes of Mt. Jefferson, during summer the snowfields begin to dwindle until only a single snow patch remains.


The remaining patch of snow on Jefferson during the month of June

A few weeks ago, as an annual tradition, summit staff started making guesses as to when the patch would melt away completely. As the day drew near, and the snow patch nearly disappeared from view, I took it upon myself to confirm its condition. I left as soon as possible, getting up before sunrise so that I might be able to reach the snow patch before it had received too much sunlight.


Sunrise at the Clay Col intersection

By the time I had summited Jefferson, temperatures had risen and the sun was already high in the sky. The snow patch is located in a rocky area alongside Six Husbands Trail. Scouring the rocks, I couldn’t find any snow and I was worried that I was too late. I was about to give up and turn around when I found it. A ten foot long strip of snow was all that was left, and melting fast. I couldn’t help but smile due to my good timing, and the fact that I’d be the last person to visit it.


My emotional reaction during the snow patch’s final hours

I spent a few minutes enjoying the last of the snow on Jefferson, took some pictures, and built a snowman to commemorate the occasion. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough for a snow angel.


I only had time to build a small snowman (sunglasses for size reference)

Jefferson snow patch has been an undying reminder of winter fun and allowed us to pretend that summer hadn’t really arrived yet. Just before I dumped my water bottle and stuffed it with the last of the snow, I reached the final stage of grief: acceptance. The summer months tend to be calmer and less fun for our observers than winter months, but they deserve acknowledgement too. The snow fields will be missed, but it won’t be long until they return!

If you’re in drastic need of some snow, don’t worry! There is a bit left in Tuckerman’s Ravine. You might want to hurry though, because it’s melting away fast!


Ben Seleb, Summit Intern

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