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2011-02-24 10:55:39.000 – Dave MacKenzie,  Summit Volunteer

Another week passes on the top of Mt Washington. Yet the week was somewhat uneventful in weather, if you consider 110 mph + gusts as normal. It is such a great experience to be on top of this mountain during the winter months. The weather can be nice one moment, and harsh the next. The week started out as a normal, nice day. Sun shining, winds relatively calm, and a quick ride up the Auto Road in the Snow Cat.. A little bumpy, and almost like riding a bucking bronco at times… We arrived at the top, and were greeted by the off going crew.. The assembly line was formed and all gear brought up the mountain was unloaded from the Snow Cat… Then a quick reversal of the movement of items, as we loaded the down-going gear from the previous crew.

Now it was time to get organized and get to work in the kitchen, as I knew the crew would soon be hungry. A quick evaluation of supplies, and the meals were underway. The first night was quiet, with only myself and the Observers… Brian, Mike, and Intern, Rebecca. An easy start to the week of cooking.

Thursday started off with a quiet morning, but soon, things would get hectic.. An Edu-Trip group of cooks was coming up the mountain, to try their skills at high-altitude cooking, with direction from a regular summit volunteer, and professional Chef. Shortly after their arrival, the pots and pans started flying throughout the kitchen… as they prepared a delicious dinner for the crew and themselves. I had already, prior to their arrival, put my skills to work with a batch of brownies and cookies… Only problem was that I forgot to adjust my cookie recipe for the altitude… so this first batch came out to be ( as I called them ), Chocolate Cookie Crisps… thin and crunchy.

Friday morning was another whirlwind of pots and pans flying in the kitchen, as the Edu-Trip group got off to a late start of a breakfast fit for kings… Unsure of when they would be able to depart the mountain, as the winds and conditions were looking questionable for the group scheduled to come up the mountain… But suddenly, the radio blurted out with the call from the Snow Cat, that they were on their way… So the scramble started for the group to get ready to depart…

Friday afternoon, I had a chance to get the real taste of the Observation Deck in the winter… The last I looked, the winds were from the north-west at about 40 – 45 mph… so I thought that it would be perfect for my first venture out … So off to get all my cold-gear on and head up to the door leading out onto the deck… The winds were sounding a bit stronger by this time, but I didn’t think anything of it… so out the door I went… only to step about 10 paces out and nearly get blown off my feet by the wind howling across the deck… But on I trudged, with the wind at my back, trying at its best, to blow me across the deck…. I thought to myself; Wow, this is a bit harder than I thought it would be… and I think this wind is a bit stronger than 45 mph… But on across the deck I went, grabbing on to anything available to keep from flying across the deck…and then trying to get back, heading into the wind, was another feat in itself… Being an avid ‘Indoor Skydiver’, and used to working in winds of up to 150 mph, I had thought that the 45 mph winds would be no problem to walk around in… Boy, was I wrong… Much different than the winds of indoor skydiving…. as now I didn’t have gravity in my favor… But after a lot of work, I managed to make my way back to the entry door, to return to the safety of the Summit building….I wandered down to the weather observation room to check on the wind speeds, and to my surprise, they were up around 65 mph, with gusts to 80… No wonder it was a bit hard to walk on the deck… but at least I got a chance to get that experience… Scary, but fun.

That night, the winds increased into the 80’s and 90’s, with gusts up to 120, and snow fell through the night. The group that had come up on Friday, were not certain if they would be able to get back down…But as Saturday worn on, the conditions lightened up and the Snow Cats were able to work their way up the mountain, plowing the road as they came… However, a climbing school group, who was supposed to arrive that evening, had to turn back at the Alpine Meadows, as the blowing snows and winds were too great for them to make it to the top… so for their own safety, the group retreated back to the base of the mountain… Yahoo for me, as this made a peaceful night of only having to cook for the crew… Ryan Knapp came up the mountain on Saturday, and exchanged places with Brian Clark, who headed back down with the Friday night group…

A great group of hikers arrived Sunday evening, as the conditions of the day were reasonable.. I had a great dinner of Mexican Enchiladas, with rice and beans.


Dave MacKenzie,  Summit Volunteer

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