Windy and Flying Solo

2008-12-22 15:34:03.000 – Mike Finnegan,  IT Observer


It has been an unusual week on the summit in terms of staffing. For one, as Ryan mentioned in a previous comment, we are lacking a volunteer. Ryan has been filling this gap most notably, and did a tremendous job cooking for 11 folks that spent the night on a guided climbing trip. On top of that, our intern, Mike Carmen, is working nights with Ryan so that he can soon swap to the other shift and become their meteorological observer. Brian who would normally work days, injured his knee in a game of hockey, and so is spending the week in the valley completing some needed tasks in the realm of distance learning. This was probably a good call on his part considering winds are currently sustained in the 90’s, and frequently gusting over 100 mph with nothing but glare ice covering the summit. What could possibly go wrong? So that has left me to do days all by my lonesome. Oddly enough, it is not the being alone part that is different, it is the daylight. I have been working nights the last 7 months, so I am used to being up alone – I’m just not used to seeing grey fog. One thing I have found is that the day shift is far less structured than the night shift. On nights, I fell into a very regular routine in regards to what got done when, and what needed to be done by what time. On days, the observations still come every hour, but besides the radio shows in the morning, for the most part, things can get done when they happen to. This is good because as it turns out, the dayshift gets a lot more phone calls which can interrupt the timing of events.

In other news, it’s windy. What fell up here of the two feet of champagne powder folks received in the valley has been blown clear off the summit and is loading in the ravines. The mountain top has returned to what it was when we arrived – a sheet of ice. I suppose that’s what happens when you have sustained winds greater than the age of my Papa. Just how old is my Papa, you ask? He just turned 91 on December 20th! Happy birthday, Papa! If any of you are golfers out there, he’s a match for you – he still plays 2-3 times a week in the snowless months and beats the pants off of most hotshot 30 year olds! Known in some circles as simply, ‘The Legend’. You’re certainly getting old enough to be one! So yeah, winds are cranking today. I just heard it roar outside and checked the wind database to see it hit 118 mph (unadjusted for temperature and pressure). Luckily for us, high pressure should build in overnight and moderate the winds a bit, allowing for shift change to occur a day early as planned (we didn’t want to do shift change on Christmas Eve – or New Year’s Eve for that matter, so we’re heading back up on Tuesday as well).

One last quick note – I was out inspecting the East snowfields the other day and saw some areas had slid. Tuckerman and Huntington ravine have been rated on the upper end of high avalanche danger today. There is likely to be a lot of fluctuation in the avalanche conditions over the next week, so if you’re heading into the ravines, please first visit to get the most up-to-date advice. Stay safe out there.


Mike Finnegan,  IT Observer

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