View Full Version : Mount Washington Observatory Summit Volunteer 3/23-30/2011

KD Talbot
03-23-2011, 09:12 PM
Mount Monroe Snuggled in the Clouds

After a hiatus of just over 3 years I'm back on the summit living the dream, cooking, cleaning and hanging out on the top of New England. I've been associated with the MWObs for over 10 years now helping with their annual fundraiser (Seek the Peak (http://observatory.mountwashington.org/site/TR/Events/SeekthePeak11?team_id=1140&pg=team&fr_id=1030)) and occasionally spending an eight day shift with the crew. In return for my help I get to hike around and photograph what in my mind is one of the most beautiful places in the northeast.

Rime Covered Stage Office

On Saturday a group of 10 photographers will join us for the remainder of the weekend in a workshop, known as an edu-trip, led by my friend and fellow photographer, Jim Salge (http://www.jimsalge.com/). You may know him here as W7Xman. He is a phenomenal young photographer and is well acquainted with the mountain as he was a weather observer here for about 4 years.

Rime Feathers

Over the next week I'll try to post updates and some photos. I hope you'll follow along and perhaps take an interest in this organization as it strives to provide the hiking community and the rest of the world with up to the minute weather data. Thanks!

Hikers Head Back Down Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Mild, Windless Sunset


Snow Miser
03-24-2011, 06:47 AM
Beautiful photos Kevin! I have to agree with you, Mount Washington is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the northeast. We look forward to seeing more photos of your week up there.

03-24-2011, 10:16 AM
I LOVE the Rime Feathers. Thanks Kevin for taking us along on your journey this week.

Anna LeBlanc
03-24-2011, 12:55 PM
Beautiful Kevin,enjoy yourself while you're up there.I'm sure the time will fly by.

P.S.Please give Marty a hug for me!:D

03-24-2011, 06:44 PM
Wonderful pictures

KD Talbot
03-24-2011, 09:59 PM
Thanks all for following along! Today was not a very photographic day outside, in the fog all day with four inches of snow, very calm winds for a mountaintop, though! I did go outside and hike the perimeter of the summit and took a few pictures.

The Sherman Adams Summit Building

This Cross is covered in Rime, it Marks Where Poor Lizzie Bourne Laid Down for the Last Time

You Can See That They Were a Mere Stones Throw From the Summit and Safety, Not in the Sherman Adams Building, but the Tip-Top House Behind

Looking Out From the Rotunda

This is my Partner for the Week, Ernie. If You're Going to be Teamed Up With Someone it is Best to be Teamed With Someone Who Knows How to Make Chocolate Truffles!

Appetizers Tonight: Spinach Balls in Fillo Dough

Ernie's Main Course Tonight Was Catfish With a Mustard/Lemon/Garlic Marinade: Delicious!

These are Blueberries I Picked on Mount Major Last August. We Had Blueberry Pie for Dessert

OK, now for what you've all been waiting for!

Marty the Summit Cat!


03-24-2011, 10:15 PM
Just a guess here but, I'm guessing by next Wednesday this will be one of the most replied to threads in awhile. Think about it, Kevin up there sharing his week with us and Jim S is heading up this weekend. Two amazing photographers together on the summit.

Thanks again for taking us along this week Kevin, enjoy the pie!

03-25-2011, 05:44 AM
Wow what great pictures and the food looked wonderful too.

03-25-2011, 06:41 AM
Wonderful pics Kevin keep them coming. The food looks delicious

Anna LeBlanc
03-25-2011, 12:48 PM
The photos and food are wonderful. The thought of blueberry pie is making my mouth water!:p
Kevin-thank you especially for the photo of our boy Marty!!


03-25-2011, 06:22 PM
Great stuff!! Looking forward to the Friday (and subsequent) installments

KD Talbot
03-25-2011, 09:09 PM
Thanks all for following along! I highly recommend this volunteer thing!

If You Don't Like Ice and Snow, You Know Where You can Go!

Rime Forming Outside the Window

Tonight's Main Course: Curried Chicken, Stir Fry Vegetables and Shell Pasta

Dessert: Mile High Apple Pie

We Finally Came Out of the Clouds Near Sunset

Looking East Towards Wildcat Ski Area

The Observatory Tower

Day's End

Night, Night!

The wind was blowing 55-60 knots when I took the sunset pictures, that is about 65-70mph. I had to lean about 70 degrees into the wind to keep my footing and when I turned my back to it it blew my 210lb frame across the deck. I managed to stay on my feet. The next time you hear, "We climbed such and such a mountain and it was blowin' 100mph!" you can tell them I said, "Yeah. Right!"


KD Talbot
03-26-2011, 01:38 PM
I got up early this morning in anticipation of the Edu-trip that was to bring 9 photographers led by Jim Salge (http://www.jimsalge.com/)to the summit this morning. The crockpot was soon full of beef, mushrooms, onions and later red peppers as I prepared the mid-day meal of Brown Sugar/Bourbon Stew.

Outside the winds were ramping up. I knew there was a good possibility today that the mountain would say, "No!" Early on I crossed my fingers in hope they could make it to the summit. They had waited for another driver to come along and join the other already there. For safety it is always good to have two drivers along in case of emergency. We listened as they left the base of the Auto Road.

The wind continued to accelerate. When they reached halfway we thought, "Well, that was the easy part." They continued on. Ernie and I set about the task of getting ready for their arrival. Beds were made in the bunkroom. The extra table was put out to accommodate the hungry travelers. A huge urn of coffee was ready. The smell of the stew was beginning to fill the living quarters.

They turned onto Cragway and had to stop as they faced into the full-force of the wind. They waited in hopes that the blowing snow would allow them to continue. Then it came. The disappointing radio call, "We're turning back! Visibility is zero."

My heart sunk as I considered how disappointed those on board must be feeling at that point, especially my buddy, Jim. The edu-trippers had paid good money in hopes of making the trip which for some, like myself on my first trip, would bring them memories of a lifetime.

Thrashing about in the back of the Bombardier as it plowed it's way along. Looking out windows that might as well have been painted over as there were no views to be had through them, no point of reference. For some I am sure it meant motion sickness.

The wind bore down on the summit as it rose to speeds of 70mph, gusting to 90. Category One Hurricane force winds. Much too risky, no, impossible to proceed. The plow would lift the snow up and over the blade. Sometimes the visibility was such that the driver could not see the plow only a few feet in front of him.

The brute force of nature had prevailed. Mount Washington lived up to it's reputation as the World's Worst Weather once again. The Great Spirit, Agiocochook, said, "You will not visit my realm today."


KD Talbot
03-26-2011, 10:38 PM
I didn't get outside much today, I did however go out to take some video. I apologize I don't know of a way to show it here, but it is posted on my FB page. Eventually it will make it to smugmug (http://www.ghostflowers.smugmug.com/) where it can be viewed. Things up here have been crazy.

This afternoon winds continued to ramp up until they reached the century mark this evening. Reaching a peak gust of 107mph and blowing steady at 89mph it has been an interesting day. The temp has dropped to -1F and the windchill is -39.

Little inconveniences like this do not stop the Observers from going out to take their hourly readings and to chip ice off the instruments. It has gone on in this fashion, with few exceptions, since 1932. As I sit comfortable in a concrete and steel building I imagine what it was like before the Sherman Adams Building was here. I don't think I would have wanted to be up here.

I did get out on the deck and experience 80+mph winds, but no, I didn't try to join The Century Club. I have a new respect for hurricane force winds, however. Jim Cantore and all the other TV Stormchasers have nothing on the Obs Croo!

Why Doncha Take A Picture?

Being inside most of the day gave me some quality time with Marty who showed me how to climb furniture, roll around like a tumbleweed in the wind and give the most malevolent stare anybody could possibly give. Those of you who know me know I am already pretty good at these things, but I'm taking it to a new level under Marty's watchful tutelage.

See? I can Be Cute If I Wanna!

Delicious Cheese Souffle

At supper we stuffed ourselves to the gills with the stew meant for the ill-fated edu-trip, a wonderful cheese souffle appetizer provided by chef extraordinaire Ernie, who also provided a scrumptious carrot cake for dessert which topped off the meal.

Carrot Cake For Dessert

As I sit in the kitchen and write this, the wind has found its way down the stove vents, into the room and down the back of my neck, bringing with it a few rogue snowflakes and ice pellets. As the building creaks and groans from the onslaught of the howling wind demons outside, I think I will go re-read "Not Without Peril" to calm myself to sleep...


03-27-2011, 07:46 AM
Cheese Souffle looks killer, toss in freshly made carrot cake and we have a winning night.

Sorry, to hear about the Edutrip. I'm sure at the time of this post, Jim is still somewhere in the area and has already taken a ton of photos. He's probable having breakfast, preparing for his mid-morning adventure. I'd go as far as to guess some of the Edutripper's are still with Jim.

Of course I could be totally wrong but, the souffle and carrot cake are still killer. :)

03-27-2011, 08:02 AM
Kevin, great pictures and I am really enjoying your comments. Even when there is nothing going on there is something going on. Marty looks like he is in total control, such a "Cool" Looking cat...:cool:

I totally agree with Karen about the souffle and carrot cake. I make a good carrot cake, but have never tried a souffle, I should take a stab at one once.

Snow Miser
03-27-2011, 10:53 AM
Kevin, I am also really enjoying your pictures and comments. And the dishes you and Ernie have been preparing look DELICIOUS! Thanks for posting them.

03-27-2011, 05:41 PM
looks like a very nice day up there

KD Talbot
03-27-2011, 10:46 PM
Tip-Top House in 70MPH Winds

Despite 70+mph winds all day and peak gusts over 100 again, a Bombardier Snow Tractor did make it to the summit today. The difference between yesterday and today? Visibility. Clear skies and the summit out of the fog made it possible where yesterday the fog and blowing snow combined made the going much to risky to attempt. Just the luck of the draw. shame, but nothing to be done about it.

Mount Clay Cornice and Spindrift Over the Great Gulf

Ernie Prepares Tonight's Repast: Shrimp Stir-fry

Black Forest Cake for Dessert:OMG!

Spindrift Sunset

Sunset Just North of Camel's Hump

Camel's Hump

View to Franconia Ridge at Sunset


Snow Miser
03-28-2011, 06:58 AM
Great pictures Kevin! And that Black Forest Cake looks so delicious.

03-28-2011, 03:39 PM
Wow, great pictures...and a great advertisement for volunteering!!!

Banjo Chris

03-28-2011, 08:47 PM
Nothing describes that Black Forest cake better than...OMG!

Can't wait to see the next dessert...

03-28-2011, 09:21 PM
very nice looking food pictures and the others look good also

KD Talbot
03-28-2011, 09:51 PM
Daytrippers Playing in the Wind

Ernie and I made lunch today for a group of folks who took a day-trip to the summit. They got to ride up in the Bombardier, much the same as edu-trippers, but without the overnight. Conditions allowed them to reach the summit, but visibility was poor as we spent the day in a cap cloud.

Touring the Summit

Interestingly, we can look at the web-cams placed around the mountain in such places as Wildcat Ski Area and see that a few hundred feet below us, the sun is shining. Here on the summit we remained in the clouds. Winds today stayed in the 70-80mph range and the visitors got a real taste of what the weather up here can be like.

They're About 20' Away, So You Can See Visibility Was Poor

Stage Office in the Fog

A trip to the top of the observatory tower provided each with a similar experience to what the observers endure each hour as they go up to chip ice and take readings. Afterwards they went out onto the deck to experience the full force of the wind. A short trip around the summit to visit the historic buildings wrapped up the trip.

Browning the Meat for Geschnezetles

Lunch consisted of a very thick minestrone, ramen noodles with vegetables and shrimp, and some more of Ernie's specialty: Chocolate Truffles! Dinner tonight consisted of some more of Ernie's exquisite offerings: The appetizer today was: Kaeseschnitten. This is a cheese, egg, milk mix with a peanut butter like consistency spread on toast and baked. Best when fresh out of the oven! Main course was: Geschnezeltes:Similar to beef stroganoff with mushrooms and cream. There was a homemade pasta known as spaetzle (German). For dessert: Another of Ernie's delicious apple pies!


03-29-2011, 07:26 AM
Just keeps gettin' better and better!

Anna LeBlanc
03-29-2011, 08:26 AM
Kevin all of your pictures are fantastic! I could never spend a week on the summit when you two guys were volunteering-I'd come home weighing 300lbs!!!:p
And Marty does know how to stare someone down doesn't he!!!
Thanks for all the wonderful photos.



03-29-2011, 12:05 PM
Dessert: Mile High Apple Pie

WOW! That pie looks like the mountain, complete with Tuckerman and Huntington! I can even make out where the auto road could be! Anyone else see it?

03-29-2011, 08:47 PM
Kevin all of your pictures are fantastic! I could never spend a week on the summit when you two guys were volunteering-I'd come home weighing 300lbs!!!:p
And Marty does know how to stare someone down doesn't he!!!
Thanks for all the wonderful photos.



you may eat a lot but you burn it off quick up there trust me

KD Talbot
03-29-2011, 09:02 PM
I want to thank you all for following along and especially for your kind comments! @Rich- I DO see it!

Scott Addresses the Daytrippers

We had guests again today. The day-trip today is known as a "VIP Trip". The folks who came up are major players who are considering giving corporate sponsorship to help support the non-profit Observatory. We needed to impress!

The Observatory Tower

Today's View of the Tip-Top House From the Tower

The Turret and the Instruments

Some Folks Check Out the Top of New England

The Sky Cleared Just Long Enough to Have This View From the Tower

In the Subject of Small Worlds: This Young Observer Grew Up on the Same Street in the Same Town That I Did!

Shrimp Stir-fry for Lunch= Shiny Happy People!

And Ernie's Signature Black Forest Cake for Dessert!


03-30-2011, 12:25 AM
Ernie and Kev, thanks for taking care of the summit crew, Day trippers and VIP guests this week. And a special thanks from Marty, I heard he really enjoyed having you both around.

Thank you Kevin for taking us along with you this week..it's truly been amazing to read your stories, see your photos. I hope you know how much we all appreciate it.

See ya at STP.

Snow Miser
03-30-2011, 06:51 AM
I second the thank you Kevin. It's been very nice seeing your photos and reading about your week on the summit. Looks like everyone had a great time and enjoyed your cooking.

KD Talbot
03-30-2011, 12:52 PM
I will post an epilogue tonight from home!


KD Talbot
03-30-2011, 10:04 PM
One Way to Get Off the Mountain

Today was the end of my volunteer week on the summit of Mount Washington. Of course, the end comes with mixed emotions. Sad to be leaving my friends, old and new, but happy to be returning to wife, family and beloved dog. In the back of my mind I know I will return...

I do not have words eloquent enough to describe the experience, but perhaps these will do...

Excerpts from Nicholas Howe's intense read: Not Without Peril

Chapter 14

The Summit As Home

The Presidential Range is unique among the major mountains because the highest point has been an outpost of civilization from the earliest days. The first party to spend the night on the summit of Mount Washington went up in July 1784 and the mountain they climbed had been called, variously, Agiocochook, Waumbekket-methna, Christall Hill, and Trinity Heights. When they came down it was called Mount Washington, because the six climbers had gone up for a christening to honor the man who would soon lead the new nation.

The first shelter on the summit was a primitive stone hut built by Ethan Allen Crawford in 1823. In July of that summer a visitor spent an uncomfortable night in one of the Crawford's stone huts, but found that the morning made up for it:

The Muses' most inspired draught,
From Helicon's pure fountain quaff'd
What is it to the rising sun,
Seen from the top of Washington!
Canst thou bear a dreary night?
Stranger! Go enjoy the sight!

Mount Adams Peeks Out of the Clouds

The huts did not keep out very much weather and visitors soon discovered that the summit of Mount Washington had a variety and a force of weather entirely beyond the experience of most mortals. An early commentator wrote that this stone cabin was ever by the winter's storms rendered a most desolate object, though sheltered behind a bold crag. The shingle roof, split down in the woods on the mountain side and packed up on the backs of men, was scattered to the four winds. The levers of the frost, and the wild hurricane, tumbled down the thick stone walls, and every spring a roofless heap of ruins, with a rusty old stove, and the iron chest, was left to tell a sad story of the invisible power that over these towering summits stretches the arm of destruction.

The US Army Signal Service served as the national weather bureau and a detachment of soldiers set up an observatory on the summit of Mount Washington in November 1870, using a building with two heavy chains run up over the roof and anchored to bedrock.

Heavy and reassuring as the construction was, there were times when the men thought that it might not be enough. Consider, for instance, the experience of Private Doyle in January 1877. Night came on and the wind rose to 100 mph, driving sleet so thick the men dared not make their outside observations. At midnight they recorded winds of 120 mph and the thermometer stood at -24. The small building was heated with a coal stove and this night they stoked it until it was red hot, but water froze less than three feet from its glowing sides.

By one o'clock in the morning the wind touched 150 and blew through the sturdy building so freely that the carpet floated a foot above the floorboards. The remainder of the night was spent in an anxious state of mind, as was but natural when they did not know but that at any moment the building would be carried over into Tuckerman Ravine and they swept into eternity with it.

The Signal service recorded temps down to -59 and wind as high as 186 mph and they occupied the summit year-round until the fall of 1887 and summers only until 1892, when the government closed the observatory. The warm weather population remained strong, but year round occupants did not return until the International Polar Year was announced for 1933.

Cornice on Mount Clay

Joe Dodge led the campaign for a new weather observatory on the summit and four observers moved up in the fall of 1932, getting along as well as they could in the stage office. Thick accumulations of rime ice on the outside walls helped keep out the wintry blasts. A good thing, too because these observers recorded the all-time record for surface winds on the earth at 231 mph.

Jefferson's Knee and Edmand's Col

After having spent the past eight days in relative comfort compared to the trials of these early pioneers, experiencing winds over 100 mph with windchills of 40 below, one can only look up to the men and women who still to this day occupy year round the summit of this mighty mountain. Although they now live in comfort they still go out on an hourly basis 24/ 7/ 365 to face the brutal winds, zero visibility and horrible cold to keep the tradition of weather observation here on the summit. We should hold these hardy individuals who provide the National Weather Bureau with vital statistics on a year round basis with high regard, and help them in any small way that we can! Consider a volunteer week here, you will not regret the experience!

Bye for Now!

KD Talbot- Summit Volunteer

Snow Miser
03-31-2011, 07:46 AM
Beautiful epilogue Kevin! It was nice following along on your volunteer week. Thanks for letting us share in it.

KD Talbot
04-04-2011, 08:40 PM
If anyone is still interested, the complete set of pictures is here (http://ghostflowers.smugmug.com/gallery/16436022_DsPno#1236466227_srrcG). There are a lot, but cleaned up and edited down from about 400...

Thanks again for you interest!


KD Talbot
04-13-2011, 02:13 PM
Sorry for the delay. Finally got around to this. Rainy days are good for something!



KD Talbot
04-15-2011, 10:49 AM
If you've enjoyed these pictures and videos, please consider supporting my efforts to raise money for the non-profit Mount Washington Observatory. I've been helping them by taking pledges from our friends each summer during the Observatory's annual fundraising hike-a-thon, Seek the Peak. This will be the tenth year in a row I have climbed Mount Washington to support the Obs. Even the smallest dog can help! Please help me by visiting my Team Emma fundraising page today!