10:22 AM Wed Apr 20, 2005 EDT
This is my last full day here on the summit. I came expecting a lot of work but to my relief I dodged that bullet as two edutrips cancelled. The nervous anticipation of cooking for about fifteen people for four days straight dissipated with all the fog, rain and other commonly associated weather which is the norm here at the top of New England. So, instead of a heavy workload I am left to find ways to entertain myself while having to only cook supper for the three Observatory staff, the occasional visitor, State Park worker if I can coax them over, and myself. I wish all my vacations were this laid back. The week has been incredible weatherwise, basically being cloudfree to the point where my daily 5AM and 6:30PM observances of sunrise and sunset (we're on Standard Time) would be boring if not for the fact that I'm on top of the world with some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the Northeast surrounding me. The wind has been steady from the north/northwest since last Wednesday, seldom blowing above 35 knots 'til after sunset, and even then has only gusted once for a very brief time to 78MPH around midnight one night last week. Last weekend's beautiful weather brought thousands to the mountain. Everywhere I looked there were people. Many climbed to the summit with full gear to strip down to T-shirts upon arrival. I could not believe how many skiers were in Tuckerman Ravine, from above it looked much like when you are in a tall building in the city and you are looking down at all the people who appear to be ants crawling all over the place. Many climbed well above Tuck's with their skis and packs on their backs. Even though I have been to all of New Hampshire's 4000 footers at least twice, I felt myself a totally inadequate climber and skier to accomplish this. The kicker was when I saw an obviously pregnant woman at the summit who had hiked up the Cog Railway track. I myself stayed entertained by hiking to Lakes of the Clouds and climbing Mt. Monroe, skiing down to, but not over, the "Lip" of Tuckerman, and hiking down to Nelson Crag which was new territory for me. Of course each time I then had to climb back to the summit, but when you do it this way and you have plenty of time it is quite pleasurable, even though I became accutely aware of my age and ability. If there is one thing this mountain will teach you, (for those who take the time to listen and learn), it is humility. When you are out there on a steep slope with no shelter nearby in any direction you realize your vulnerability, if you are wise. So many come unprepared and because they get away with it once gain false confidence, this is the perfect set up for disaster. Please come prepared and be ready to turn back. Even though there may be hundreds of others on the mountain with you it is still a hostile environment even though the sun is shining. Experience and knowledge are your only friends here and I am thankful to the mountain for this opportunity to gain a little more of each on this trip. If you come be sure you know exactly what you are getting into and check this website to get as much info as you can about the weather and anything it might do in the near future. It is much too late when you are surrounded by dense fog and blowing snow and can barely see your own boots, let alone any distinguishable surroundings. Tomorrow I go back to my pampered life in the flatlands feeling much more akin to the mountain and understanding exactly why the people who work here do what they do. If you would like to see photos of my trip and others to this mountain and New England's other scenic beauty please visit my website at: www.ghostflowers.com Please give me a week or so to get the new photos posted, in the mean time I hope you all get the chance to experience the mountain the way I have been fortunate enough to.
Kevin D. Talbot - Summit Volunteer