When Director of Outdoor Education Ted Teegarden won a contest to spend a night in the Mount Washington Weather Observatory, he saw his victory as a chance to educate WMS. With the help of a livestream, Ted was able to connect Mount Washington’s Summit with our Great Hall for an awesome learning experience.
Leaning into a consistent 86 mph wind is about as close to floating as I think I will ever get. With the added wind chill temperature at negative 61 that day, the summit of Mount Washington was seriously harsh environment.
For days leading up to the trip I had won to spend a night on the summit at the Mount Washington Observatory, I had been hoping for the worst weather possible. I could imagine the irony of exploring the summit of a mountain that has the tag line of some of the “world’s worst weather.”
One night about a month prior I entered a social media contest, posted by Eastern Mountain Sports, Vasque Footwear and the Mount Washington Observatory. When I entered the Win a Night at the Mount Washington Observatory contest, I thought to myself, “Why not?”, believing that I would never win. The comments that others posted were all across the board, but mine was selected for the educational opportunity for the Weather Observatory as well as for my students. “I would work with the observatory to bring some of my students up at the same time to study winter weather in the White Mountains,” I wrote. “If this was not possible, I would coordinate a video conference with them and create some kind of learning opportunity for them so they could learn as much from the experience as possible.”
As soon as I was selected, I began working with the Weather Observatory and our Technology Director Ben Moss to create some kind of educational experience. I wanted to showcase my personal experience and bring some weather education to the students of The White Mountain School, so what better way than to connect with the WMS community than from the summit to the Great Hall!
Friday morning, we started out at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road to check the gear of everyone in the party. In total, there was 11 of us. With my Dad as my guest, six fantastic people that made the trip possible, a MWOBS education specialist and a MWOBS meteorologist, we loaded up in the Snowcat and made our way up the eight mile road to the summit. The visibility was only about 200 ft when we reached the top and the wind was strong enough to blow you around and make walking difficult. With consistent wind speeds in the 70’s and 80’s mph range with higher gusts, we stumbled around like a bad horror film, each of us playing the role of Frankenstein. In temperatures well below zero and high winds you must keep all of your skin covered up to avoid frostbite. In those temperatures, it only takes five minutes for frostbite to set in. Luckily, I was wearing six layers of clothes and I had just won a new pair of winter insulated boots in the contest!
As we walked around the observation deck and climbed the two flights of ladders to the top of the summit weather tower, we looked after each other. The westerly winds felt from this place are uninhibited for thousands of miles. Just before heading in for the afternoon to warm up we noticed a small patch of blue sky above us which would allow us to see the lights of Portland, Maine to the east after dinner.
Before we indulged in a well-earned and fantastic meal, I met with one of the weather observers and we prepared for the 6 PM video conference with WMS. As the video connected and I could see into the Great Hall, I was greeted with a loud cheer as my face showed up on the big screen back at school. Ben Moss had worked extremely hard with the observatory to coordinate the right programs and set up the video connection. He immediately told me that there were at least 40 people there to see the video conference and from that point on I had a huge smile on my face. Feeling the support from the WMS community for a special trip like this felt really great. The WMS community never stops surprising me in the support category. Every day, I see students faculty and staff working together and supporting one another. The love that this community has for the growth and success of the students is commendable and I am proud to be a part of this team.
I was able to film some pretty fun and exciting video earlier in the day that I showed everyone during the video conference but what I wasn’t able to show was the spectacular colors from the sunrise the next morning. Pinks and reds and oranges and purples all lit up the morning sky. The clear night had turned into morning and we were welcomed with the sight of the Atlantic ocean on the eastern horizon. It was a quick trip but it felt long. We all really got as much out of the experience as we could and in line with that mentality we all decided to hike down the mountain as far as we could before the Snowcat picked us up for the final stretch. Where just 12 hours earlier we were wind battered and chilled, we were graced with a beautiful blue sky sunny day and views for a hundred miles. We were truly gifted the best of what The Presidential Mountains could give us.
– Ted Teegarden