Friday, April 24, 2009

A Note on Visibility

Yesterday was an epic day on Mt. Washington. In the words of our Road Foreman, John, "It was not a place people should be." The combination of sub-freezing temperatures, high winds and blowing snow made the conditions extremely difficult. It was the first day this spring we'd had any kind of setback. In fact, on Wednesday, the Crew had actually moved the backhoe and the ice drill above Cragway. The bulldozer had cleared enough of the Cragway Drift for the 4WD pick up with chains to bring the ice drill up near the 6-mile post. All the culverts were open, and things were looking good. But, the mountain decided things were moving too smoothly. So, the weather came in, and the visibility went to zero. John described it best: "Take pieces of white paper. Cover your entire windshield with them, two or three sheets thick. Now get in and drive." Needless to say, it was really tough to see anything.

Now, let's talk about driving a bulldozer on the Mt. Washington Auto Road. In short: it's tough. Think of Cragway Drift as a layer cake—a multi-layered cake. The bulldozer needs to scrape away each layer, one layer at a time until it eventually reaches the road surface. Sounds simple enough. But, the layer cake is tilted. Get to close to the edge, and you slide away. Did I mention that the Cragway Drift is just below 5000 feet? So, take your tilted layer cake and try to peel off a layer with you eyes closed. This was the situation on Thursday. With no visibility, you can't really see the edge of the layer. That's when this happens:

Here's the good news: No one was hurt. No fluids leaked out of the bulldozer. Today was beautiful, and the Crew was able to dig it out.

So, between the bulldozer mishap and the new snow that fell, progressed slowed dramatically today. So much snow fell yesterday afternoon that the backhoe was completely buried this morning, and now that the bulldozer is free, it is basically starting all over again on Cragway. New snow was on the road all the way down to below 4000 feet. The mountain once again reminded us that it's still winter up high.


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