I got a phone call asking if I would go up New England’s tallest peak with my cameras to document a pizza delivery. The location, Mt Washington (elevation 6,288 feet above sea level) and the pizza delivery, Rustic Crust and American Flatbread. The means of transportation was a Bombardier Snow Cat.
Gusty 50 plus mile an hour winds, snow drifts, sub zero temperatures…. of course I said YES!
The above video is a sample of footage and a brief narrative through my eyes and my camera lens of the unique trip. I cut it very quickly and narrated it as I went. The voice over is very conversational and unscripted. I hope you enjoy it!
From the press release:
New Hampshire Company Makes The Ultimate Pizza Delivery
Rustic Crust to Kick Off New Mount Washington Observatory Partnership with Summit Pizza Party
PITTSFIELD, NH – When you live and work on top of the Northeast’s tallest peak, a place so remote and extreme that it can only be reached by snow tractor for half of the year, getting take-out isn’t exactly an option. But that’s about to change.
Tuesday, February 22, Rustic Crust CEO Brad Sterl and crew will embark upon a several hour snow tractor trek up the 6,288-foot mountain for the “ultimate pizza delivery.” The never-before-attempted feat aims to deliver a tractor full of Rustic Crust pizza crusts, sauce, cheese and all the fixins’ – as well as the famous American Flatbread, the perfect wood-fired pizza — to the Mount Washington Observatory summit weather station, where hungry scientists will savor their first-ever take-out dinner.
The extreme pizza delivery marks the official start of Rustic Crust’s new partnership with Mount Washington Observatory, a nonprofit research and educational institution which has operated the summit weather station since 1932. The Pittsfield, New Hampshire-based pizza crust maker will be a sponsor of the Observatory’s 11th annual Seek the Peak hike-a-thon this July 22-23, pledging cash and healthy pizza to the event.
“As a New Hampshire business, we’re proud to support the Observatory,” says Sterl, who masterminded the mile-high pizza party. “This dedicated staff is conducting critical research, monitoring our climate and helping us better understand how weather impacts our planet and our daily lives.”
“We are thrilled that Rustic Crust, a New Hampshire business with a shared interest in health and our environment, has chosen to support our endeavours,” says Mount Washington Observatory Executive Director Scot Henley. “Nutritious food is an essential part of life in the Home of the World’s Worst Weather—and I know the crew is excited for the delivery.”
For Sterl, the unorthodox delivery is nothing new: back when he was President of the Foodee’s Pizza chain, he arranged lunch drops by helicopter to the crews repairing the Old Man of the Mountains in Franconia Notch.
The Mount Washington Observatory trip will also reinforce Sterl’s message that pizza can be a healthy choice.
“By making uninformed snack choices, we’ve become a nation at risk in terms of our health. We’re eating too much over-processed food, but we don’t have to deprive ourselves of fun foods like pizza – we just have to make it right, with natural, nutritious, good-for-you ingredients.”
I have hiked Mount Washington many times over the years, but never during the winter months. I always wanted to, but never got to it. The mountain is dangerous any time of the year, but it is at it’s most extreme in the winter. The highest wind ever observed by man was recorded here in 1934. A ridiculous reading of 231 miles per hour.
Mount Washington is an “Instant Wilderness” location. What I mean by that is the mountain summit is about a three hour drive from Boston. You could drive from your city apartment and reach the summit on a single tank of gas. Stepping out of your car into wild, dangerous and untamed Mother Nature. The car does all the work “hiking” up the 7.8 mile Auto Road cut into the side of the mountain.
Mt. Washington may not be the tallest mountain in the US, but it location makes it extreme. In the winter, the peak lies at the confluence of three major storm tracks. The results of this create unique weather phenomena involving wind, cold, fog, icing and precip. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -47 degrees F. The annual wind speed is 35.3 miles an hour, so it is always windy no matter what time you visit the summit. The warmest it ever was at the summer was 70 degrees F. And that was unusual!
Rime ice may be the coolest thing about the mountain. When the temps drop below freezing, which is about 70 percent of the time during the year, and the summit is in the clouds, rime ice forms on all exposed surfaces. The heavier the winds, the more the rime ice grows out into it. It is really an amazing looking but of natural art and I hope to shoot some timelapses of it forming. The hardest part is not getting up the hill, but keeping my Canon 5dmk2 warm. Also, shooting through dense fog and strong wind in very unforgivable conditions.
I brought four GoPro HERO 1080p POV cameras with me along with a bunch of suction cup mounts. I wanted to stick cameras on and inside the SnowCat to capture the trip up the Auto Road. I had 16gb cards in each and they recorded the entire trip from start to finish in about 1.5 hours. No problems at all with interference from the radio transmitters at the summit or the extreme wind and cold.
I shot the documentary with my trusty Sony PDW-F800 XDCAM. I mounted a z90 Zylight to the top and that was all the lighting I needed. Remember, this was a run-and-gun operation! I had a Fujinon HA 10×5 wide angle on load from Fujinon, New Jersey. My wide angle had been damaged by TSA in Florida. Big thanks to Tami Amico at Fujinon for sending me this loaner and fixing my wide angle. I was very important that I had this type of lens on the shoot because I was going to be in cramped locations in the Cat and in the observatory.
I used Sony UWP wireless mics and I have to say they worked flawlessly. I used the supplied foam windscreens and buried the lavs inside the person’s jacket to get amazing sound in 50 mile an hour winds. The power of these mics where awesome, keeping a steady stream of sound pumping into the F800 even with crazy amounts of RF spewing from the summit transmitting towers.
I was a one-man-band and I was able to get a handle on all this gear to document the trip. The ease of use of the GoPro cameras, the solid wireless mics and the joy of operating a true shoulder mounted camera made for a very successful shoot. I did not stage much, mostly I documented what happened as it happened.
I want to thank all the folks at the summit and the MWOBS team for their support and hospitality. Also, I want to thank John Martin and Carmelle Druchniak for inviting me on this trip. Michael O’Meara thanks for emailing me some BTS pics. Also, thanks Rustic Crust for the lunch. I have always wanted to go up the Auto Road in the winter and see the summit caked in ice. I finally got to do it!
I must say, I was disappointed in the “uneventful” trip up the road and walking the summit observation deck. Mount Washington had her guard down for sure. I want extreme conditions. I want to see how my broadcast gear holds up! Just because my Anton Bauer battery (wrapped in hand warmers) cut out with 40% power remaining means nothing to me! I want to see the camera caked in ice and take a picture of that!
Scientists test GoreTex clothing here. Why not test out just how much rime ice a Canon 5dmk2 DSLR can take? And hopefully I can capture it forming in an epic timelapse. I just may be able to video blog from the summit. That would mean living up there for a bit. Stay tuned!