On Saturday, October 4 we were honored to work with members of The Boston Fire Department to organize a very successful Aid Climb 2014: Touch The Sky With Boston Fire Department! This years Aid Climb was a huge success due to the dedication and efforts of 35 participants, our sponsors and our staff here at NEM! A few months back, Boston Firefighter, Mike Merchant contacted us with a request to climb Mt. Washington for sunrise to honor and remember members of the department that lost their lives in the line of duty. Touched by the story and appreciative of their duty, we instantly wanted to be part of the healing process and asked Mike if he would like to help us organize Aid Climb 2014 to raise money for the families of those who died – Frankie Flynn, Ed Walsh and Mike Kennedy. Here is the story that inspired us to get involved:
On January 22nd, 2014, Engine 33 of the Boston Fire department lost one of its beloved men. Frankie Flynn, a 28 year veteran of the department, died after a short battle with lung cancer. Frankie’s untimely death left a hole in all of our hearts. He left behind a wife and a 16 year old son. Only 2 months later , on March 26th, our firehouse suffered another tragic blow when we lost two more of our own in a 9 alarm fire on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Mike Kennedy and Ed Walsh died bravely trying to extinguish this tremendous fire that resulted in the destruction of the whole building. Ed left behind a wife and 3 children and Mike left many loving family members and friends.
All three of the men had big hearts , big smiles and contagious personalities. They loved theirs job, life and their families and friends.
We met at Northeast Mountaineering at 11pm on October 3 for registration, coffee [provided by Kicking Horse coffee], Bagels [Bagels Plus], are gear checks. After a short introduction to Mt. Washington, a thank you message from Brett and Corey we were out the door heading to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. We organized three teams with two guides each and we hit the trailhead around 1am. The goal was to summit Mt. Washington for the sunrise at 6:30am. We started hiking in misty conditions under heavy overcast skies – we were delighted since the forecast all week was for heavy rain. Mike Cherim lead the first group -Team Frankie – with Cameron Lambert as his assistant guide. Brett and Coby Jacobus led group 2 – Team Mike – shortly behind team 1. Brenden Bourassa led Team Ed with the help of Bill Robichaud. Mark Lynch, coming off a broken foot toughed it out to help where needed! Around 2am we pulled in to our first break after approximately an hour of jokes, pranks, laughs, slips, and stories while hiking. We were on a blistering pace that remained true the entire way to the summit!
The ascent was awesome. Around Lions Head we noticed the stars! Many of the climbers being from the city were blown away by their vibrance and when we turned our headlights off we identified planets, satellites and even saw some shooting stars! The extreme dark allowed us to make out the shadow of the summit cone and inspired us to keep going. In my mind, I was cautiously optimistic that we would climb above the clouds and have an undercast for sunrise since we could see the stars and summit cone…a truly rare and amazing experience it would be if it panned out. Fingers crossed we traversed the alpine garden, climbed to split rock and on to the summit! We reached the summit building around 5:30am and found that they have installed new garage doors to protect the overhang. It was cold and windy so we found an open door and went inside to escape the conditions to wait for the sunrise. We were an hour early.
Inside, sheltered from the winds, we hunkered down to snack, drink coffee and rest. Many participants found great comfort and soon enough there was snoring coming from many directions…everyone was sleeping! While everyone took a nap, I checked for the sunrise multiple times…each time losing hope that we were going to see it! The first time out, complete fog. Second time, complete fog. Third time, a quick clearing and then complete fog. I was losing hope of the undercast that I had hoped for on the way up. Around 6:30am, I woke everyone from their naps knowing now that the sun was rising and we needed to descend. As we walked outside, the clouds began to clear and within 15 minutes we had a beautiful sunrise and an ocean of clouds surrounding us…the PERFECT undercast. Words cannot describe the experience so here are some pictures instead.
We spent an hour or so taking in the scenery. We tagged the summit for a group photo and then began our descent. On the way down, the guys from the Fire Department left behind a memory of their fallen brothers so that they can visit them every year at the summit of Mt. Washington. After all, it is hard to believe that they didn’t have something to do with the parting clouds, the amazing sunrise and the undercast we had just experienced – Frankie, Ed and Mike must be looking down.
We returned to The Bunkhouse for a cook out and naps, congratulatory celebrations and of course…beer. As a group, we were elated and with memories and friendships in tow we all agreed that Aid Climb 2014 was a huge success!
We raised approximately $9000 for the families of Ed, Mike, and Frankie and we got to experience all that Mt. Washington has to offer. Minimal sleep, wind, rain, fog, and cold made us dig a little deeper, but in the end we made memories, gained friends, and climbed to the summit of New England to be rewarded by an unbelievable undercast sunrise! We now know what it is like to walk in the clouds!
We would like to thank the businesses that donated to the event. Bagels Plus in North Conway donated 48 bagels and cream cheese, so we could fuel up before the climb. Also, Izzi Desrosiers, ambassador for Kicking Horse Coffee, brought all of us some top-notch caffeine all the way from Canada. Thank you Erin Fournier for donating your time and volunteering to help us! Last but not least, we want to thank Mike Merchant and the Boston Fire Department for helping us put this event together and serving our community everyday!