Monday, July 16, 2007

Social call

One of the great pleasures of working in one of a string of mountain huts is the chance to visit with friends. There about forty of us in all, spread out in a line over fifty-five or so miles, and we all get to know each other during Gala, the week of training at Mizpah that precedes opening the huts for full-service.

We work eleven days on before getting three days off. Some hut croo go home for days off, but many simply travel from hut to hut. It’s cheap, fun, and beautiful. Observing how another hut runs is instructive—new ideas, whether for morning BFDs (Blanket Folding Display skits) or cleaning counters, spread by word of mouth. Most of these visits are set up during social call—a fifteen minute stretch on the radio immediately following the the post-breakfast reservation call.

Earlier this season I spent a night at Lakes of the Clouds Hut. All huts have their distinctive qualities, and Lakes’ may be its numbers (others would say its superb alpine location), both in terms of its croo—with 10 members, it is the largest in the system—and its guest, of whom there may be as many as 98 in a night. Lakes of the Crowds, indeed!

Nonetheless, the Lakes croo was extremely hospitable. My overt reason for visiting was to take photos of the Dwarf Cinquefoil, but playing Twister in BFD clothes on the croo room floor after a few whiskey sours ended up being a bit more bracing. In the morning, the hutmaster Beth showed me the remains of a plane wreck in Oakes Gulf dating back toe the winter of 1969-70. Its propeller was confiscated by hut croo after the season began and, until its disappearance four years ago in mysterious circumstances, was the most sought after raid item.

This past week we at Galehead played host to my old Mizpah hutmate RD Jenkinson, over on a croo switch from Lonesome Lake, where he is Assistant Hutmaster. The weather during his stay was rather poor, so the four of us stayed inside most of the time, sharing cook days, having slumber parties in the poop (attic), and consuming a remarkable amount of beer. On the hottest day, when the sun managed to burn through the clouds for a while, Hilary, RD, and I descended to 13 Falls, where the caretaker is a friend of ours from last fall and the cascades have dug out several swimming holes.

A strong bond develops between those who start in the same season. RD was a great companion at Mizpah, a confidante and partner in idiocy, whether raiding, shooting the bb gun, or rolling around on the razor scooter during dinner talk. This week we managed to put Hilary in the sink (twice!), wash our hair together (both long), and write a farcical love letter to Galehead Mountain in the croo log.

In the end, the hut and the mountains are far less important than the people we work with up here. A kind word, ridiculous joke, or willingness to listen—this is what hut makes hut life so enjoyable and gives us our esprit de corps.
Pictures: Thad, Caroline, and Beth fixing salads; Ben Lewis filling water pitchers; Caroline, Thad, Beth, and Meredith playing homemade Twister; and RD, Hillary, and Erin on the Galehead roof.

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