Back to the Slopes of Mt. Washington
by Phil Breidenbach
Up early, my breakfast cereal was downed and a fresh cup of coffee had been consumed. The dog was fed and we were walking around the neighborhood. A light covering of snow lay on top of the wet grass. The day before was a day of rain, from morning onto dusk. The roads were now wet and the wind could be heard whistling through the trees on the hillside above me.
I tightened up my collar and dug my hands deeper into my pockets. As I came around the circle that makes up the street where I live, the wind blew into my face, making it seem even colder. I had left the house without any gloves and my hands quickly chilled as I scooped up what the dog had left behind. I was reminded of winter camping, laying in my sleeping bag, a bit uncomfortable on the rough ground underneath me, listening to the wind as it rose and fell. Bending the trees as it whipped in-between their branches. Enjoying the sounds, but dreading when I'd have to leave my nice warm cocoon. As the wind beat against my face, I mentally composed a new list of things to wear this morning.
Today, Ann Marie and I were going down into the city to help the members of the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh clean up the hillsides on top of Mt. Washington. This was something the club has participated in for years, actually, decades. The skill sets of the club members made us perfect for doing this task. We would be climbing over the fences on Grandview Avenue, roping up and going down to collect what the visitors to the overlooks had left behind. Fast food containers, bottles, cans, cigarette butts and numerous other things that make you wonder about mans concern for their environment. In previous years, we have found tires, fire extinguishers, a differential to a car, roofing tiles, baby carriages and dolls to name just a couple things. There was even an engagement ring found by a club member! You can only wonder what the story was to that.
With some warmer clothes on and my coffee cup refilled, I headed towards AMB's house to pick her up. We'll see what we can find this year!
Snow hid the trash from us...at first
(Pictures will enlarge when clicked)
Arriving around 8 we found people had already arrived. There were a bunch of club members, some people from the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group and some from the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, the organization that works so hard to present a nice looking neighborhood to the city's visitors. With over 1 1/2 million people visiting the top of the hill overlooking the city, they have their hands full.
The tent was tied down, coffee and donuts appeared and the talk increased as more and more folks arrived and caught up with each other. At 8:30, the safety meeting started. Where we would be going, how to remain safe and a few other important thoughts were mentioned and then we were off to find a spot to start our mornings. Close to 50 people showed up to help out! A great turn out for a cold morning.
Our pre-climb talk
Ready to start cleaning...a good group of people!
AMB on the hillside
Matt going over the edge...again
Ann Marie and I started out near one of the observation decks. We tied AMB in and she hopped over the fence. ("No pictures now, please!") As she started picking up trash near the wall, I went over and watched Matt as he set up, preparing for his rappel over the edge of the platform. After a quick safety check, he dropped over the edge and started down the ropes to get the trash at the bottom of the deck. After a few minutes and a few more photos, I put the camera away and tied in myself. Crossing over the fence and dropping down to the ground below, I joined AMB in cleaning the upper portions of the hillside.
Working on the snow covered slopes
Hard at work..
The snow was covering most of the trash when we started. Paper and coffee cup lids just blended in with the snow. Some stuff stood out, their color making them easy to see, but most of it was found by brushing the snow aside. As the morning progressed, more and more trash showed up as the snow melted and our feet exposed it.
Ann Marie had a great day, she found a $20 bill on the hillside and then after she returned to the top, found another one laying on the sidewalk! Wow, talk about a lucky streak! I myself found a quarter. I slipped it in my pocket, AMB donated her finds to the club coffers! Hmm, good Karma there!
Ann Marie's FIRST lucky find
Workers were on both sides of the fence
Just a small amount of the trash collected today
Some of the other finds today were, two purses, one of them a Coach! A woman's wallet was found complete with credit cards and a student ID in it. (Club members are attempting to contact the owner.) A cane, a front bumper to someone's car, a pair of panties, and bags and bags of assorted glass and trash. Last year, we picked up 19 large bags of trash and 14 bags of recyclables! This year, we got 24 bags of trash and 16 bags of stuff to be recycled. Hey, that little bit of snow didn't slow us down at all!
One of the area's litterbugs and Kathryn
Pizza arrived around noon and the gear was packed away. After eating and BS'ing a bit, we headed back to our homes. Even though the weather was cold, we weren't. The snow hid some trash from us, but as the day progressed, we found more and more of it. It was obvious from the amount of trash bags piled against the railings that we did what we had come to do. The hillside looked better than when we first arrived. Once again, we had fun climbing the hills overlooking the city, getting views that the average visitor never sees, and doing a good deed in the process.
The Explorers Club of Pittsburgh - We do it all!
The sun never showed up until after we left, the clouds stayed prevalent all morning. The winds blew on and off as the day continued, but we didn't care.
We were on belay! We were happy!