NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

July 19, 2013

Part of the 'croo'

Port woman spending summer working in the White Mountains

Newburyport’s Grace Pezzella has always been the adventurous sort.

An outdoors enthusiast and hiker most of her life, Pezzella was inspired by her parents to find herself outside as much as possible. Now she’s putting that lifestyle to the test all summer long as a member of the hut “croo” at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

“When I got there, we had to pack all of our belongings while in snow that was up to our waists,” Pezzella said. “On my first day, I was really stressed out, so my boss told me to take a break, and the mandatory break is sledding down the glacier, into the lake.”

Lakes of the Clouds and the seven other huts in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s network are currently celebrating 125 years of service to hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

Members of the croo are responsible for hauling up to an average of 70 pounds of supplies for the huts. The croo is also responsible for the general welfare of all the hikers, as well as anyone who just happens to stop in just below the mountain’s summit, which is 5,012 feet.

The croo also provides meals for all the guests, who can total up to 90 at Lakes of the Clouds, the biggest hut in the system.

“They’re like alpine lodges with full kitchens,” Pezzella said of the huts. “And run mostly on solar power.”

Of the approximately 200 new applicants for hut croo positions each year, only a select few are chosen. They work 11 days at a time with three days off that they can spend any way and anywhere they want, but most stay on the mountain.

“I think just a general love for the outdoors is pretty much the biggest prerequisite for the job,” Pezzella said. “We do a lot of on-the-job training. We are all required to get wilderness first aid certification before we can be hired. And, as far as packing is concerned, it’s just a sheer force of will.”

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