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The Unusual Ascenders

The 3rd Annual Alton Weagle Unusual Ascent Day took place this past Monday on Mount Washington.  With fresh snow closing the summit, participants still gathered at the base of the Auto Road to walk, ran, paddle and roll their way to the snowline.  As NHPR’s Sean Hurley reports, it’s an event that blends the difficult with the whimsical. 
75 year old Otok Ben-Hvar stares at the white powder top of Mount Washington. He’s about to go rolling along the Auto Road in a shambling contraption of five inner tubes.  

You know this is my 50th Anniversary as Mr. Inner Tube? We went down the Housatonic River in a giant slalom and somehow I ended up being Mr. Inner Tube. I had just come back from Hollywood, dancing with Jerry Lewis. And so I was dancing with Jerry Lewis all over the place and just playing games.

And the next thing he knew, he’d been proclaimed Mr. Inner Tube 1963.  50 years later,
Otok Ben-Hvar marks the occasion with a dizzying roll on the mountain road. 
Not far away, in a top hat and with a stuffed dove peaking from between the buttons of his shirt,  Hans Bauer ascends in a pair of construction stilts mounted with 15 foot high flagpoles that keep catching on the overhanging branches.  

It’s a gorgeous Memorial Day weekend. Happy to be here in the spirit of AltonWeagle, enjoying a whimsical day on this first of Summer. The flags are flying and couldn’t be better…

Last year Bauer went up backwards, blindfolded, skipping rope in lederhosen.  Very much in keeping with the spirit of Alton Weagle himself, who in the 1950’s engaged in a series of “publicity stunts” as Mount Washington Media Director Steve Caming terms them.  

I’mgonnasay he was maybe a prototype of an environmentalist, promoter, man of the mountain. He loved these mountains certainly and I think he wanted to get the message of their worth and their beauty out to a broader audience.

Weagle hiked and ran the mountain backwards.  Barefoot.  Blindfolded.  Pushing wheelbarrows with a hundred pounds of sugar.
Last year, North Conway fireman Jesse Lyman hauled up 75 pounds of firefighting equipment.  This year,  Lyman, who’s also a 6th grade teacher, is dressed up as the Cookie Monster.  Three of his students, Jack Sampo, Sam Greene, and Grace Cisler are disguised as chocolate chip cookies who for some Alton Weagley reason also kick soccer balls. 

Lyman: Well, we were talkingTeletubbiesright? Greene: Yeah, but they were really expensive. Lyman: Yeah to get costumes and do that a little more, plus I didn’t want to be babyTeletubbyor whatever that was.

The road is thick with snow and ice at the four mile mark and not safe.   Only the Anonymous Patriot has been cleared for the summit. 

My office is at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and Martin Luther King said go to the highest mountain in New Hampshire and let freedom ring and that’s how I respond to terrorism.

Speaking from behind a Guy Fawkes mask,  and with a replica of the Liberty Bell that he intends to ring at the summit, the Patriot is on a different kind of mission.

Anonymous Strong! Wooo!

Doing something hard while doing something silly is a cosmic and comic business.  

It’s just determination. When you want to do something you do it. You may get a little sick. But you just keep going and that’s what I’m doing. Keep on going.

Mr. Inner Tube 1963, Otok Ben-Hvar keeps on going. 
For NHPR, I’m SH

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at shurley@nhpr.org.

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