On the Keck 2 Dome

During the morning meeting we discuss our plans for the day. This is done to coordinate activities, to insure we will not get in each other’s way during the day. This also lets everyone know if we are doing anything that might have a safety concern, so we can watch out for each other. With this last part in mind I noted that I would be climbing to the top of the Keck 2 dome.

On the Keck 2 Dome
Andrew Cooper atop the Keck 2 Dome, photo by Denny Birch
All I needed to do was to take some photos and make some measurements. We want to install some weather instruments on top of the dome, given the harsh mountain conditions this must be properly planned and approved. This was a nice day, not a cloud overhead, warm and sunny, and no wind. A perfect day for climbing the dome.

After the meeting Denny approaches me. “Can I come?” he asks. Denny is our network manager, in charge of our computer systems, he has never had an opportunity, or reason, to climb the dome. The top of the dome is just a bit spectacular, and it is a beautiful day, I can not blame him for wanting to go.

“Are you fall restraint trained?” I asked. You must be trained to use the climbing harnesses and fall restraint systems to go up. I guessed Denny was not, and thought I would be quashing his hopes. “Yes!” he surprised me and explained he had recently been trained by Maura, our safety officer. At this point I have to relent, “Meet me after lunch”.

The climb is not easy, it starts with 50ft of ladder. You clip your harness to the safety cable and climb straight up. This is when you fully realize you are at 13,600ft and the air is very thin, getting thinner with each rung up. After the ladder there are two flights of stairs as you come over the top of the dome. But it is so worth it, the view is simply gorgeous, stop, catch your breath, enjoy the view.

Denny was grinning ear to ear. I remember my first time up and feeling the same way, actually I always feel that way a bit when I get up there. It is fun to take up a first timer, to play tour guide, to share the thrill. We take a few minutes to take photos of each other before getting to work.

I am sure Denny will remember this day for a while, his first time to the top, maybe his only chance. I will be up there a few more times to get this job done, hopefully on days like this one.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

One thought on “On the Keck 2 Dome”

  1. Heh, this is basically how I got on the roof of Subaru–by asking to join. Except when I went up it was twilight and icy, so a bit more exciting.

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