Cat vs. Camel: An epic battle on Mount Washington provides an opportunity to write about Marty


Marty on his Mount Washington throne (photo by Brian Clark, a former MWOB observer).

Marty on his Mount Washington throne (photo by Brian Clark, a former MWOB observer).

Marty, the Mount Washington summit cat, has been an elusive animal this week, slipping in and out of the Observatory staff quarters only to eat and use the litter box.  Apparently he has a friend who stays in the State Park employee quarters, and that person is working this week, so Marty is spending much of his time next door, playing with a new toy, or maybe hiding from new summit volunteers.

I did manage to snap his photo after he one of the weather observers captured him yesterday for a brief appearance in an educational videoconference with a group of pre-school children.

Marty, the observers tell me, is extremely territorial, and defends his mountaintop kingdom against all other animals, especially dogs, who tend to slink away when confronted with his stare down and hiss.  He even beat up a camel, back in 2009, when Josh the camel walked up the eight miles up the Auto Road with his handlers to stake a claim on being the first camel to climb Mount Washington.  Marty didn’t hurt the camel, but in the showdown between the two, the camel backed off when confronted with Marty’s hiss and arched back.

As the camel settles in for a rest, Marty strides over to show it which mammal rules the mountain. (MWOB photo by Cara Rudio, July 8, 2009).

As the camel settles in for a rest, Marty strides over to show it which mammal rules the mountain. (MWOB photo by Cara Rudio, July 8, 2009).

Marty is the latest in a series of legendary summit cats at the Mount Washington Weather Observatory, going back to 1932, when the staff first brought in a stray cat to control the mice population.  Marty, a Maine Coon, came to the mountain in 2008, from the North Conway Humane Society, after winning the first-ever Mount Washington Mascot Primary.


Marty racing past the precipitation can, which is used to measure the hourly precipitation on the mountain (Brian Clark photo).

Winter is tough on Marty. His playground is reduced from anywhere he wants to explore to the building that houses the Observatory and the State Park facilities. For an indoor cat,  this space is cavernous, with endless nooks and crannies to explore. For a mountain cat used to living free, the space, I imagine, feels cramped and claustrophobic.  Marty gets anxious and irritates his fur and skin with excessive licking, so now, in the winter, he takes a mild steroid a few times a week to calm his cabin fever.

A great shot, also by Brian Clark, of Marty jumping upon a rail.

A great shot, by weather observer Steve Welsh, of Marty jumping upon a rail.

Former weather observer Brian Clark had a reputation of being the “cat whisperer” and took many wonderful photos of Marty during his time on the mountain; to see more of them, review his Accuweather blog entries, “All About Marty the Cat,” and “My Favorite Pictures Part 4 Summit Cats“.

Marty looks out over Wildcat Mountain.

Marty takes in the view of the Presidential Range (Brian Clark photo).

I hope to get a few more photos of my own of Marty, but I’m a realist. I’m just another one of the legions of Marty fans on the mountain and around the globe (see the MWOB Facebook page, and the number of “likes” any shot of Marty garners). Maine Coons are usually people lovers, but Marty doesn’t cozy up to just anyone.  This cat encounters a constantly changing set of visitors, both in his quarters and outdoors. Although the weather observers are a stable presence, they come and go in their one-week shifts, making it hard for a cat to bond with a best friend. But as I  have been writing this entry, Marty has come out of hiding. After some slinking around, he cautiously hopped onto the couch where I am sitting. Now he is dozing on the cushion next to me, about a foot away. This is day three on the summit; maybe, just maybe, by the week’s end, Marty will call me a friend.

Not a very exciting photo, but I feel honored that Marty the summit cat has curled next to me.

A post shared by Dianne Fallon (@themaniacaltraveler) on

P.S. Later that night, while I was sitting on the couch and watching a movie, Marty settled in a step closer.  I think I even heard him purring.

Marty and me watching Lost together on Mount Washington.

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About Dianne Fallon

Maniacal Traveler Dianne Fallon writes from a house in the woods in southern Maine. Her interests include travel, hiking and the outdoors, and history, and she is quickly becoming an Instagram-aholic, @themaniacialtraveler.
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7 Responses to Cat vs. Camel: An epic battle on Mount Washington provides an opportunity to write about Marty

  1. ivanov vladimir says:

    Hm interesting

  2. Gabe W says:

    How old is Marty the cat? I saw Mt. Washington today while skiing before it disappeared in the clouds.

    • Dianne Fallon says:

      Hi Gabe-Marty has been up here for six years. They think he was one or two when he first came up, so he is about 7 or 8. How was the skiing?

  3. Ryan says:

    This is a really cool story and i hope you keep it updated!

    • Dianne Fallon says:

      Thanks, Ryan. As the week continued, Marty hung out more, both in the living in the quarters and in the weather station where the observers work. He was never cuddly, but he seems to enjoy human company.

      On my last night there, I climbed up into my bunk at about 10 p.m., and found Marty lounging on my sleeping bag. I didn’t want him to stay there because his claws could ruin my sleeping bag, but I let him hang out for a bit and he was purring up a storm — the first time I had ever heard him purr.

      The doors to the bunk rooms are always kept closed so that Marty doesn’t get in (mostly to protect him from getting shut inside a room), so I guess he gets lonely at night.

  4. Pingback: Presidential aspirations: You can't always get what you want | Dianne Fallon, The Maniacal Traveler

  5. Linda Bear says:

    Just from looking at the photos, I know this will be a fun article. Our cat Princess looked a lot like Marty. Another of our cats was a Maine Coon. These pics remind me of our now gone friends. I really like the pic of Marty that you labeled “not very exciting.” Thank you.

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