I Lost My Way

2012-12-23 00:15:52.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

A summit map to help orient yourself.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to lose your way. I’m not trying to be deep or metaphorical here, I mean literally, it doesn’t take much to lose ones way. I was reminded of this tonight when I was out getting our precipitation can at 1830EST. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let me set up the “why” behind me losing my way. Over the course of the afternoon, relatively low winds allowed a few inches of new snow to start accumulating on and around the summit. This snow was the light and fluffy variety, so it didn’t take much to start transporting it or whipping it up. So as winds started to increase towards my 1830EST departure outside, the light and fluffy snow started to get whipped up into a ground blizzard with white out conditions.

Walking out to get the precipitation can, I was doing good. I first followed the wall of the generator housing for the Sherman Adams building. Once at the end, I pointed towards where the can should be and started counting my steps. A brief lull in the winds allowed for me to find the Nipher Shield and swap out the precipitation cans. I then turned back to where the Sherman Adams building should have been and started counting my steps back. But midway between the Nipher Shield and the corner of the Sherman Adams building, winds suddenly increased forcing me to turn away from them as snow, ice, and rime were being whipped up. And this is where I first started to lose my way. As winds died down a bit, I still couldn’t see the building so, I started stepping towards where I thought the building was. Another gust, and again I find myself turning away from the winds and disorienting myself further. This stop and go process continued several times, turning me more and more around. Now I know better than to panic so I just calmly as possible tried to figure out where I was and figure how to move back to my goal. And I knew that if I started to feel the forces of gravity increasing as I head down a slope, I was really going the wrong way since it should always be flat in my location on the relative summit of the mountain.

After what felt like several minutes passing, I finally see a faint light through the fog, snow and blowing snow and started to head in its general direction. As I arrived at the light, I didn’t find myself at the front entrance to the Sherman Adams building but at an entrance to the Yankee Building on the opposite side of the summit. While disappointed I was happy because I had my point of reference and could get back. So I waited for a slight lull in the winds then headed to where the Sherman Adams should be. I learned from my recent mistakes to not veer from my straight line path; so when strong gusts occurred, I just held tight, took the punishment and continued on. I passed the Nipher Shield and at that point I knew I was halfway home. After a bit more shuffling and pausing through the snow drifts, I found my way once again to the Sherman Adams building. And let me tell you, nothing feels better than finding your way back home after being lost, no matter how short the time span. Now, let’s hope I don’t repeat my mistakes again tonight when I go get the precipitation can again around 0100EST, being “lost” once was enough for today.


Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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