2007-10-29 01:58:19.000 – Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist
The New York Times word of the day on October, 26, 2007 was seclusion.
1: the condition of being kept away from or hidden
2: an isolated place
Some people seek seclusion while others dread it. The summit of Mount Washington melds both of these groups together at times. As you begin to ascend the mountain, a feeling of seclusion becomes more and more apart as your car slowly fades away behind endless rows of trees. Highway noises are replaced by the sound of soggy leaves and grinding stones beneath your feet. The bars on your cell phone fade to none existence and you think to yourself, “I wonder if that guy on the light rail yelling at his client over a cell phone would even make it out here.” The skies above are growing gray and eventually you will be hiking in them as you strain to make out the next cairn in front of you. The fog around the summit secludes the actual peak from revealing itself to you. Eventually, the summit buildings appear out of the fog like looming giants and you look around to find yourself alone. You yell out aloud just to see if anyone hears you. When deafening silence greets you realize that you are in seclusion. Just you, your thoughts, the summit, and the elements blowing by you. And in this moment you are happy as seclusion is your friend.
On the flip side, if you are hiking and you become injured, being in seclusion starts to work against you. You try your phone only to find it blinking a “no service” message on the screen. You look ahead, no one, you look back, no one. You are alone. Fear washes over and the worst case scenarios start streaming through your mind. Finally, another hiker finds you. They will go and find you help. Hours pass and the hiker returns with others for your rescue. But being in a secluded location, it will be a few more hours to transport you to the nearest rescue facility. You realize in such a secluded location as Mount Washington, rescues work take hours not minutes, especially in the winter when the quickest way to safety is down, not up.
Working the night shifts on the summit; I walk this fine line of pleasure and fear. I like being alone to concentrate on my work. I turn on the music and concentrate on weather observations, forecasting, and various other tasks assigned to a staff meteorologist. I have been working nights as an observer and meteorologist for seven years between this job and my last, so it is just engrained in me that the night is mine. But the fear of seclusion confronts me every time I go to deice an instrument, collect the precipitation can or just outside doing my observation. I am alone. If I get hurt, it will be hours until someone notices that I am not inside. Once found, it will be a minimum of four hours in the best of conditions to get a vehicle sent up here and evacuate me down the mountain. But this is something that nests in the back of my head. For the rest of the time, I revel in the seclusion and beauties of this mountain as I hope those of you who have climbed it have.
Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist