In June of 2005, I made my second trip to the White Mountains in which I thought I had already experienced Mount Washington and the other wonderful old sentinels made of stone that stand at attention to line the Presidential Range. I was absolutely wrong.
I have already learned that when one goes to the mountains, there is always something to be gained and something more to see that you did not prior. For some reason though, I thought I knew Mt. Washington personally from that first experience and that there was nothing more. I love this mountain so of course I was excited about making my second ascent, but the mountain wasn't done with what it had to offer me.
I'm sure many of you reading this who have a love of the mountains can probably relate to the following writings of leaving the mountains and still feeling that emptiness when you talk to people. You can't understand it and you want so much for the people around you to relive the experience with you, but it seems like they already understand and don't care to dwell on it, even though you know they don't really understand. With remarks of "Oh, that's cool", they change the conversation and that empty feeling makes you want to try even harder to make them understand how amazing the mountain was .
Well......through my experiences I've learned that it is better to not even try. This very situation is what makes being in the mountains such a personal experience. You truly do have to go there to understand the emotion of standing on a summit, or traversing a corniced ridge. On my way home I started reading a book called Mount Washington: Narratives and Perspectives and finally found a piece of writing that can similarly put in to terms the emotion of being on the mountain. Below is an excerpt that I fell in love with from the first time I read it. Written by Rev. Julius H. Ward in 1890, he describes his experience on New England's beloved "Rockpile." It really hits home and I hope that some of you can relate to what I'm trying to convey. Enjoy.
Rev. Julius H. Ward (1837-1897), The White Mountains: A Guide To Their Interpretation
It was in this mood that the glory of Mount Washington passed before me. It passed many times, and first it presented itself in this wise. The sky had been thick with haze for several days, so that the surrounding peaks lost their significance and the sunrise had given no hint that a clearing was to come in the early morning. It did not seem as if there were clouds in the air. It was rather mist than cloud. The sun stood on the horizon half an hour high, when suddenly the atmosphere was alive with movement. The shifting of the scenery of the heavens and the earth had begun. Not often do the clouds assume greater majesty or break into wilder beauty than did the cloud mists which formed in column and rose for their morning homage. They lay like immense coils of impalpable reality over the neighboring peaks which they half concealed and half revealed-so near that it seemed as if you could almost take them in your arms, and yet they moved with the majesty and order of the winged chariots of the Most High. It was as if the earth and the sky were in motion-not in the conflict of battle, but in the tremor of silent adoration. One thinks and feels intensely at such moments. The rare displays in the life of Nature have their responses in the minds of men. It was so on this morning. I was not alone. Others were by my side enjoying the beauty of the heavens and the mountains as keenly as myself; but still I was alone. The soul was apart by itself, and would only have its own company. The pageant was as unreal as the baseless fabric of a dream, and yet it was intensely real. The clouds marched as if to the music of the morning, and the imagination was aroused to its highest sympathy with that something in the outer world that stimulates our feelings of unlimited life. In that picture, which no artist could paint, I felt as St. Peter is said to have felt when he had the ecstatic vision. I was caught up out of my usual self, and found things not ordinarily within my grasp so near that is seemed as if I had never known anything else. These are the moods that the mountains induce in the minds of those who are prepared to enter into their life. No one who has ever read Wordsworth’s Excursion will doubt their reality or feel that too much is made of them by those who have the vision of spiritual things.
At the morning and at evening the mountains put on their glorious apparel, and Mount Washington, slumbering like a giant at midday, is never so alive to the imagination as when the sunbeams shoot out of the east and cross the great ravines to kiss the summit, or as when, tired out with his day’s work, the Sun lingers to caress the two or three peaks of the Presidential range that are most in touch with one another, while the western valley and the great table-land are almost invisible in the gathering darkness. The morning brings light and joy to the world, and on Mount Washington these may come upon the wings of the wind or break in golden color through folds of mist, or make the peak resplendent, while the ravines are sending up their incense to mark the opening of the day. No one can tell what the revelation may be. If you are watchful for the vision, it will come, but you can no more coax it then you can hurry the footsteps of the hours. One must be like Samuel, watching through the night for the divine call, if the glory of the mountain is to be his portion. If you wait on the mountain until the moment of vision comes, it is as if the glory of earth and sky had passed before your eyes.
"There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have dared not to dwell, and with these in mind I must say, climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end."