Friday, April 20, 2012

Spinal Tap

On the first day of fall, 2007, while camped beside a hot-spring laden river, I asked my girlfriend Pam to be my wife. Last week I returned to the mountains that loom thousands of feet above those hot-springs with hopes of getting back onto a big spine wall that we skied last year; but uncertain snow stability forced us off the welcoming face, and so I spent the past week riding a rollercoaster of emotions. Despite my mixed bag of apprehension and anticipation, I felt welcomed back to this rugged place as we rode into camp Friday eve, and glassed the North West face we hoped to ski.
Dave B. pulled an all-nighter and met Joe, Brad and I at 5:30 as we tandemed sleds near the top of the highest peak in sight. An hour later, we had climbed, down-climbed, traversed, then climbed again, and were peering over our sunny North East facing spines. Brad took position on a knife edge arĂȘte to take photos, while Joe, Dave and I skied adjacent spines of perfect pow. We cut off the face to the arĂȘte and waited for Brad before dropping into the dark North West face where more spines continued. After 1000 meters of steep cold skiing, and another 1000 meters of warm tree skiing, we were back at our sleds, all smiles and slapping high fives. We grabbed lunch while examining our work of art, and then headed back up to retrieve the sleds at the top when disaster struck. Dave’s sled blew up and we spent the next 10 hrs towing, pushing, pulling, digging, sweating, and swearing, and managed to get it out to the main trail by 10:30. Too tired to eat, I refueled with Dave’s Kokanee Golds and passed out soon after midnight.
With just enough energy left we pulled another dawn patrol. This time we wanted the long, steep, unskied North West spines. On the ridge, I was able to cut a small hole out of cornice and peer down; wow, what a sight. Again Brad set up on a ridge and captured the moments that Joe and I rode the never ending spines. The main spine I skied eventually ended, but I was only half way down the main face, so I kept moving right, and catching more and more steep and deep spines. It was the perfect run.
I was pretty much speechless at the bottom as Joe and I traded knuckles, smiles and a nod. This was a big personal accomplishment for us, and it will shed new light on how we look at and ski other big mountains. Hopefully this September I’ll return with my wife and newborn child to again relax in the pools, while gawking up at some fresh snow, and reflect on the abundant life we have here.