Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cottonwood Ninnies

As most of you know, its been a tough season in the Wasatch. I've done my best to keep my hopes high, and I still will. November to January I compensated with good Ice climbing and running. But I've never been that good of an ice climbing AND I've never been able to focus on ice for an entire season. I guess its a good thing I live is a place with short ice season.

Finally in February, a little snow has begun to fall. Although its the solution, its also the problem. Some people have a saying in the Wasatch that you don't huck until you've got a 100inch base. Well right now Alta is reporting a 77 inch base. If you've been skiing at all you know exactly what its like out there: A mine field of roots, stumps, fallen trees, rocks, depth hoar, and even dirt patches. Last week we did the super tour because it seemed like more fun to traverse than to ski. During the route I got confused multiple times--not because of lack of knowledge of the route, but because the terrain was completely different than normal. For example, West Hogum is like a gerbil maze the size of an airport. except for its made with rocks. To add to the difficulty the snow pack resembles a continental snowpack with endless depth rot creating a ticking time bomb.

After much suffering and what I reasoned was a patient wait for the snow, we bailed and went North, as far as necessary to find it. When we finally found it, I got much more than I bargained for--a look inside myself.

Day 1 was tame enough as we skied a late afternoon shorty with ridiculous deep powder on 30 degree slopes with an easy skate back on a packed track. It was the lure to bring us deep inside. Day 2 we ventured higher and farther to find another excellent ski experience that was filled with difficult route finding due to an incredible unstable snow pack. It was a time where giving into that steep powder slope would almost certainly have serious consequences. Thankfully I'm usually surround by smarter, more level headed decision makers.

This continued on, and we got more involved in the terrain and the snow and created bigger and bigger goals. By the last day went for our big goal of the trip, a majestic, high altitude backcountry peak. In the heart of the wilderness. The approach included snowmobiles, trucks, river crossings, extra gu, digital topo maps, and lots of slogging. It was clear that our goal was out of reach when we realized we wouldn't even be able to view the peak until past mid day. Earlier in the trip a partner had coined the term 'Cottonwood Ninnies' as a joke to our weakness. This last day made it clear, I was not up for the challenge.

Its when you push tell you can't, then keep pushing that you really find yourself, ultra-runners talk about the wall, and then the pit, then climbing out of the pit. What I learned was the meaning of the words 'Cottonwood Ninnies.' It was me.

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