I just love it when a plan comes together, or in this case, comes together, falls apart, then comes back together again. Late last week I hatched a plan, ingenious in it’s simplicity: To ski 10k worth of vertical the following Monday. Then the weather decided to take a turn, for the better. Weekend snow storm totals were slated to be in the 1-2 feet range. Not to be deterred from my primary goal, I decided to break out the Armada JJ’s and the ride s%@t outta the resort. Tough when these are your problems and dilemmas in life.
So easy climbing to the top...
So then Sunday afternoon/night, while the rest of the Wasatch watched in utter horror while the storm split (again, groan), I perked right up. From plan A to plan B (not that plan B mom!) back to plan A. It was game on, the 10k day! I arose at the blisteringly early hour of 6:15 a.m., having watched one to many Simpsons episodes before bed. The plan was to be out the door in 15 minuets, which happened 30 minuets after that. At 7:45 I pulled off at the base of Kessler and paused long enough to let the trail of tears creep by me. Poor bastards heading up to the resorts to ski the angry inch…god how I pity the fools.
I made short work of the first lap, remembering mostly to keep my pace low, that today would be a long day not marked by blisteringly fast splits, but instead marked by dogged determination. The trail was mostly sort of broken, with about 3-4” on top of the skin track. At the top when I broke form and hooked left I broke trail through 12” plus inches to take me directly below the cliffs off Kessler’s summit.
Better know your way back down...
The skiing off the top of the aprons below Kessler proper was sublime. Boot-top deep powder with the occasional spray in one’s face. The skiing below the aprons, well that was choppy, it’s easy to see how far 2 feet would have gone in fixing the place up. Still, in true bcbuzzards style I was able to find some completely untracked boot to knee deep powder up in the trees. The President’s Spray Day hordes? They never descended. One group with two others was spotted lurking, but one lap proved to be enough to satiate their desires.
Somewhere on the second lap up I decided to break form, and actually drink some water, tasty stuff that water is. About half an hour later I went back for seconds only to find the bite valve frozen solid. I’d blown out the tube, held it up and closed it shut, all the tricks of the trade. Well, this is gonna suck I decided, especially since all my food reserves were dry except for the dry-peanut-butter-based ones. Still I pressed on, and somewhere on the up-track it struck me. With the new Camelbak reservoirs there is a release clip on the bottom of the tube, where it hooks into the pack. My ski partner back home has declared this to be placed there for all those uptight prudes who want to (gasp) clean their camelbaks!?! I’m not sure why it is there, but I can tell you this: I popped the piece off, stuffed it into my coat, and by the next lap I was saddling up to the hydration station once again. From now on I’ll just disassemble the entire unit each time. It might take me a few seconds more to drink, but at least I’ll be able to do so!
I had some time to think today, well a LOT of time to think. I also pulled a classic Phil move, I poked around, a lot. I found stashes up there I never knew existed, and skied the tight, tight, TIGHT trees. Pillow lines, yup; rock gardens, you betcha; steep drainages with tons of debris, O YEAH! The kind of skiing that challenges you, rewards you, and sometimes leaves you questioning your sanity.
The real highlight of the day came in the waxing hours of sunlight. At about 3 p.m. the clouds descended on the Wasangles range. Helicopter rotors could be heard in the distance beating their frantic race home. Even the powder-turds were calling it quits and punching out. With one lap left to hit the goal, my objective was easily with-in reach. As I pushed upward and onward my skins began to lose their tack. While scraping them off on the ski (crumpled dollar bill in a coke machine style) I made a deal with them. “Skins” I said, “we got a job to do here, and I promise you stay stuck for this last lap them its home to dry out for both of us.” The lie seemed to work, for this promise was not one I could keep.
Between a rock...
I peaked out at 5pm on the last full lap. The skies were opening up, flakes were falling, visibility was dropping, the light was flatter than a day old half drank PBR tall boy. The evil grey was in full effect. I checked the watch to verify my total: 9,857. Uggggh. With 30 minuets between me and my last possible turn around time I was coming up short. I did what any sane person in such an insane situation would do. Hastily, with my dreams and goal slipping away from me I jammed everything into the pack and dropped the line down to the bench. Slapping the gear back on I rolled up slope till 5:30 before glancing tentatively again at my faithful Sunnito Core: 10,207. Success! Now all that lay between me and my goal was to limp back down, under the cover of falling darkness, the 2,700 feet back to the car. Face shots, tree branches, and a big blow up later and I was back to the Blind Miner of the Wasatch.
This day marks my biggest day of climbing ever, with or without skis. I may have rallied some big tours in the Tetons (Table Mtn) but for sheer verticle, nothing I’ve posted comes close to this. It feels good to push the envelop, and with an earlier start I now know that 12k is easily obtainable. I also dropped to under 100,000 feet left on my season goal of 250,000 feet of self-propelled. Say what you want about snowfall and the conditions in the Rockies this winter, I know the truth. We can pine away this season, and our lives for that matter, thinking about our dreams or we can get out and live them. We can worry and fret, toss and turn, or we can wake up in our dreams, and know we can do anything there.
Face shots and evil grey...nah not here, not now.
Just for a bit of fun I thought I’d break down my self-propelled helicopter day of skiing, cost wise. These stats go out to everyone who thinks skiing is too expensive…
1/5th of a tank of my VW Passat’s Jet A (aka 91 octane) 10
1 Cup of my personal Santala’s Jet A (aka Coffee) .50
¼ lbs chocolate covered Almonds 1.99
1 pack poptart from Costco 48 pack .25
Approx. 12 pretzel/peanut butter bites .33
2 gels 1.50
1 ltr. H2O (municipal supply aka tap) 0.00
3 Carmel Cookie Waffles 1.13
2 packs instant oatmeal .20
Nuts/Nutella/pb in oatmeal .40
All you can eat sushi post ski 25.95 (includes tip/tax)
Total out of pocket expenses: 42.25
Editors note: A 5 buck Little Caesars Hot N Ready would have lowered my costs by ½, if you’re on the budget-budget self-propelled helicopter skiing plan.
Just to be fair, let’s include an additional item line for all the gear you might need to justify having*:
1/250th Dynafit ZZues boots (retail 670, psssh who pays that) 2.68
1/40 Dynafit Stoke skis (799.95 msrp) 19.99
1/40 Dynafit Stoke Skins (209.95) 5.24
1/300 Black Diamond Expedition Ski Poles (90 msrp) 0.3
1/70th Mammut Eidger (675.00 msrp) 9.64
1/150th Arcteryx Fury AR Pants (395 msrp) 2.64
1/300th Giro Seam Helmet (160) .53
1/50th Mammut RAS 30 Airbag Pack** (950) 19
Total Gear Costs: 60.02
OK, so in hindsight, all in 60.02 for the gear plus 42.25 for food pulls the grand total for the time of your life, dirtbag style to 102.27. OUCH, this is actually still an expensive sport. Well until you take a look at http://powderbird.com/adventures/utah/rates where the powder turds offer you a day of 10k backcountry vert for 1,260 bucks. 10 times the cost, and I’m pretty sure those rates don’t include all you can eat sushi, or a time share (1/50th) of a Mammut airbag!
*All these items were priced at full retail in case, unlike me, you simply cannot wait until June to by it for ½ price.
** The Mammut RAS 30 is open for debate here. I’ll be the first to say that if you look for one piece of gear to save your live, you are doomed to failure. Just like a beacon, if you have to use this bag for it’s specific feature, well, you screwed the pooch somewheres along the line. (Knock on wood!) Still it provies me with a touch more comfort than the Black Diamond Avalung, albeit with a bit of a weight-load. Skiing alone is a risky endeavor. Seeing only two other people this day highlights this fact. Sure the Avalung allows me to breath longer buried. But if no one sees me go under all that really does is extend the period of time during which I can contemplate my own undoing and personal foibles. The airbag might at least keep me on top, possibly allowing me to dust myself off and limp down/call for help…at they very least easier to spot for SAR.
Another night begins on the Wastach