Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Epic Adventures

An epic realization has struck me: the two most awe inspiring, badass things I’ve ever done in the mountains occurred in 2012, within 3 months of each other, in what most would call “the off season."
My first dream trip occurred on the famous Vallee Blanche ski tour in Chamonix - Mt. Blanc in May. Chamonixskiguide’s definition: The greatest descent in the Alps: the Valley Blanche is not a piste, but a high mountain route with unprepared snow on the glaciers, the itinerary is 22 kilometers (13 mi) long and the vertical descent is higher than 2800 meters (1.7 mi/9,186 ft).

I used crampons on my ski boots and ski crampons under my skis, roped to my partner, nearing the closest I’ve ever come to death but for one false move during that tour. I felt humbled sitting atop that glacier, soaking in the scene around me and what was promised for my descent. Knowing that many ski and mountain enthusiasts can only dream of checking off Mt. Blanc and The Vallee Blanche, many of which will never get there. Luckily my best friend lives in Les Contamines – Montjoie and I was able to enjoy an epic trip on a seriously low budget. It pays to have friends in high places!! Quite literally… 
Atop the Aguille du Midi

Crampons, check. Skis, check. Rope, check. Away we go down the knife's edge ridge to start our ski.

Soaking in the view with hot chocolate and jambon beurre - tres bon!
My second most amazing mountain adventure happened in July on Mt. Hood. Two friends and I hiked up above crater rock, up the hog’s back (~10,600 ft) on all fours because it was so treacherous and windy, post holing through the snow each step up the ridge. We clicked in from the massive crevasse above the hogback's neck, traversed across and skied an amazingly steep corn snow pitch (over 1,000 vertical feet of steep!), then traversed to Illumination rock and skied another glorious wide open corn snow field back in bounds to Palmer. We gained roughly 2,500+ vert and skied down over 2 miles back to the parking lot. Best Sunday-Funday ever! July 22, 2012

Palmer Glacier, climbing/ski route. July 22, 2012. 
Looking back at Crater Rock from Hogsback ridge. 

Hiking Hogsback, almost to where we finally put skis on! 

A few common threads loop through my mind dreaming of these mountain ascents.  The first and most evident being certain death or dismemberment if anything had gone wrong. So, apparently my definition of epic, amazing, hardcore mountain adventures involves an incredibly high risk of death. I believe most people’s definition would, by default, include a serious risk of death or injury when considering high mountain activities. Its a common thread that binds why many ski and mountain enthusiasts do what they do. Its all for the adrenaline rush… the natural unabated high.
Although its involved, I don’t necessarily enjoy being fearful of death when I'm skiing. But many of the activities I do enjoy, and will continue to pursue, include death as a consequence if anything went wrong. Perhaps it is not the intimate knowledge that I could die out there, but with that knowledge, that I’ve never felt more alive.
Holding exclusive domain over the mountain heights, if only for an hour or an afternoon, also makes me feel incredibly alive and at peace. Most people don’t get to experience mountains the way I do or the way I strive to one day. That the masses do not share this experience with me lets it become something special for me, and a select group of people on the same vibration. 
Ski touring, to me, goes beyond a feeling of peace, greater than the physical accomplishment of hiking your ass off to get to an exclusive place. Maybe it’s the promise of getting to go ski something beautiful and untouched… All I know is that I’ve never been happier or more filled with joy than at those moments*. I do not want to be anywhere else at that moment. I feel pure satisfaction in both what I’ve just done and what I am about to do – ski some of the purest snow conditions, untracked, for miles and miles.
To me, this lifestyle in no way conjures the word “bum,” and I want to prove that the lifestyle I've chosen is just real and validated as any other job. I work hard, outside, everyday and must, in order to make ends meet. I feel fortunate to have found what I truly love early on and the courage to go after my passion whole-heartedly. Isn't the "American Dream" to go out and find what you love and figure out how to make money doing it? In this period of my life, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing and nothing else I feel I should be doing except more skiing, bigger skiing, and better skiing, for a lifetime.