25 October 2014

Celebrating Three Years of Turns All Year

I love that the Pacific Northwest is home to something like Turns All Year. Broadly, TAY is a group of people who count the number of consecutive months in which they ski with the goal of doing it for a solid year. Each consecutive year becomes both easier and harder (man am I STILL doing this? - I'm STILL doing this!), and the summer months are always sure to be a bit spicy.

For each crazy rider participating, TAY means something different, allowing the individual to determine their own success. For some it only counts if you earn your turns; others think you need to hike at least 1,000'. To me it means I spend at least an hour with skis on my feet - going up or down. Riding a chairlift or not.

That John Muir - He knew what was what. 

In October, I reached the level of dedication (read: crazy) most in the TAY community would consider a legitimate benchmark: 36 consecutive months of planks on snow. That's three years of consecutive-month'ed skiing, and I like hope to get 36 more!

What's even more amazing than the skiing though, is the community around TAY. Just two years ago I had a really hard time finding backcountry ski partners. Now I feel blessed with a huge group of partners - some found through the TAY website, some discovered on Instagram (Instafriend (copyright Nick Drake)), and others through my current ski friends. I remain grateful to all of the folks who took on more risk to let me tag along early on in my TAY career.

There's a mountain back there. We promise.

To mark this milestone, I set out with the usual suspects: Theresa and Nick (who were themselves celebrating 4 years and 5 years TAY respectively) to our favorite place - Mt. Rainier. We left Seattle late - half on purpose and half because apparently we forgot all of the things we would need - and arrived to Paradise when it was barely still "morning". We were hiking before noon and started skinning a few hours later just above Pebble Creek (7,300'). The fall colors were beautiful, and Rainier just had a fresh dusting of snow, showcasing her beautiful contours.

Fall is in the air.

Mountain Creek.

Rainier's lower flanks. A hundred years ago the glacier came down this far.

Inclimate weather met us about 7k, but we were undeterred and knew if we powered through the cloud, we'd meet sunny skies soon. Sure enough, Rainier delivered:

Just as we dumped our pack, Nick and Threresa realized they basically had all of the colors of the rainbow!

Skinning fools.

I love how he pops with the blue background and bright clothes!

Always all smiles on Rainier. Not pictured: me nearly falling over trying to get my ski back in the right place.

We arrived at Camp Muir just before 4pm to have the place to ourselves. The last thousand feet of skinning was a bit spicy, by which I mean incredibly icy, but we were making good time and were committed to making it to Muir. Winds were high so we loaded into the shelter, brought Owly out to play, drank some Rainier beers (duh), and fueled up for the icy descent.

Brr. Let's get inside!

Looking down from Muir. You can see the icy sheen. Photo by Nick.

Owly loves skiing.

The descent was NOT icy and we were VERY stoked! With 2500' to ski, we only stopped once and instead focused on enjoying the fast and responsive first 1000', the still-reasonably-fun middle 1000', and the last 500' of glop back to the transition point.

Time to RIDE! Photo by Nick.

We absolutely had not anticipated such good skiing, but what genuinely surprised and delighted us was the spectacular sunset we got to see on our hike out. I mean. Seriously. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life. Rainier with fresh snow. Pink/orange alpenglow on the west side of the mountain. Clouds floating in and out offering ever-changing light on zee mountain. These do not do it justice, but this is all I've got:

The beginning.

Check out the Nisqually Glacier in the background.

The middle.

The end :)

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