05 December 2014

Because You Don't Always Win at Skiing

I've been lucky enough to have some of you readers for a long time, and you've seen my dedication to the blog ebb and flow. Sometimes I have tons of inspiration and no content, and other times I'm so overwhelmed by fun stuff to write about I just buckle under the pressure, or get started and quit halfway through (see: Norway).

Truth be told - writing is HARD!

But every now and then, something will come out of my fingertips through no effort from me and the end result will surprise and delight me. "Where did THIS  come from?" I wonder aloud to myself, bemused at my own....bemusement. I've finally learned to stop asking questions and just embrace creativity when it strikes. So after spending a day "skiing" on Heliotrope ridge one day last month, I came came home and was surprised to feel compelled to capture my experience despite the incredibly long day.

Below I've pasted what came from my fingertips. I hope you are amused.

Some context: Our day was...icy. A big surprise to me, as I had spent the previous weekend skiing fresh powder on the same line. I posted this original trip report to the forum Turns All Year - used primarily by backcountry skiers, so the language below is a little more technical than you might be used to seeing from me. For additional aid in your understanding, a weather window implies calm conditions in between storms, a high freezing level indicates softer snow conditions down low, and a whippet is (not a dog breed as my just-now Google search would imply, but in fact ) a ski-pole with a sharp end you can use to hault your downward progress in the event of a fall.


Heliotrope Ice Skating Competition

Last weekend I was high on life after winning at Heliotroping. (Trust me, it's a thing which one can win.) I let the hubris get the best of me and looked at the "weather window" for this weekend and saw only the GOOD. Sun? Yes! High freezing level? Yes! Another weekend of awesome slaying at Helio?? YESSS!

But let's be honest here for a moment: after looking at the report last night, we all knew it was going to be an iceskating competition up there, and I do not know how to do a triple lutz. I don't let that stop me from wearing a tutu though...

In further display of my misplaced enthusiasm, I agreed to meet Imran and Jill at 5:15am at the 65th Park and Ride. Why? Well, to get first track on ZEE ICE of course! 

Jill and Imran. Ice Lovers.

Drive time was about 3 hours because we took the scenic hwy9 route and stopped for the requisite potty break at the ranger station. We were hiking by 8:45, made it to the (much icier than last week) waterfall by 9:20, and were suffering up the ridge by 10am. The trail, just like last week, was covered in a layer of black ice - although the creek crossing were much less perilous this go around. 

Hoar Frost on the hike up. This grows right out of the ground.

We reached the top of the ridge (about 6k) and ditched our shoes in favor of ski boots, which were only marginally better. Why oh why didn't I get those micrcospikes I was talking about last week? Or at least bring real crampons?! Ski crampons are useless unless you are ON your skis....

Gingerly we worked our way across the upper hilly/creeky/rocky ice section. I took a spill trying to go "off-piste", and my whippet with the rubber tip protector was no help whatsoever. Good thing Jill was there to bring my painful clawing-at-the-ice to a halt.

A pair of skiers ahead opted to work up the Coleman while we headed west toward Heliotrope. Only in ski boots, the going was slow. We had to kick in each step, and even then the purchase was very minimal. I'm fairly confident on steep, icy stuff (see MixUp Peak report) but even this had me clenching my cheeks. Our route was still shaded, making it hard to differentiate between bad ice and really, really bad ice. You'd get overconfident with a few decent steps only to come crashing back to reality with a single bad step.

Careful. Caaaareeeefuulllll.

Eventually we made it to our "high point", a rock outcropping at the base of the bowl at roughly 6200'. It was 11:30am. We took one look at each other, and each reached into our bags to grab out our beers. We were done. To further solidify our decision, I hiked up about 100' to ski down. I have no doubt you could hear those 5 turns from miles away.

Shortly our party of three became a party of 12 when a few different teams of Canadians descended on our "safe spot". They, too, lamented not bringing their hockey skates. They sent a reconnaissance mission, with Jill en tow, up about 500' only to return with the same conclusion as me. Apparently the top turns were "a little better", but not by much.

Recon mission

So, we hung out for a while longer, Imran played some "golf", and the three of us headed down. We did put our skis on to traverse through the rock and "snow" to our boots. Again I took the ridge down in ski boots for better purchase, then we "enjoyed" the standard slog out. 

The golf series. Jill was behind, and I was in front, and we happened to capture the exact same moments from different angles. Amusing.

No, but seriously, I had a fun day. The sun was out (briefly) and Baker was stunning (as always). We just didn't get the goods. Sometimes you're right, and sometimes you're....less right. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm all about hiking - as long as there's the possibility of skiing at the end of the rainbow. If you are however, deluded into thinking there will actually be skiing tomorrow at the end of this rainbow quest, I have to say you will not, in fact, win at Heliotroping.

Not winning at skiing. But winning at having the most (delicous) fun. Who knew ice tasted so good?

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