A cold tour up the valley
It’s easy for skiers to forget winter is a challenging time. Heat becomes a basic necessity. Seasonal depression sets in. Animals starve to death. It’s a struggle to keep your photographs from being monotonously monochromatic.
And then there are real dangers. Yesterday, winter threw most of these at the Elk Range. First, two feet of heavy snow on a touchy snowpack significantly elevated avalanche risk on all aspects, which was immediately exacerbated by high winds. Then, the temperature dropped to minus 23 F, and didn’t even reach the negative single digits until 10 AM. It was a day to spend holed up with books and TV and too much coffee.
But cabin fever must be fought, and risks can be mitigated. The freedom of the hills was calling (it’s sort of a whistle). I had grand plans for a day-long tour on gentle terrain to an alpine basin I had never managed to visit in warmer weather. Unfortunately, my route-finding was poor, and I ended up climbing both too high and not far enough, becoming mired in deadfall and tight spruces. I abandoned said plans. Which might have objectively been a failure. But as my energy wavered I pushed out into a secluded clearing with a spectacular view of the valley. I stopped to drink hot tea and eat lunch, happy to move through the winter world and explore without an agenda.
Kinesthetically, I am not a picky skier. I enjoy sliding on snow in almost all its forms. The one exception to this may be breaking trail in deep snow for 8 miles, a motion I don’t find intrinsically enjoyable. Even so, today’s pleasures were great.