Monday, 10 December 2012

Shortened December Days

From the end of a logging road at the end of a valley, we find ourselves skinning through old-growth forest with a deep ravine on our right.  As we climb, the ravine shallows and soon we've arrived at a headwaters of sorts - an elevated meadow rimmed by a steep ridgeline of trees, chutes and spines on one side and a mellower shoulder on the other.  The sky is blue and the near-solstice sun is perhaps providing just the tiniest bit of warmth.  The occasional wisp of High-Cirrus lingers off in the distance.

We gain the ridge at a low col and contour up to its crest.  Cirrus is building steadily overhead as we drop-in for a short run to get a feel for the snow.  Up for another, and then another which finds us on top of something a bit more real: longer, narrower, steeper.  These early season hurdles which we methodically surmount each year are part of the process of preparing for the months and objectives ahead.

At the bottom with heart and legs pounding, the light is just starting to fade.  With time for one more, we retrace our steps one last time, arriving at a sub-summit just before dusk.  The sky is grey and crystallized droplets blowing around us confirm temperatures are dropping.  I put on every piece of clothing I have with me and then start down for our last, and longest, run of this short December day.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Getting out of the house...

The hard work of skiing during a mild coastal storm starts when your alarm goes off at 6am.  Pouring rain and warmer than ideal temperatures can tempt you into a Snooze cycle which eventually leads to more sleep and then coffee over a lazy breakfast.

But you tell yourself you could use the exercise and so get up, out of the house, and drive to the mountains.   It's just about raining at the trailhead and while there are others milling around, they're all waiting for someone else to start breaking trail through 35cm's of fresh shmoo.

Your group starts out and it's hard work, but at least you know there's no one in front of you.  5km's to the hut, and then up to the ridge and beyond.  The snow is deeper here but it's a bit lighter too.  Regardless, the exertion and freedom of making a path through the mountains is rewarding enough.

Finally you rip your skins and drop into the fog, aiming for the first stand of trees where you know you'll get some visibility.  The fall-line steepens and mid-way through your turn you find yourself chest deep in fluffy snow.  The skiing, it seems, is pretty good too :)