“This is going to hurt.”
Foreboding feelings of pain were strong going into this weekend. I am in the worst shape of my life. An honest self assessment suggested I could get the job done but only at the cost of several days of pain. But even in the worst shape of my life, I’m still more capable than I give myself credit for and I’ll need to remember that as I start rebuilding my body and, perhaps more importantly, the rest of my life.
While hiking back up for my third run, I overheard a descending hiker mention that “you only see snow in July so many times in your life.” That is true for hikers and die hard skiers alike. Having now skied in July four times, I almost started to think of it as a regular occurrence. Something to be expected as normal and just another part of my season. Which it is. But that comment in passing reminded me that no ski day should be taken for granted, especially a July ski day.
The lifts have long since stopped turning but the east coast ski season is still far from over. After two years on the late season disabled list, it is with great pleasure that I am able to extend my season through spring and into summer.
I often wonder why I do it. Why punish myself for a few short runs totaling less vertical than that hiked to and from the skiing? Some might answer for the love of skiing or the passion of earning turns. But that rings hollow to me. There is something much more primal at work in this regard.
The truth is that there is no reason nor logic. There is no concrete premeditated thought process driving me to ski to the bitter end. There is something unconscious and primal pushing me towards such things. I do it because it’s there. And because I can.
Follow your dreams and don’t ever look back.
Ten years ago during August 2000, after the conclusion of my last two undergraduate classes and prior to beginning my first full time job, I decided to take up hiking. Inspired by reading Waterfalls of the White Mountains by Bolnick, I began planning various Waterfall hikes. I bought an AMC White Mountain Guide. And for my first peak bagging experience, I targeted none other than New England’s highest peak, Mount Washington. Why start small, right?
This ill fated first attempt at hiking involved limping up the summit cone via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail due to a sore and fatigued leg muscle. Despite a severe blow to my ego, at the summit I opted to take a stage coach down the Auto Road to avoid further injuring my leg. My first hiking experience ended in failure. But it was the first step down a road leading to many adventures.
Since that first hiking experience, I have always held a grudge against Mount Washington. While I have hiked and skied the Rock Pile frequently during the past ten years, I have never summited and returned to the base using my own leg power. Skiing off the summit has been an elusive goal since I first started earning turns in 2005. Ten years after my first major hiking experience and five years after beginning to earn turns, I have finally skied off the summit of Big George.
With most of New England seeing above freezing temperatures yesterday into a freeze last night as we enter a long holiday weekend, I decided that earning turns would be the best option. I suspected snow at lower elevations might be manky so I ruled out explorations of local backcountry glades. I turned my attention to the west side of Mount Washington as a quick and easy option to get out and make some turns today.
I was not the only one with this type of plan as the parking lot at Marshfield Station had about twenty cars parked when I arrived. I quickly booted up and started my ascent looker’s right of the train tracks on a well established skin track.
This was only my third day earning turns this year and I felt winded and out of shape before even reaching the Waumbek Tank. Snow depth was significant and I measured over 70cm in places using my pole. Coverage was exceptional with essentially edge to edge coverage minus elevated portions of the train tracks. Plenty of untracked snow remained. While it skied great, the consistency and depth of the snow was not good enough to merit a Powder Day designation.
After a short break at the Tank, I ventured on until reaching Jacob’s Ladder where I decided snow conditions did not merit further climbing above the tree line where weather exposure and visibility would be worse. Several other skiers were also there, some continuing on with plans for Ammo but most turned around at that point.
Skiing was not fun in the narrow pipeline right below Jacob’s Ladder but became increasingly more interesting below as things widened out. I opted to take skier’s left of the tracks which were not buried enough to allow easy crossing on skis once the decision had been made. Untracked lines were plentiful but conditions made for interesting turns and had me wanting for fatter boards.